Italian Athletes Shine Bright At Tokyo's Paralympics

Tue, 08/31/2021 - 11:56

The 2020 Summer Paralympics are under way in Tokyo and Italian athletes are standing out. 

The 2020 Summer Paralympics are under way in Tokyo - from 24 August to 5 September 2021 - and, just as for the Olympics, Italy is having a good amount of success, with 39 medals won so far. 

Among the most recent triumphs, Bebe Vio, a wheelchair fencer three-time world champion, made history with her second consecutive Paralympic gold medal in wheelchair fencing (foil individual category B - foil being one of the three weapons used in fencing). Commenting on her win against Chinese Zhou Jingjing, a three-time Paralympic champion, Vio said it was “surely the hardest match that I've ever had with her.”

The win is even sweeter for Vio, who had contracted a serious infection at the elbow last April and risked not only skipping the Paralympics, but also having to give up on sports entirely if it hadn’t been for the doctor who urgently operated on her. 

A Veneto native, Vio had to have both her forearms and her legs amputated at the knee after contracting meningitis when she was 11 years old. She was able to return to fencing after only three months of rehabilitation. 

After all, her motto is, “If it looks impossible, then you can do it!” (Se sembra impossibile allora si può fare!) 

20-year-old partially sighted swimmer Carlotta Gilli won the SM13 (partially sighted) 200m individual medley, setting a new world record and winning her fifth medal of this edition of the Games.

Of herself, Gilli says, “I was practically born in the water. Even now it’s easier to find me in the pool than at home.” Gilli started taking aquatic courses when she was only 6 months old. She was born with Stargardt disease, an inherited disorder of the retina which typically causes vision loss during childhood or adolescence. That however has not kept her away from her love for swimming and has not prevented her from winning repeatedly at European and World Championships and setting new world records. 

Arjola Trimi won the S3 (physical disability) 100m freestyle gold, the second gold won by the 34-year-old from Milan after Sunday's in the 50m backstroke.

Italy has garnered 39 medals in the Paralympic Games so far, with 10 golds, 16 silvers and 13 bronzes. Most of the golds were won in swimming.  

There are six main disability categories at the Paralympics: amputee, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, visually impaired, spinal injuries and Les Autres (French for ‘the others’, a category that includes conditions that do not fall into the categories mentioned before).