Vio voted IPC Athlete of the Month
Italy's young wheelchair fencing star received 60% of the public vote
Following successive victories at Grand Prix events, Italian wheelchair fencing prodigy Beatrice Vio, known as “Bebe,” has been voted the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Athlete of the Month for May.
Vio, 16, has experienced a meteoric rise in the sport since she joined the Italian squad just last year and has recently turned promising performances into major international victories.
She beat London 2012 bronze-medal winner Marta Makowska of Poland to take the gold medal at the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing Grand Prix in Montreal in April before securing a successive tournament win in May’s Grand Prix competition in Lonato del Garda, Italy.
A favourite in her home country, Vio made the most of home advantage in Lonato, demonstrating skill and determination beyond her years to beat Hungary’s Dani Gyongi, a silver medallist at London 2012.
Vio, who received 60 per cent of the public’s vote to win the IPC’s monthly honour, admitted that competing in front of a home crowd gave her a healthy advantage.
“It was wonderful, because there were so many friends who came to watch the competition to support me,” Vio said.
“My teammates are very important to me because they always help me. Before the final against Dani (Gyongi) in Lonato I fell asleep collapsed on the floor after the effort made in the semi-final. Five minutes before the next match Alessio Sarri woke me up.
“He is the oldest, I mean, the ‘expert’ of the team, and he told me very important things which calmed me down and gave me the energy to face the final. After the victory we were all very happy. Alessio was singing and waving my prosthetic arms in the air.”
As the only wheelchair fencer in the world with no arms and no legs, Vio looks to be firmly on the road to Rio 2016, though she said her main priority is to keep competing with a smile on her face.
Vio’s recent achievements are all the more impressive given she has balanced intense training with studying. Currently in the second year of a course in graphic arts and communication, she puts her good results both on the piste and in the classroom down to her passion.
"In the last few months I couldn’t train much because I had to study a lot,” she said. “Only in the last few weeks was I able to do specific training in my gym with my coaches Federica and Alice, and a few workouts with Fabio Giovannini, the coach of the national team.
"But now school is over I will attend a series of pre-World Championship sessions where I will train a lot with the rest of the team."
Her next challenge will be the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup in Warsaw, Poland (4–7 July) before she heads to Budapest, Hungary for the World Championships (7–12 August).
“I can’t wait to go to Warsaw where I will attend the World Cup,” she said. “As for Budapest I am very curious because it’s my first real World Championship. I am also excited by the idea of going to the competition with all the Italian champions who are fencing standing up. There are many friends of mine and it will be wonderful to be in their midst.”
By Mike Stuart