Hareza: Wheelchair fencing stole my heart

01/05/2019

Poland’s Patrycja Hareza is in high spirits in 2019.

By Saniya Surana | For IWAS

Poland’s Patrycja Hareza is in high spirits in 2019.

With the belief that she was made to do the sport, the 28-year-old is now eyeing a podium finish at September’s International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing World Championships in Cheongju, South Korea.

As a Worlds bronze medallist in the women’s sabre category B and team event from 2017, and heading towards her home World Cup in Warsaw from 11-16 July, Hareza is looking to raise her game.

“I would like to take part in all competitions (national and international) that will be organised this year with Tokyo 2020 [Paralympic Games] qualification points.

“I have intensive trainings to World Championships to get a medal in sabre and epee. It’s the most important tournament in 2019. I would also be happy with a medal in team.”

Hareza was born with spina bifida and thanks to early surgery, the condition did not really affect her until she was a teenager. When she was 16-years-old she had to have a second operation on her spine.

“After this treatment I lost feeling from the belly down,” Hareza remembers. “It was a very hard experience for me, I was completely broken, but my family and friends supported me and they encouraged me to leave my house and attend a class for disabled wheelchair users, as well as wheelchair fencing.

“I started going to camps where I met a lot of people in a similar situation and I saw that they decided not to give up. I realized that I can do everything despite being a disabled person.

“I drive a car, I do parachuting and I try a lot of sports like canoeing, rowing, archery, basketball, unihokey, shooting and climbing. However, wheelchair fencing stole my heart.”

Now, with almost 11 years of experience in the sport, Hareza continues to train 3-4 times every week at the University of Physical Education in Katowice in addition to sessions in Warsaw with her teammates.

“I practice with groups or practice alone with tapes, weights to strengthen my shoulders and hands which are very important in wheelchair fencing. Because fencing is a contact sport, you have to concentrate a lot and to achieve something you need to spend a lot of time on trainings.”

As a result of her commitment, Hareza has been continuously ranked in the sabre top 10 over the years. She currently sits fifth after claiming bronze at the opening World Cup of 2019 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. But she has never competed at a Paralympic Games.

Hareza wants to change that next year and continues to aim high. However she knows there is a tough field in her category, including Georgian sabre world champion Irma Khetsuriani.

 “I hope that there will be a chance to compete against her in finals and I win,” Hareza said. “But now I need to practice more and I need to wait for it, I need to watch Irma’s fights and discuss them with my coach.

“I’m training intensively, I make sacrifices for wheelchair fencing and I think I’m made for it.”

The next IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup will take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 22-25 May and then Warsaw from 11-15 July.

The 2019 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Championships will be staged in Cheongju from 17-23 September.

All competitions are key qualification stops for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.