Athletes’ Council meets in Bonn, encourages more athlete engagement

The members of the current Athletes' Council were elected at the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Paralympic Games and met in-person for the first time at the IPC headquarters in Bonn 19 Sep 2022
Six athletes, three standing in the back and three in wheelchairs at the front, pose for a photo in front of the IPC headquarters.
Increasing athlete engagement is a top priority for the current Athletes' Council, which includes (from bottom left) Josh Dueck, Jitske Visser, Zahra Nemati, (from top left) Omara Durand, Martina Caironi and Mitchell Gourley.

The newest Athletes’ Council, made up of members elected at the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Paralympic Games, met in-person for three days of meetings at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) headquarters in Bonn, Germany.

The meetings were held between 15 and 17 September with two of the nine Council members joining remotely from sports competitions and IPC staff giving in-person updates on their respective areas.

The packed agenda included discussions on the Classification Code Review, anti-doping regulations, and athletes with high support needs, among other topics.

IPC President Andrew Parsons also connected with the Council members through a video call.

Top priorities

The main goal that the Athletes’ Council has set for the current term is to increase athlete engagement in various governance processes, said the Council’s Chairperson Jitske Visser. With the new IPC Constitution approved on 1 September, she and fellow Council member Josh Dueck are now voting members of the IPC Governing Board and able to speak on behalf of athletes at a bigger stage.

The current 12-person IPC Governing Board contains a record number of athletes - nine Paralympians and Para athletes.

“We have two seats on the table and we’re really becoming more and more an athlete-centred organisation, so we want to hear from the wider athlete community now because we do have a voice at the table,” Visser said. “We can share their voices at the table, and their voices are heard.”

Athletes are currently being encouraged to give feedback on the ongoing Classification Code Review, register for post-nominal (PLY) letters and respond to a survey about athletes with high support needs that was sent out to the relevant parties last week. 

Visser also reminded athletes that they can get in touch with Council members through the e-mail addresses provided on the IPC website if they have any questions or concerns. 

Council member, the Iranian Para archer, Zahra Nemati, added: “The main idea that was discussed in these meetings was the inclusion of athletes. Athletes’ inclusion and integrity were subjects that we pointed out and worked on.

“In the Paralympic Movement, athletes are at the centre of the Movement and the Movement really cares about athletes when you look at the main goals of the mission of the IPC as well. You see that athletes are everywhere. Athletes are the heart of the Movement.” 

Together at last

It was the first in-person meeting for this edition of the Athletes’ Council. Six members were elected at Tokyo 2020 and held several online meetings together, with the remaining members joining the meetings after their election at Beijing 2022.

“It was so great to finally meet in person because we only know each other from Teams calls up until here and it’s always easier to have conversations in person,” Visser said. “Usually when you’re done with a Teams call, you just close your laptop and it’s done, and here, even after the meetings, there are conversations about what we want, what we want to achieve with the Athletes' Council and our life stories. 

“It’s intense but it also gives you a lot of energy because you’re feeling extra motivated to deliver. It was great to get together to make plans and see what we want to focus on.”

The Athletes’ Council members will hold their next in-person meeting in six months and continue their consultations through online meetings until then.