Virtus Ambassador and UN Ambassador for ‘Generation Unlimited’.- Yasmine Hassane from Egypt

Yasmine Ahmed Hussain is an 18 years old swimmer with Down Syndrome from Egypt. She has won more than 60 Gold medals in Egypt Republic Championship and Egypt Cup Championship. She has also participated in many international events. She started swimming at the age of 5 years and is currently in her last year of American high school diploma and speaks 3 languages – Arabic, English and  German.

She also participated in the 3rd celebration of the International Day with Persons with Disabilities under the name of “Differently Abled” organized by the Egyptian Sports Federation for Intellectual Disabilities – ESFID in cooperation with the Ministries of Youth, Sports and Social Solidarity, Egypt with the presence of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, President of Egypt.

Yasmine Hussain flaunting her Gold medals from the Egypt Republic and Cup Championship

Yasmine was recently appointed as a UN ambassador to the ‘Shabab Balad Initiative’ which is the Egyptian version of the UN Global initiative ‘Generation Unlimited’. e world’s first Public-Private-Youth Partnership (PPYP) aiming to skill and connect all of the world’s 1.8 billion young people aged 10-24 to opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship, and positive social impact by 2030.

Yasmina (fourth from right) with the other UN ambassadors for the ‘Generation Unlimited’. P.C- UNICEF

Yasmine’s parents and sister were very supportive and always encouraged her.

“When she was young, my vision and my priority for her were actually her academics but as soon as she competed in her first championship, my priorities totally changed. Swimming gave her immense self-confidence and provided a platform where she could excel.

 

Her mother shared a special message for all the parents who have children with intellectual impairment

 

Sports really changed my daughter’s life for the best so I always encourage you to let your children participate in any type of sport, not just swimming but any sport. Also, don’t let anyone tell you that your children can’t do anything in life, because I know they achieve great heights. These children have passion for some things and they can learn and excel in them.”

Virtus Ambassador Neel Yadav

Neel Yadav is the youngest cyclist from Asia to win the first-ever medal in Cycling for India at the 2019 INAS Global Games, Brisbane in cycling in the 20KM Men’s Team Trial, which was also his first international event.

Neel Yadav with his coach Mr. Avtar Singh (centre) and teammate Chitharthan (left) after winning Bronze at the 2019 INAS Global Games in Brisbane Picture Credit- Sivus India

Neel competed in mainstream cycling championships in India and organised by the Haryana State track Cycling and National Track Cycling Championship and won multiple medals in the under-14 category between 2017-2019.

Neel was a premature baby and was in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for two months with no/very less chances of survival. Today, Neel cycles 6 days a week, for approx. 3 hours daily, matching the stamina of mainstream cyclists. It is a part of him which gives him purpose, confidence and happiness and also fetches him the envy and admiration of others.

Neel was introduced to cycling by his father, who is also being a cycling enthusiast, introduced the sport to Neel. Later, Neel drew the attention of his parents to his potential & budding skills. His father continued to support him to enhance his cycling skills.

“No one would have believed if we had said 16 years ago, that Neel will one day be a cyclist and win a medal for his Country. He fell short in academics, but he has done wonders in sports. I am so proud of his abilities, his determination and commitment. All his co-cyclists just love him. Except for a low IQ, he has everything that a human being can be virtuous of.” said Neel’s father, Mr Pawan Kumar.

Mr. Kumar thanked Mr Aaron Benjamin, Mr. Avtar Singh and his Coach Sanjeev Kumar for recognising the talent in Neel and having faith in him.

Neel Yadav hopes to compete at the Paralympics and win a medal for India one day.

Neel has certainly come a long way and is an inspiration to many, especially youngsters with intellectual impairment from India.

Virtus Ambassador & Paralympic Champion Gabriel Bandeira

Gabriel Bandeira is a Paralympic Champion from Brazil. Gabriel made his Paralympics debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and won – 1 Gold medal in 100m butterfly (with Paralympic record), two Silver medals in 200m freestyle and 200m medley (America’s record) and one Bronze medal in 4x100m freestyle relay (America’s record). While athletes usually compete at the World Championships and use the lessons learnt from the event to compete at the biggest Para-sporting event-Paralympics. However, Bandeira did the exact opposite. Bandeira competed at his first World Championship in Madeira 2022, after competing at the Paralympic first in 2020, and won three gold, one silver and two bronze with better timings using the knowledge gained from the Paralympics.

Gabriel Bandeira posing with his Gold Medal at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Photo Credit: OIS/Joel Marklund.

It may be surprising to know that the Paralympian was actually training to compete in the Olympic Games until he was diagnosed with intellectual impairment. Gabriel had a very happy childhood with supporting parents who never made him feel he had an intellectual impairment. When his friends and coaches mentioned to him that he might have an impairment and that he should get a diagnostic test done, Gabriel refused it twice because he never felt he was different as it was his ‘normal’. Later in 2018, Gabriel finally agreed to get his test done and was given his eligibility class. Bandeira had a smooth transfer to the Paralympic movement.

“I felt embraced by the Paralympic Movement. It was a very peaceful and light process. I felt like I really could be myself. While I was training with the Olympic athletes, the coach gave the same instructions to the whole team and everybody followed them. But, in the Paralympics training, the coach pays attention to each swimmer according to their impairment. For example, he prints my training so that I don’t struggle with memorising it, he explains it carefully and depending on the situation he knows how to talk to me. When he gives constructive feedback to me, it takes me some time to process it and I can also be aggressive or very sad about it, and the coach stays very calm and patient with me the whole time whilst motivating me until I understand my fault so I do not drop my performance during the session and to improve it instead.”

