“It’s just great being recognised for what I did in London. It was an amazing achievement, and obviously the IPC could see competing in the T54 events and coming away with four gold medals was one of the toughest things in the world. I fulfilled my dream of coming away with four gold medals at a home Games.”
Six Paralympic Sport Awards and four Paralympic Media Awards were presented on Saturday evening (23 November) at the 2013 Paralympic Awards in Athens, Greece.
The awards, proudly partnered by the IPC’s International Partner Allianz, recognised the top achievements from the London 2012 Paralympic Games in six categories: Best Female, Best Male, Best Female Debut, Best Male Debut, Best Team and Best Official.
The Netherlands’ Esther Vergeer won Best Female after finishing one of Paralympic sport’s most successful careers with a fourth wheelchair tennis singles title, and also a gold in doubles.
Vergeer, who retired from sport shortly after London 2012, dominated wheelchair tennis for more than a decade, winning eight Paralympic titles, 42 Grand Slam titles and ending her career on a 470-match winning streak in singles.
Vergeer said: “It feels like it is a huge recognition for all my achievements. In London, at the Paralympic Games I played my last wheelchair tennis match. London was one of the many highlights my tennis career had, so I am very proud of winning the gold medal.
“It is great to be surrounded by so many great athletes from all over the world. You see Paralympic sport grow, and I am really hoping that I will stay involved and see it grow even more in the future.”
Great Britain’s David Weir won Best Male after his London 2012 performance at home, where he was unbeatable, racing to four golds in eight days in the 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and marathon distances in the T54 class.
Weir said: “It’s just great being recognised for what I did in London. It was an amazing achievement, and obviously the IPC could see competing in the T54 events and coming away with four gold medals was one of the toughest things in the world. I fulfilled my dream of coming away with four gold medals at a home Games.”
The Best Games Debut award was split into two categories – male and female – for the first time due to a record number of nominations.
Dutch double-amputee sprinter Marlou van Rhijn won Best Female Games debut after claiming 100m silver and 200m gold in the T44 sprints at London 2012. She also set new T43 world records in both distances.
Van Rhijn said: “I am very excited that I won this award because it's a valuable recognition for my achievements in London.”
Italy’s Alex Zanardi received the award for Best Male Games Debut after picking up golds in the individual road race H4 and individual time trial H4 at London 2012, in addition to winning silver in the mixed team relay H1-4.
Twenty-one years after competing at Brands Hatch as an F3000 driver, Zanardi, who also used to race in F1, was able to return to the course and successfully steal the spotlight.
Zanardi said: “The prize itself is amazing. I enjoyed my time in London and taking home three medals was not something I expected.”
Brazil’s football 5-a-side squad were awarded Best Team for winning their third consecutive Paralympic gold in the sport. At London 2012, the Brazilians were led by top striker Jefferson da Conceicao Goncalves, known as Jefinho, and did not concede a single goal in the tournament.
Fabio Vasconcelos, goalkeeper during London 2012 and now the team’s national coach, said: “The nomination for the Paralympic Sport Awards is a recognition for all that Brazilian football 5-a-side team have done since 2004, when we won our first Paralympic gold medal. I don’t think that any other national team has done what we’ve done, winning all the tournaments we were in since 2006, so it’s great to see the recognition for our victories.”
The title of Best Official was awarded to Germany’s Sylvia Sekowska, head table official for wheelchair rugby at London 2012. In the lead-up to the Paralympics, Sekowska developed and delievered a comprehensive training project that enabled a pool o qualified national technical officials from the host country to be selected for the Games.
Four organisations received Paralympic Media Awards for showcasing extraordinary coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games – three of these award winners coming from Great Britain and the other from Canada.
Channel 4 won the award for Best Broadcast after showcasing more than 500 hours of London 2012 coverage and transforming perceptions with their advertising campaigns for the Games.
Telegraph Media Group won the Best Written (print and online) award, BBC World Service won Best Radio and Edmonton Journal photographer Larry Wong won for Best Photo for his stunning image of Canadian swimmer Benoit Huot celebrating victory.
The IPC also awarded four individuals with the Paralympic Order – the highest tribute a person connected with the Paralympic Movement can achieve.
The 2013 Paralympic Order recipients included: Bob Balk, former Chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council; Michael Barredo, former President of IBSA; Duncan Campbell, founder of wheelchair rugby; and Jonquil Solt, former Chairperson of the IPC Equestrian Committee and FEI Para-Equestrian Technical Committee.
All of the recipients have made important contributions to the Paralympic Movement and have illustrated the Paralympic ideals either in the sporting world or via outstanding services to the cause of the Movement.
To obtain photos of the award winners, please contact Craig.Spence@paralympic.org, and for TV footage please contact Jose.Dominguez@paralympic.org.