A Paralympic Preview: Wheelchair Fencing

With the Paralympic Games rapidly approaching, Report On Rio will preview every event that has a Canadian team competing in Brazil — featuring past results, schedules, rosters, and expectations.

 Canada will be seeking a breakthrough performance in wheelchair fencing at the upcoming Games as its athletes have never attained a spot on the podium in the 56 years this sport has been included in the Paralympic programme.

Pierre Mainville (Saint Columban,Que.), a three-time Paralympian, is his country’s lone representative in the Paralympic wheelchair fencing showdown that will be staged at Rio de Janeiro’s Youth Arena from Sept. 12-16. A total of 88 fencers will battle in 10 individual and four team competitions.

                                                             The Road to Rio

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The 43-year-0ld — Canada’s first ever international wheelchair fencing medalist —officially locked down a spot in the men’s sabre event in Rio with a gold medal triumph at the 2016 Wheelchair Fencing Americas Championships that were hosted in São Paulo, Brazil from May 26-28.

He breezed through the pool action with a 5-0 record to earn him the top seed heading into the playoff round. He then proceeded to dominate his two American competitors in the playoffs: He crushed Gerard Moreno 15-2 in the semifinal and demolished Joseph Brinson 15-4 in the final.

                                                      Previous Paralympics 

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Pierre Mainville is appearing at his third Paralympic Games.

Mainville turned in the best ever performance by a Canadian in wheelchair fencing at London in 2012 by finishing seventh with his sabre blade and ninth with his epee sword.

Sylvie Ruth Morel (Pincourt, Que.), Canada’s other duelist in London, finished 12th overall in the women’s category A epee competition.

In 2008, Mainville finished ninth in epee and 15th in sabre.

There were no Canadian participants in the fencing competition at the 2004 Athens Games.

                                                                         Meet Mainville

It was 15 years ago, in 2001, when Mainville became a paraplegic due to a bullet shattering his spinal cord. Six months after this ordeal, he made the decision to take up wheelchair fencing.

He has approached this sporting passion with a sharply intense focus. His nickname is “the perfectionist” as he endeavours to be flawless in every one of his fights.

His results are a clear indication that his approach is working as he has earned multiple podium finishes  following the London Games. Arguably his most impressive international competition prior to the championships in Brazil this spring was a 2014 World Cup event in Italy. He cut and parried his way to a silver medal in epee and a bronze medal in sabre.

Prior to his accident, Mainville worked as a car research and development technician. He now fences full time.

Expectations:

When Mainville spoke to Report on Rio back in July, he made it clear that he has set big goals for himself in Rio.

“I think the expectation of every athlete is to finish on the top of the podium,” he said. “I am expecting to go there. The goal for me is to be the best fencer when we meet [in Brazil].”

As for Fencing Canada’s aspirations, the organization’s president, Brad Goldie, said the federation is looking for Mainville to “build upon his London 2012 results.”

This target set out by Fencing Canada is fair given the fact Mainville will be entering the Rio Games with significant momentum due to his gold medal win in May. He also appears to becoming a more formidable international competitor each year. A podium finish can be in the cards if the Quebec native duels at his best.

In order to make Canadian wheelchair fencing history, Mainville will have to pull off some mammoth upsets. He is 10th in the category B sabre international rankings, which is less than half the points of Italy’s Alessio Sarri, who is third in the world with 322 points.


Photo credit: Canadian Paralympic Committee

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