Meet the Paralympic stars competing at the Virtus Global Games in Vichy, France

The sixth edition of the Virtus Global Games will take place in the French city until 10 June 2023. 05 Jun 2023
The mascot of the Virtus Global Games, which is a blue bird wearing a red cap, on a stage with seven women who are bowing.
The opening ceremony of the Virtus Global Games was held in Vichy Opera House.
By Virtus and IPC

The sixth edition of the Virtus Global Games opened in Vichy, France, on 4 June 2023, featuring some of the world’s top Para athletes as well as medallists from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

The Virtus Global Games is the signature event for athletes with intellectual impairments to compete in the highest level, international multi-sport elite competition. GG2023 will take place in the French city until 10 June.

Ahead of the opening ceremony held at Vichy Opera House on 4 June, more than 900 athletes from 47 countries and their coaching staff took part in a ceremonial parade.

The Virtus Global Games is a signature event for athletes with intellectual impairments. @Virtus

The previous edition of the event was held in 2019 in Brisbane, Australia.

During the opening ceremony, Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee, said: “After the last edition of this great sporting event, I left Australia tremendously impressed at the level of competition, and, most importantly, the performances of athletes.

"Four years on, I expect this event to be even better, featuring spectacular sport and the tremendous sporting abilities of athletes from around the world.”

As we enjoy the action that kicked off in Vichy, we want to introduce you to some of the Paralympians to look out for at the Global Games.

Para athletics

Barbara Bieganowska-Zajac (Poland)

Barbara Bieganowska-Zajac won the women's 1,500m T20 at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. @Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Barbara Bieganowska-Zajac is a four-time Paralympic champion, competing mainly in the T20 sprint and middle-distance events. She made her Paralympic debut at Sydney 2000, where she won the gold medal in the women’s 800m T20 race.

Since then, the athlete has topped the podium in the 1,500m T20 race at London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. The mother of two daughters has stayed undefeated at the 2022 Virtus European Games, 2020 Virtus Indoor Athletics and multiple preceding events organised by Virtus.

Poleth Isamar Mendes Sanchez (Ecuador)

Sanchez made history for Ecuador at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. @Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Poleth Isamar Mendes Sanchez created history for Ecuador at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Competing in her second Paralympic Games, Sanchez captured Ecuador’s first Paralympic gold medal by winning the women’s shot put F20 event. She set the world record with a throw of 14.39m at the National Olympic Stadium in the Japanese capital.

Lenine Cunha (Portugal)

Cunha made his Paralympic debut at Sydney 2000 and won bronze at London 2012. @Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Lenine Cunha is taking part in his sixth Virtus Global Games. The Portuguese athlete, who is also a Virtus ambassador, made his debut appearance at the Paralympic Games in the Sydney 2000, competing in the men’s 100m T20 and the long jump F20 events.

He picked up the bronze medal in the long jump at London 2012, and finished sixth at the Rio 2016. He has an impressive medal tally consisting of more than 200 International medals, including three gold, one silver and two bronze at the 2022 Virtus European Games.

Para swimming

Gabriel Bandeira (Brazil) 

Bandeira picked up four medals - two silver, a bronze and a gold - at Tokyo 2020. @Octavio Passos/Getty Images

With an impressive performance at Tokyo 2020 and the Madeira 2022 World Para Swimming Championships, Gabriel Bandeira has proven himself as a force to be reckoned with. His collection of medals includes one gold, two silver and one bronze from Tokyo 2020 and three gold, one silver and two bronze from the World Championships in Funchal, Portugal. His determination to maintain his streak of outstanding results makes him a top contender in Vichy.

Naohide Yamaguchi (Japan)

Naohide Yamaguchi captured the spotlight at Tokyo 2020 after breaking the world record in the men’s 100m breaststroke SB14 event. The Paralympic debutant touched the wall in 1 minute, 3.77 seconds, which was 0.51 second ahead of Australia’s Jake Michel.

The Japanese athlete also won the race at the Madeira 2022 World Madeira Para-Swimming Championships. He is the current world recorder of the event with the time of 1:02.75 which he clocked in early 2023.

Yui Lam Chan (Hong Kong)

Yui Lam Chan competed in five events at Tokyo 2020. @Naomi Baker/Getty Images

At an early age, Yui Lam Chan has already made a name for herself. As the youngest Paralympian from Hong Kong at Tokyo 2020, she secured an impressive tally of medals at the 2019 Virtus Global Games (3 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals). Her recent gold medal in the 100m butterfly at the 2023 Citi Series further cemented her status as a rising star.

Para table tennis

Lucas Creange (France)

Lucas Creange has secured numerous accolades, including a bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. But his prowess extends beyond that, with two bronze medals at the 2019 Global Games and a gold medal in the II1 Men’s singles at the 2022 Virtus Table Tennis European Championship.

Peter Palos (Hungary)

Palos claimed the gold medal in the men's singles class 11 tournament at Tokyo 2020. @Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Peter Palos, the Hungarian sensation, has solidified his status as a force to be reckoned with in the world of Para table tennis. As a three-time Paralympic medallist, his tenacity and skills have taken him to incredible heights.

Palos claimed an incredible victory over Australian Para table tennis star Samuel von Einem in the final of the men's singles class 11 tournament at Tokyo 2020, and he is ready to capture the spotlight once again in Vichy.

Kim Gi Tae (Republic of Korea)

Kim Gi Tae’s meteoric rise in the world of Para table tennis has been nothing short of extraordinary. Winning three gold medals at the Andalucia 2022 World Para Table Tennis Championships, he became the most successful player of the event. The two-time Paralympian is set to captivate audiences with his formidable skills and unwavering determination at the Global Games.