Stoke Mandeville 70: Aroldo Ruschioni recalls first Paralympics

Italian table tennis player one of first Paralympic champions in history 28 Jul 2018
By IPC

“I realised I made it only when I got the medal around my neck and that was the most emotional moment. Difficult not to cry, I felt lots of emotions inside. I was really proud of being one of the first Italian Paralympic champions. And I am still proud of that.”

Aroldo Ruschioni has an honour reserved for just a few: he is one of the first athletes to win a Paralympic gold medal. The Italian topped the podium in table tennis at his home Games in Rome, back in 1960.

With the 70th anniversary of the first Stoke Mandeville Games, which later became the Paralympic Games, on 29 July, we spoke to one of the first Paralympic athletes in history.

Ruschioni won the men’s doubles C title alongside compatriot Franco Rossi. Fellow Italian duo Giovanni Ferraris and Federico Zarilli came second while Great Britain’s Swindlehurst and Philipps were third.

“I really wanted to win, I was really motivated. I knew I was a good athlete and had chances to win medals,” said Ruschioni, who also took silver in wheelchair fencing.

“During the medal ceremony there were so many applauses. I really remember that moment as a very happy and emotional one. It is great to receive affection and appreciation from so many people; a great honour.

“I realised I made it only when I got the medal around my neck and that was the most emotional moment. Difficult not to cry, I felt lots of emotions inside. I was really proud of being one of the first Italian Paralympic champions. And I am still proud of that.”

Unfortunately for him, he does not keep the medals. “At that time we were not allowed to keep the medals and trophies. Not even the competition gear and kit. The federation or the training centre took them to display them in their facilities…I don’t really have much from my competitions.

“Anyway something no one will ever take away from me are the beautiful memories.”

A different era

Despite being those only the first official Paralympic Games, Ruschioni describes the organisation as great.

“It was great to welcome so many people from all over the world in Rome and there were no problems at all. Everything was built to help us and to meet our needs, the infrastructures and transports were great with elevators, busses to bring us to the venues…Great atmosphere.

“In terms of competition, it was a different era, the athletes weren’t specialised in a single discipline or sport; we were all competing in many of them.”

Forty-six years later he received well-deserved recognition at the Paralympic Winter Games in Torino, where he was named one of the torch bearers at the Opening Ceremony.

“I felt honoured and extremely happy when they remembered me and asked me to carry the torch at Torino 2006. Being remembered and being the first torch bearer was a great recognition for what I have done, better than any medal.”