Wheelchair fencing to return to its roots for 2020 European Championships in Great Britain
The Euros will mark the 65th anniversary of the birth of wheelchair fencing as a competitive sport.
International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing has announced that the sport will return to its roots for a milestone celebration in 2020 when the European Championships are held in Hatfield, Great Britain, from 25-30 May.
The Euros will mark the 65th anniversary of the birth of wheelchair fencing as a competitive sport. In 1955 at the International Stoke Mandeville Games in Aylesbury – the forerunner of the Paralympics – sabre was the first weapon to be added to the programme.
The competition will also be the final event before wheelchair fencers head to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
IWAS President Rudi Van Den Abbeele said: “There is no more fitting place to hold one of the most important wheelchair fencing events than Great Britain, where the sport was first showcased to the world. More than six decades ago the father of the Paralympic Movement, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, recognised its potential for rehabilitation and then helped to build it into a competition. Since then it has transformed from a handful of people fencing in one weapon to a global elite sport in epee, foil and sabre across three athlete classifications.
“This evolution has been driven by a great number of fencers, volunteers and officials and we are excited to celebrate that in 2020 along with new European champions.
“My thanks go to the University of Hertfordshire for allowing us to use their great venue for a Championships that I am sure will deliver some fantastic action.”
Pal Szekeres, IWAS Wheelchair Fencing Executive Committee Chairperson, added: “From a committee perspective and as a former athlete myself, I am excited about the prospect of celebrating 65 years of wheelchair fencing back where it all began.
“Of course the sport has come a very long way since those early days. I am looking forward to showing the skills of modern day wheelchair fencers on an international stage again just a few months before fencers head to Tokyo 2020.”
The 2020 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing European Championships will be held at the University of Hertfordshire Sports Village. Opened in 2003, the large facility serves a student population of more than 20,000.
David Connell, Director of Sport at the University of Hertfordshire Sports Village, said: “We are delighted that IWAS Wheelchair Fencing have decided to host the European Championships at the University of Hertfordshire.
“Hertfordshire Sports Village hosts a number of national and international events every year and to be able to host an event where the top European fencers will battle it out for places at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo is an honour.
“What makes this event even more special is the fact that 2020 will be 65 years since wheelchair fencing became a competitive sport when it was included in the Stoke Mandeville Games for the first time back in 1955. We cannot wait to welcome the athletes, officials and their families to Hertfordshire, celebrate the 65th anniversary of this amazing sport and support IWAS Wheelchair Fencing in delivering a first-class event in every way. I would like to wish them every success for the 2020 Championships and congratulate them on the incredible work they do on behalf of wheelchair and amputee sport across the world.”
Around 150 athletes from 25 countries are expected to compete in Hatfield with around three months to go until Tokyo 2020.
The announcement comes after the conclusion of the 2019 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Championships in Cheongju, South Korea, from 17-23 September where athletes fenced for titles on the road to the Paralympics.