How fencer Beatrice beats the odds
Fencing – fighting with swords – is super-fast modern sport that demands amazing control in your hand and arm to aim your blade and to protect yourself.
With six months to go until the Olympics in Tokyo, Beatrice Vio is training hard. She wants another gold medal to match the gold she won in Rio four years ago. The fact she doesn’t have any hands doesn’t bother her. Nor does being the only Olympic fencer in the world without arms. She has no feet either.
“It would be boring if we were all the same. It’s beautiful to be different,” she says with a smile. “My strength lies in making maximum use of what I do have.”
Beatrice is called Bebe (bay-bay) by her family and friends in Italy. But she is anything but a baby when she puts on her mask, straps into her wheelchair, screws in her sword – called a ‘foil’ – to her plastic arm and prepares for combat.
She brings the same determination and joy to the duel that she has shown since she nearly died when she was 11. Bebe caught a bug called meningitis. It destroyed her arms and legs before doctors could stop it.
When she got out of hospital, she asked her dad if she could still go to her fencing club – something she’d loved since she was five.
Her dad, Ruggero, looked at her and said:
“Fencing is all about the wrist and three fingers. You don’t have any. But let’s see. No one’s done it before. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”
After joining the Italian national team when she was 15, four years later she won gold at the 2016 Paralympics – the bit of the Olympic Games for people with disabilities.
Now she wants another gold in Japan in August – for herself, but also to show others that we can all achieve the “impossible”.
Bebe’s family set up a charity that gives artificial arms and legs to children who need them to play sport.
She admits that she’s always scared before a fight and often thinks she won’t make it. But she “takes a breath and everything feels lighter“.
Training is very tough. She says you need to set a goal for every training session if you want to win. In that, Bebe says: “Fencing is a lot like life.“
Her bubbly laughter and her determination to be herself – she never hides her disabilities or scars – have helped make Bebe super-famous in Italy.
She was asked to be the voice of Voyd, a girl with super-powers, in the Italian version of the Incredibles 2 movie. And they’ve just brought out a Bebe Vio Barbie doll, complete with artificial limbs – and, of course, a sword.
Bebe says kids used to tease her that she was a “Barbie” because she had plastic arms and legs. Now she thinks it’s great that there is real doll that shows off her body and her sport. She says it shows kids “don’t give up on your dreams“.
Bebe said on Twitter:
” In the darkness, there is always a ray of light that wakes you in the morning and guides you. Focus on your goal and go get it. “
Source : Beatrice Vio (@VioBebe)