Grand Palais awaits University of Bath-based wheelchair fencing royalty as ParalympicsGB officially select quartet for Paris 2024

03 July 2024

Defending champion Piers Gilliver and fellow Paralympic Games medallists Dimitri Coutya and Oliver Lam-Watson are among the University of Bath-based wheelchair fencers named in the ParalympicsGB squad for Paris 2024.

Joining them in the spectacular surroundings of the Grand Palais this September will be four-time Paralympian Gemma Collis, who does some of her training at the Team Bath Sports Training Village (STV) and receives sport-science support from the UK Sports Institute (UKSI) team at the University.

Gilliver, Coutya and Lam-Watson are all coached by Peter Rome at the Wheelchair Fencing National Training Centre, which was opened at the STV in December 2022 following the squad’s success at the rescheduled Tokyo Games in 2021 where they won medals in four events.

Bringing home gold, silver and bronze that year was Gilliver, who has become a dominant force in global wheelchair fencing during his decade training full-time at the University. He has won multiple World and European titles plus, most famously of all, the Category A epee title in Tokyo.

That was one better than the breakthrough silver he secured at Rio 2016 and Gilliver said: “It’s an incredible feeling to be officially selected for Paris. It’s my third Games but it still feels so special to be going to another one. Every year it’s tougher and tougher to get there so it really means a huge amount to me.

“I’m hoping to defend my epee title but I’m looking to claim a gold medal in the sabre as well. I’m also competing in the foil and epee team events, and I think we’ve got a good chance of medalling in both as well. There is a lot to play for in these Games.”

While Gilliver is targeting four medals, fellow World number one Coutya is hoping to collect five including the only medal that has so far eluded him during a stellar career – Paralympic gold.

“I’m always aiming for the top,” said Coutya, who won one silver and three bronze medals in Tokyo. “I’m going to be competing in all five events – Category B epee, foil and sabre, and team epee and foil – and it’s the first time I’ve ever done something like this. I’m pushing for gold in my main individual weapons and in team events as well.

“Paris will be my third Games, and I find each Games brings a whole new element and dynamic to prepare for, but every time it is something absolutely incredible and overwhelming to be part of something so massive.”

(From left) Dimitri Coutya, Piers Gilliver and Oliver Lam-Watson won foil team silver at Tokyo 2020. CREDIT: Imagecomms.

Coutya and Gilliver won team foil silver and team epee bronze with Lam-Watson in Tokyo, and the trio will be seeking more medals in the team competitions in Paris.

Lam-Watson will also contest the individual Category A epee and foil on his second Paralympics appearance and said: “It feels great to be selected. Obviously there’s a bit of uncertainty and it’s always a bit of a stressful time, so to get the official selection, the ticket to Paris, is amazing.

“I want to go there and do the best I can. It’s easy to set outcome goals and medals, this and that, which I don’t like to do so much as I think it adds a lot of pressure. For me it’s just about going there, doing myself proud, making my team proud and doing my best.”

Heading to her fourth Games is Collis, who experienced a home Paralympics at London 2012 and is looking forward to competing in front of friends and family again when they make the short journey to Paris.

“London 2012 was incredible, to have everybody there supporting you and supporting the GB team, and I think Paris is going to have a similar vibe,” said Collis, who is based in Milton Keynes but visits Bath for training camps.

“Obviously you’re not going to have the whole stadium cheering for Great Britain but there will be lots of my friends and family going – my sister I think is organizing T-shirts with my face on again! – so hopefully I’ll be able to pick out a few faces and a few voices in the crowd.”

The Paris 2024 wheelchair fencing competition will take place from 3rd to 7th September. The British squad are continuing their preparations this week by competing at the last IWASF World Cup before the Paralympics in Warsaw, Poland.

The wheelchair fencers are the latest University of Bath-based athletes selected for the ParalympicsGB squad, joining swimmer Suzanna Hext and para-badminton player Dan Bethell on the Eurostar.

Click here to find out more about wheelchair fencing at the University of Bath. 

Top picture credit: Paralympics GB / David Pearce.

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