Italy's Para swimming star Simone Barlaam was awarded Best Male Summer Sports athlete of 2022 in the first edition of the PARA SPORT Awards which took place in Bahrain on Wednesday (27 September).
The PARA SPORT Awards celebrate those whose efforts have contributed to strengthening the impact of Para sports worldwide. In addition to awards for summer and winter sport athletes, there were categories for coaches, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) members, and volunteers. The timeframe considered to be eligible for winning an award was from 1 January 2022 to 30 April 2023.
The award ceremony was held alongside the IPC’s General Assembly and Conference, which is taking place between 27 and 29 September in Manama, Bahrain.
"Italian Para swimmer Simone Barlaam was named Best Male Summer Sports athlete for his incredible 2022 season, during which he set his tenth career world record. He claimed six gold medals at the Madeira 2022 World Para Swimming World Championships for a career total of 13 world championship golds. He set four world records and two European records in the process," read the announcement about the 2022 Awards winners.
Barlaam was in Manama for the award ceremony and shared the achievement with his teammates.
“An incredible honour, I still struggle to believe it. It seems like yesterday that I was watching Paralympic champions of the calibre of Alex Zanardi, Federico Morlacchi, Giulia Ghiretti or Arjola Trimi winning medals and now to be recognised as the best athlete of all summer sports is crazy," said the swimmer.
"Obviously you can't achieve this recognition alone, so thanks to my staff, my coaches, my physio trainer, my psychologist, my entire Polha Varese team which, although it is local, is now famous all over the world for the quality of its coaches. Thanks go to Fiamme Oro [sport club], to FINP [Italian Para Swimming Federation] and, obviously, to my family.”
There was more accolade to the Azzurri as national team coach Riccardo Vernole was named Best Coach after leading Italy to a sensational 2022 season, during which the team topped the medals table for the second consecutive Para Swimming World Championships.
More information about the PARA SPORT Awards can be found here.