" I think we should be aware of the fact that sport is about athletes. And we need to get them involved more."
The Netherlands’ Elvira Stinissen was one of six members elected on the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletes’ Council during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The three-time Paralympian was re-elected on the Council, which is the collective voice of Paralympic athletes within the IPC and the greater Paralympic Movement.
Paralympic.org caught up with Stinissen and why – despite her busy schedule – she is involved in the Athletes’ Council, and more.
Paralympic.org: Why did you want to get involved in the Athletes’ Council?
Elvira Stinissen: In my opinion a lot of decisions are been made without really consulting athletes. I think we should be aware of the fact that sport is about athletes. And we need to get them involved more. Besides that I saw a lot of things in my sport which in my opinion could be done better. What better place to contribute to changes and development than the Athletes’ Council!
What do you do for your job?
ES: I work as a policy officer in the Ministry of Health Welfare and Sports in the sports department.
How do you balance your job, sport, the Athletes’ Council and personal life?
ES: I work 32 hours at the Ministry. It’s sometimes very difficult. I learned that the different parts in my life should not peak at the same time. So for example do not do have deadlines at the same time. Plus it is really important to schedule in some free-time with my husband.
What is your impairment and how did you obtain it?
ES: I was born with an under-developed and much shorter right leg. So in daily life I walk on a prosthetic leg.
What led you to Para sport/sitting volleyball?
ES: In my younger years, I did not want anything to do with sports for people with a disability. When I was about 20 years old, I talked to a sports consultant who told me about sitting volleyball. I liked the idea of a team sport, with disabled and able-bodied people competing together in a national competition.
Why should athletes get involved with the Athletes Council? How can they get involved?
ES: Athletes need to be aware of the fact that every decision an organisation makes (like a federation or National Paralympic Committee) can affect them directly. It is important to empower yourself by getting involved! If athletes want to be involved they can contact us through Facebook and we can help them!
You have been re-elected to the Athletes’ Council. What are your main objectives for this term?
ES: First of all I want to say that I am very happy and honoured that I got reelected in Rio! I believe it is the job of the Athletes’ Council to make sure that in every country and within every federation the Para athletes are well represented. And it is also our responsibility to create awareness of the communication channels for athletes, so that athletes can easily find information about their rights and responsibilities. That is what I stand for in the Council!
More information on the IPC Athletes’ Council can be found at https://www.paralympic.org/the-ipc/councils.