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Paralympic Sports: Wheelchair Fencing

No. 15 Vio tops incredible winning streak with Rio 2016 gold

A remarkable season for Italian wheelchair fencer Beatrice Vio saw the 19-year-old cap a winning streak of 11 consecutive titles with women’s foil category B gold at Rio 2016.
Beatrice Vio’s fantastic year makes it to No. 15 in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments of 2016.
Having not suffered defeat since the Grand Prix event in Warsaw, Poland, in September 2014, the reigning world champion was again on top of the podium at the first World Cup event of 2016, in Eger, Hungary, in February.
Victory at the World Cup in Laval, Canada, in May, took Vio’s tally of consecutive title wins into double figures. Later the same month, she secured an incredible eleventh gold in succession by defending her European Championships title in Casale Monferrato, Italy.
Vio then took a break from training to finish her school exams, before returning to compete at the World Cup again in Warsaw in June. The Italian again reached the final but her winning run came to an end.
Despite this first defeat, Vio headed to Rio 2016 as the overwhelming favourite for gold. Though it was her first Paralympic Games, she admitted she was not nervous but “very excited and ready to compete.”
There was certainly no sign of any apprehension as Vio cruised through the opening rounds unbeaten in Rio’s Carioca Arena 3.
After defeating Poland’s London 2012 bronze medallist Marta Makowska 15-6 in the quarter-finals, Vio gave China’s defending Paralympic champion Yao Fang no chance in the semi-final. Fang had no answer to Vio’s aggressive strokes as the Italian secured a 15-1 win.
In the gold medal match, Vio faced another Chinese opponent, Jingjing Zhou.
The Italian raced to an early lead, though the bout was interrupted when the tip of Zhou’s foil went inside her rival’s mask. Following treatment with ice, Vio could continue and fenced to Paralympic gold with a 15-7 victory.
The win capped an incredible season and is an achievement that Vio is still trying to comprehend.
“When I think back [to winning gold] I am still very excited, sometimes I am not able to believe it,” Vio said.
The win was followed by wild celebrations with Vio’s teammates and family.
“You are nothing without a team that helps and supports you,” she said. “In every part of my life, the team is a fundamental element: family, friends, school, my work with the art4sport organisation and also fencing.”
The weeks following her victory were a whirlwind for Vio, who met Pope Francis and even attended a state dinner at the White House hosted by US President Obama.
Despite this attention, Vio says her new status as a Paralympic champion has not changed her day-to-day life.
“I am still a 19-year-old girl who likes having fun and going out with friends,” she said. “My life is just a bit busier than before!”
Teammate Emanuele Lambertini confirms that success has not gone to Vio’s head.
“I have known Bebe for many years, and she has always had that strong and joyful character, and success has not changed her at all,” Lambertini said.
2017 holds new challenges for Vio on and off the piste.
“Regarding fencing, it is almost time to restart the training for the next sporting year,” she said.
“Apart from this, the most exciting thing is that I will move out of the family home to live in Treviso.”
Vio’s next wheelchair fencing challenge comes when the season gets underway at the World Cup event in Eger in February.
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2016, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website. https://www.paralympic.org/top-50-moments-2016