Bandeira believes there could be others like him who are not aware of having an intellectual impairment, and who want to compete in high-level sports but are unable to do so because they might not receive the proper guidance as per their impairment-specific needs. Bandeira wants to advocate for intellectual impairment and increase awareness about Paralympic sports for those who want to compete.

Virtus Ambassador & TV Presenter Egypt

Rahma Khaled Hussain is an International Swimmer from Egypt who has won a total of 7 international and 189 national medals during her swimming career.

Rahma was born in 1996 and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Tourism. Rahma is the first TV presenter with Down Syndrome in Egypt and has been working with the DMC TV channel since December 2018.

After winning medals in the Egypt Republic and Cup Championship in 2015,2016 and 2017, Rahma started getting attention from the media and was invited by many news channels for interviews. Rahma gives credit to sports for changing her life and for teaching her essential life skills.

Women standing infront of table with more than 50 medals and trophies on display

Rahma’s medal wins from swimming and sports

Being an athlete or playing sports gave me a lot of confidence and improved a lot of my abilities. Sports challenges our abilities and pushes us to improve our performance constantly, and whatever challenges I had in life I could go through them because of the sporting spirit I had. Also, by becoming a swimming champion, I was recognized by the media. Sports played a big part in my life.

Rahma had a passion for being MC since school and after getting invitations for interviews on TV, she realized that people admired seeing someone with Down syndrome on TV and that she could change the perception of society toward people with DS by using the power of media. To follow her passion and advocate for people with DS, Rahma took workshops on how to become a presenter on radio or TV and landed herself a job in DMC TV in 2018.

I am really proud of myself to get the opportunity and be the first TV presenter with Down Syndrome. I feel like I am the voice for everyone with Down Syndrome. I also feel like I have opened opportunities for other people with Down Syndrome, they can be an athlete, and they can be TV presenters. It gives hope to people with Down Syndrome and their families. I am also proud that some people can recognize me and my family is also super proud of me.

Rahma is a living example of how sports can teach athletes with intellectual impairments to acquire vital life skills which can be used to find employment outside the sporting industry.

Virtus Ambassador & Paralympic Champion Lenine Cunha

Lenine Cunha is a Portuguese athlete and has won more INAS & Virtus medals in international competitions than almost any other athlete. His international career started in 2000 and since then he has won more than 200 international medals including bronze on the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

He is the Virtus World Record holder in Heptathlon, Indoor Pentathlon and Triple Jump.

I want to be remembered for never giving up! I want people to look at me and see hope. And I want people to know that, even when everything looks dark, you can still thrive and be the best in the world if you believe!

View Lenine’s IPC profile

 

Virtus Ambassador & Paralympic Champion Jessica-Jane Applegate, MBE

First wave of #SportChampions announced to celebrate International Women’s Day

Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE

Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE is an international GB para-swimmer. She competes in the S14 category for athletes with an intellectual disability and is the only Great British Gold Medal S14 Paralympian, after winning Gold in the 200m freestyle event at the London 2012 Paralympics at just 16 years old.

She was awarded an MBE in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to swimming.

In the few years, Jessica-Jane has set over 80 new British Swimming records, several World & European Records, won Gold in the 2015 IPC World Championships for S14 100m Backstroke amongst numerous other medal-winning achievements & most recently was awarded ‘Para-athlete of the Year’ at the 2015 British Swimming Awards.

Jessica-Jane added the first Commonwealth medal to her collection recently by winning a Silver at the Birmingham 2022.

“I am very excited to continue my role as an Ambassador for Virtus World Intellectual Impairment Sport. Virtus makes it possible for people with intellectual disabilities to be able to compete at an international level. They open up the pathway to enable athletes like myself to compete on the international stage against the best ID athletes in the world. I have no doubt this has helped me become the Paralympic athlete I am today. I also think it is very important to support everyone that supports you. Their work as a charity is massively important to athletes at every level.”

Paralympic Games medal tally

London 2012- 1 Gold

Rio 2016- 1 Silver and 2 Bronze

Tokyo 2020- 1 Gold and 2 Bronze

World Records

400m Freestyle – 04:27.08

800m Freestyle – 09:15.69

400m Individual Medley – 05:13.91

4×100 Mixed Freestyle Relay – 03:40.63

View Jessica’s IPC profile.

Virtus Ambassador & Cricketer Aldrich George

Aldrich George (South Africa) is a 24 year old multi-talented cricket and football player from Grahamstown in South Africa.

He was first spotted playing at school level and was later selected to the National Team that competed in the Virtus World Intellectual Impairment Sport Cricket Tri-Nations against Australia and England that took place in Kimberley, South Africa in 2014.

Virtus Ambassador & Paralympian Wai Lok Tai

Wai Lok Tang waves to the crowd during a medal ceremony at the Rio 2016 Paralympics

Getty Images

Wai Lok Tai (HKG) is a talented swimmer who also competed at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. He took a further silver medal at the 2014 Asian Para Games taking the Asian Record of 200M Freestyle.

He has taken a number of gold medals in Virtus competition and is ranked in the top 3 in both Asian and World competitions.

 

Virtus Ambassador & Paralympic Champion Ka Man Wong

Ka Man Wong (HKG) is a Paralympic Gold medalist after winning the Women’s Singles in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Ka Man has worked even harder during practice which paid off when she took gold again in the 2014 Asian Para Games held in Incheon, Korea.

Her excellence in table tennis and contribution in local sports development were recognized by the Hong Kong Government by awarding her the Chief Executive’s Commendation for Community Service in 2013 and in 2015 she became the winner of the World Intellectual Impairment Sport Awards.

Ka Man Wong IPC Profile