skip navigation

How Olympic and Paralympic Qualifying Work for the Paris 2024 Games

05/09/2023, 12:45pm CDT
By Bryan Wendell

With Olympic and Paralympic qualification now underway for Paris 2024, fencing fans can cheer along from home as our incredible athletes contend to secure Team USA's place at the Games!

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Road to Paris will take our senior team athletes and parafencers around the world with stops on five different continents.

While the outcome is unknown, there’s something we do know for certain: The journey to the Paris Olympics and Paralympics will be filled with excitement. 

Here’s how to follow along as our fencers compete both to secure a full allotment of fencers for Team USA and to qualify for one of those Team USA spots once earned. 

How Olympic Qualification Works

It’s best to think of Olympic qualification in two parts:

  1. Did we qualify a full team in each weapon?

  2. If so, how will USA Fencing select the athletes who fill those Olympic spots?

Step 1: Qualify a Full Team

For each of the six weapons (women’s epee, men’s epee, women’s foil, men’s foil, women’s saber and men’s saber), we’re first looking to qualify for the team event.

If that happens, we get to max out our allotment for that weapon. That means three athletes, plus one “replacement athlete.”

Our maximum allocation for the Olympics is 24 — three fencers and one replacement athlete for each of the six weapons.

If we do qualify a team for a specific weapon, we get:

  • Three fencers who compete in both the individual and the team event

  • A fourth fencer, known as the “replacement athlete,” who is eligible to compete (as a substitute) in the team event only

If we don’t qualify a team for a specific weapon:

  • We can send a maximum of one athlete in that weapon. More on that in a bit.

How We Qualify a Full Team

Eight teams will qualify for the team event in each weapon (or nine if France, as host country, doesn’t take one of eight spots outlined below). 

There are two ways to earn a team spot:

  1. Be one of the four highest-ranked countries on the FIE Official Team Ranking as of April 1, 2024.

  2. Outside of the top four, be the highest-ranked country in your zone (Africa, America, Asia-Oceania, Europe) and be ranked between 5th and 16th place in the rankings on the FIE Official Team Ranking as of April 1, 2024. (In other words, if the highest ranked country in a zone is ranked 17th or lower, that team would not qualify.)

    1. The Americas zone includes Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, United States, United States Virgin Islands, Uruguay and Venezuela.

If a zone is not represented in the above-mentioned ranking positions, the next ranked team, irrespective of zone, will qualify.

Step 2: Select Who Fences on Our Team

Each National Olympic Committee (NOC) creates its own process for selecting which athletes will fill their team. Some use completely subjective criteria — in other words, coaches choose the individuals they feel would be best for the team. 

For Team USA, we use an objective process driven by our point standings.

If we qualify a full team:

  • The top three individuals on the Senior Team Points List after the final qualifying tournament will be selected for the three individual and team slots.

  • The fourth-ranked athlete on points will be the replacement athlete, unless an alternate athlete is selected based on the selection criteria.

What Happens if We Don’t Qualify a Team

While we expect to qualify all six teams, if that doesn’t happen for one or more weapons, we can only send a maximum of one athlete in that weapon. 

For individual competition, a minimum of 34 athletes per weapon will compete in Paris:

  • 24 athletes — three per country — from the eight countries competing in the team event.

    • These eight countries are essentially removed from the equation and cannot qualify additional athletes using the methods outlined below. That means athletes from countries that qualified a team are removed from the FIE rankings in order to determine the individual slots described below.

  • Six athletes from countries not competing in the team event for that weapon. The highest-ranked athlete(s) in each zone, according to the FIE individual rankings, will qualify: 

    • Two from Europe

    • Two from Asia-Oceania

    • One from America

    • One from Africa

  • Four athletes who win the Zone Qualifying Events. The final four slots will go to the victors of a set of four winner-takes-all tournaments for Paris qualification. Only NOCs that have not already qualified athletes by the two previous methods will be allowed to participate in these events. (In other words, if Team USA qualifies a full team for Women’s Foil, we won’t send any fencers to the Women’s Foil Zone Qualifying Event.)

    • One from Europe

    • One from Asia-Oceania

    • One from America

    • One from Africa

How Paralympic Qualification Works

Six automatic individual qualifiers are selected for each individual event (six each for Women's Epee Category A, Women's Epee Category B, Men's Epee Category A, Men's Epee Category B, Women's Foil Category A, Women's Foil Category B, Men's Foil Category A, Men's Foil Category B, Women's Saber Category A, Women's Saber Category B, Men's Saber Category A and Men's Saber Category B).

These rankings are based on the Paralympic Qualification rankings found here in the qualification window of Oct. 1, 2022, to May 31, 2024.

So the six are:

  1. Highest on Paralympic ranking list from Europe region
  2. Highest on Paralympic ranking list from America/Africa region
  3. Highest on Paralympic ranking list from Asia/Oceania region
  4. Next highest on Paralympic ranking list regardless of region
  5. Next highest on Paralympic ranking list regardless of region
  6. Next highest on Paralympic ranking list regardless of region

Then the rest for each event come from team events, host country allocation, etc. Note that a maximum of two athletes per country can qualify per event.

Qualification slots are allocated in the following order:

  • Individual Paralympic Ranking List Allocation by Region: The top-ranked male and female athletes from each region (Europe, America/Africa, Asia/Oceania) in each individual medal event, who are in the top 30 of the Individual Paralympic Ranking list as of May 31, 2024, receive one (1) qualification slot. If a region has no athlete in the top 30, the slot is given to the next highest ranked athlete regardless of region. This results in 18 male and 18 female athletes.

  • Individual Paralympic Ranking List Allocation: The three highest-ranked athletes in each individual medal event on the Individual Paralympic Ranking List as of May 31, 2024, who have not yet qualified, receive one qualification slot. Each country can have a maximum of two slots per medal event. If an NPC would achieve more slots than the maximum quota, then slots will be allocated to the athletes with the highest ranking position. In case of ties, slots will be allocated based on ranking points, and if necessary, performance at the 2023 World Championships. This results in another 18 male and 18 female athletes.

  • Host Country Allocation: The host country directly qualifies three eligible male athletes and three eligible female athletes who are ranked highest among all host country athletes on the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing Paralympic Ranking List.

  • Team Athlete Allocation: After all individual slots have been allocated, eight eligible male and eight eligible female athletes will be allocated one slot each to ensure the viability of the Team Medal Events. 

Tag(s): Updates  Paris Tracker