Rotterdam 2023: Top moments from the first European Para Championships

From hosts dominance to multiple world records, the first multi-sport Championships saw sporting history made 21 Aug 2023 By IPC

Ten sports, 1,500 Para athletes and countless sporting successes – The European Para Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands, ended on 20 August following 13 days of memorable action. Para athletes put on an impressive show in venues across the city in the first multi-Para sport Euros, which also served as an important stop on the road to the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games

France topped the overall medals table at the European Para Championships with 25 gold, 17 silver and 25 bronze. Italy finished second with 19 gold, 13 silver and 16 bronze, while hosts Netherlands took third.

Here are the top moments from the 10 sports - Para archery, Para badminton, boccia, Para cycling, goalball, Para judo, shooting Para sport, Para taekwondo, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis. 

Para archery – Turkish delight 

Turkish athletes were a large force in Para archery. The team sang and cheered as their teammates, including Yagmur Sengal and Sadik Savas shot to the top of the podium. They often dominated the podium along with Italy.

“We worked together with our staff and we’re so happy we shot well,” said Yagmur Sengal, who won the compound open mixed team final on the last day of competition. 

Türkiye dominated Para archery at Rotterdam 2023 Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

Para archery was held in Kop Van Zuid, located on the bank in the city centre, allowing the public to enjoy the sport. “I’m surprised how far the athletes shoot. The venue is beautiful and I like watching this,” said spectator Barbara von Halsema, who watched Para archery for the first time from the stands. 

Para badminton – Mazur magic 

French athletes captured the spotlight in Para badminton, winning seven of the 20 finals contested in Rotterdam, led by Tokyo 2020 Paralympic champion Lucas Mazur, who swept all three of his events.

Lucas Mazur won triple gold in a brilliant performance in Rotterdam Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

“It’s a huge day for us, France, because we got a lot of gold medals, also a silver and bronzes. We are very happy that we got to this level because years and years ago we started from nothing,” he said. “But I’m also looking for more. I am expecting a new title in Paris (2024), so fingers crossed.”  

Boccia – Perez wins first gold for hosts 

The crowd fell in love with boccia when the sport was showcased outdoors in the middle of the city. Daniel Perez won the hosts’ first gold medal by beating reigning Paralympic champion David Smith in the men’s BC1 final, a day before wrapping up his successful campaign by topping the podium with his teammates in the BC1/BC2 teams event. 

Daniel Perez kickstarted the hosts' gold rush in Rotterdam Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

“Finally! I’ve finished second quite a lot of times, especially in the finals against David, so I’m happy that I finally took gold at such a beautiful place,” Perez said. “It’s the first time I won the European title, so this medal is very important.” 

There were many impressive feats on the boccia court. Greece’s Grigorios Polychronidis won the men’s BC3 event and celebrated with his wife and ramp assistant Katerina, while Portugal’s Carla Oliveira returned to international competition in top form, less than a year after giving birth. 

Para cycling – Ten impresses

Just a week after his successful campaign at the UCI World Championships in Scotland, Spanish Paralympic legend Ricardo Ten continued to impress, cruising to victory in both the men’s C1 time trial and road race in Rotterdam. 

The ever-popular Ricardo Ten stole the Para cycling show in Rotterdam Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

“Considering the preparation coming here from the World Championships, I’ve to be very happy and satisfied with my outcome here,” said Ten, who competed in Para swimming at five Paralympic Games before making his debut in cycling at Tokyo 2020.  

The team relay, won by France, took place in Rotterdam’s city centre, while other events were held at the beautiful Willem Alexander Baan. Other reigning world champions competing included Switzerland’s Celine Van Till.  

Goalball – Sweden shine

Sweden proved to be winners in Rotterdam following a dramatic final against Hungary. With the score tied 4-4 in the final quarter, the mighty Swedish team picked up their momentum and sealed a 11-5 victory.  

Sweden won a thrilling goalball final in Rotterdam Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

“It’s quite unreal. We came here with one goal and this was to win the gold medal. But still, when you are here in this situation, it’s amazing,” said Olof Ryberg, Sweden’s top scorer in the final.  

Spain picked up the bronze medal after beating France 6-5. 

Para judo – Triple triumph for Ukraine 

Para judo was the first sport to award medals in Rotterdam. Para athletes from Ukraine picked up three golds to kick off their European Para Championships campaign in strong form.  

“To be a European champion is only one step in the long way leading to the (Paris 2024) Paralympic Games. We don’t stop here, we will continue to fight and train for our future competitions,” said Ukraine’s Davyd Khorava, who won the men’s J2 -60kg event. 

Davyd Khorava (second left) led an impressive Para judo showing from Ukraine Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and France won two gold medals each over three days of competition. 

Shooting Para sport – World records galore

Slovakia's Veronika Vadovicova and Ukraine's Iryna Shchetnik both produced a dominant show at the shooting range to clinch gold with a world record score of 255.7 in the R3 – Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH1 and the R2 - Women's 10m Air Rifle Standing SH respectively.  

“I’m feeling very excited about the new results. I tried not to think about it, because it can cause you more problems when you start thinking about the results,” Shchetnik said after the final. 

France's Pierre Guillaume-Sage also ended Rotterdam 2023 on a high note, with a world record in the R5 - mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2. 

Pierre Guillaume-Sage set one of three new world records in shooting Para sport Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

Para taekwondo – Rasic takes gold for Serbia 

Emotions were high on the Para taekwondo mat. Serbia’s Jelena Rasic triumphed over Great Britain’s Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Amy Truesdale in the women’s +65 kg category.

“I’m still in shock but this victory means that we worked hard and hard work always pays off. This is not the end. I can be so much better and I want to be first at the Paralympic Games in Paris,” an emotional Rasic said. 

Also on the mat, Zakia Khudadadi, who was evacuated from Afghanistan in 2021, beamed with pride after taking her first gold medal in the women’s -47kg division. She dedicated the victory to the women of Afghanistan. 

Zakia Khudadadi paid tribute to her home country after winning gold Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

Wheelchair basketball – Four teams reach Paris 2024 

The European Para Championships were one of the major stops on the road to next year's Paralympics. By advancing to the finals in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and Great Britain booked tickets in the women’s competition, while Great Britain and Spain earned spots in the men’s tournament. 

“It’s an incredible feeling. We’ve never had to battle so hard to get to the Paralympics so for us this one is extra special. Paris, we’re coming baby,” British star Robyn Love said after their big win over Germany in the semi-final. 

The Netherlands defeated Great Britain 58-36 in the women’s tournament, while Great Britain beat Spain 74-53 for the men’s crown. 

The Netherlands made it seven tournament wins in a row in Rotterdam Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

Wheelchair tennis – Dutch domination 

The Dutch took the Rotterdam courts by storm. The hosts captured gold in all six events at a beautiful outdoor court in the centre of the city. Diede de Groot and Ruben Spaargaren won the women’s and men’s singles, respectively, to become the first wheelchair tennis players to qualify for Paris 2024. 

For de Groot, a Tokyo 2020 double gold medallist, it was a rare opportunity to play at home.  

Diede de Groot extended a remarkable winning streak in Rotterdam Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity of playing at home, playing for (my family) and also have this (gold medal). It’s not just winning on a normal tennis court – it’s winning in the centre of the city, which is fun,” she said. 

Full results from Rotterdam 2023 are available on the European Para Championships website.