Paralympic superstar Bebe Vio ready to live her dream

Two-time Paralympic wheelchair fencing champion shares what Paris 2024 means to her 31 Aug 2023 By IPC

When Italy’s wheelchair fencing icon Bebe Vio looks back at the two Paralympics that she has been a part of, she describes them as special in different ways. She was ‘wowed’ by everything she saw at her first Paralympics in Rio 2016, while at Tokyo 2020 it was the importance of the team that stood out, in what was a very different Games experience during the Covid pandemic.

Now, with one year to go until the Paris 2024 Paralympics, Vio is already embracing how special the next Games in the French capital will be. 

For the two-time Paralympic champion, Paris 2024 will be held close to home. Not just her family and close fans, but also the Italian public will have a chance to support her from the stands when the Games open on 28 August.

“It’s like ‘finally’ because Rio de Janeiro was on the other side (of the world) and Tokyo was on the other side in a completely different way” she explains. 

“This is the first time that it will be very easy to get here. I have so many friends who want to come and are looking forward to the ticket sales. All of them, they’re like, ‘We want to be there, we want to cheer with you.’

“It’s great. It’s one year – it’s only one year."

Living a dream

Speaking in Paris where she celebrated the one-year-to-go milestone, Vio said she can see the city is getting ready to welcome more than 4,400 Para athletes from around the world.

“I used to come to Paris several times and this is the first time I start to see things related to the Paralympics,” she said. “You start to see buildings, you start to see gyms and big billboards. You can really feel it – you can start smelling the Paralympics. It’s so cool.”

For Vio, who took up wheelchair fencing when she was five, competing at the Paralympics is a ‘dream’. 

Vio won two medals at Tokyo 2020. @Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

She shot to stardom on her debut in Rio, winning gold in the women’s individual foil category B and a bronze in the women’s foil team event. 

“Everything was like a big wow, because it was the first time that I was living my dreams. I was there, and I got the chance to be part of my dream,” Vio recalls.

“Everything was wow, everything was like ‘Oh god’. I was like, ‘This is the best paper I’ve ever seen’ or ‘Look at this grass, it’s amazing. It’s the best grass I’ve ever seen before.”

Five years later, she defended her title in the individual competition and again took silver in the team event at the Covid-delayed Tokyo 2020 Games, held in 2021 and without spectators. For Vio, competing served an important purpose for her country.

“We were there to push our society, to say, ‘OK, we are out of this situation, we can try to (be) reborn again.’ We can have energy some way and demonstrate that we are one big team together. We are fighting together’.”

Vio beat China's Zhou Jingling in the women's foil individual category B final at Tokyo 2020. @Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Taste of glory 

Paris 2024 will hold a different motivation for the Italian, as she aims for three Paralympic golds in a row, while also acting as a mentor for younger athletes coming through.

At Paris 2024, Vio may not feel the ‘big wow’ of being at the Paralympics for the first time, or the need to send out a message during a global pandemic.  But she is looking forward to sharing the moment with her teammates and celebrating together, also with the people who have supported her along her journey.

“I feel like I was the one years ago asking older (athletes) how it is to be part of them. So now we’re telling them what it is like to be part of this. It’s cool – you know what they’re going to do, and so you’re enthusiastic not only for you, but also for them.”

Bebe Vio (left), Andreea Mogos (center), and Loredana Trigilia took silver in the women's foil team competition at Tokyo 2020. @Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

But Vio says that it is impossible to describe the moment completely. A thousand different Paralympians will tell a thousand different stories about their experience at the Games. 

She admits she almost starts crying when she goes to the wheelchair fencing venue a day before her competition. The Italian star feels people from her country ‘watching’, ‘cheering’ and ‘screaming’ for her when she takes to the field of play. 

“The day of the competition is one day in five years or one day in four years. On this day, you have to demonstrate everything you’ve got,” Vio added. “Once you’re there, it’s about a fraction of seconds. You don’t have to think, you just have to be there and leave it and fight for what you want.”

@Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

When she receives a medal, she wants to join the crowd and celebrate with them. 
But being on the podium has a much bigger meaning than just winning the competition. t’s a place she wants to share her gratitude to her big team, including her family, friends, coaches, physiotherapists and doctors.

“The Paralympics are something big because you finally can say ‘Thank you’ to all these people.” 

“You win the Paralympics, it’s cool because it’s your dream. But really, you finally get the opportunity to say to all these people who worked with you until the day before that day, that all the things they did for you, it works.”