Chiba – Italian sensation Beatrice “Bebe” Vio came to Tokyo to defend her gold medal in wheelchair fencing.
Vio breezed through the preliminary rounds Saturday at Makuhari Messe before defeating China’s Jingjing Zhou 15-9 in the final match of women’s foil category B.
Vio extended the near perfect run she started at Rio 2016, cementing the celebrity status she earned at her first Paralympics.
But it’s not just her prowess on the fencing piste that pushed Vio into the spotlight.
The tribulations Vio overcame before becoming a star are an inspiration for a generation of young people with disabilities — athletes and non-athletes alike.
The abundance of cheering, clapping and Italian flags waving for Vio in Tokyo on Saturday were proof of her fame.
In 2008, Vio, then 11, lost all four of her limbs after contracting meningitis. But the deadly infections couldn’t snuff out her passion for fencing.
She competed in her first wheelchair fencing competition in 2010 in Bologna, Italy, at which point she was the only wheelchair fencer in the world to compete with no arms or legs.
While she did not compete in the 2012 London Games, she represented Italy as a torchbearer in the Paralympic relay. Soon afterward she was welcomed to the Italian senior squad, and in December 2012 she snagged second place at the World Cup in Eger, Hungary.
Vio made her Paralympic debut at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, where she beat Zhou to win gold in individual foil B.
In Tokyo, she carried the Italian flag and led her team into National Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Paralympics.
For Vivo, gold isn’t the only reward.
“So many people told me that it was impossible to do fencing without any hands,” Vivo said during a news conference in Tokyo last week. “So it was important to me to demonstrate and show people that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have hands, or you don’t have legs or whatever. If you have a dream and you really want to achieve it, just go and take it.”
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