Virtus World Swimming Championships – rearranged dates

We are pleased to confirm that the 2021 Virtus World Swimming Championships have been rearranged to take place in Montlucon, France in December.

Due to the short entry time available we encourage all member organisations who are planning to enter the event to contact the LOC immediately to notify them of your intention.

The event includes a full programme of II1, II2 and II3 competition and an application has been made for WPS approval.

Full details here.

Virtus Webinars

We are pleased to invite you to join the next in our series of webinars:
 
Tokyo Paralympic Games Review
4th October 2021 at 1300 UK (1200GMT)
 

Following the incredible Tokyo Paralympics, we are delighted to be joined by a number of medal-winning athletes who will share their experience of the Games, including:

1. Peter Palos(HUN) gold medalist- table tennis
2. Breanna Clark (USA) gold- athletics 400m
3. Valeriia Shabalina (RUS)- swimming gold

Join us by registering in advance here, and please forward this invitation to your network/coaches/support staff.

Virtus Annual report 2020 Cover

2020 Annual Report published

Virtus has today published its annual report for 2020, a year that was substantially affected by the global pandemic.

Despite the difficulties – including the cancellation of almost the entire competition programme – there were many positive steps taken to support athletes and member organisations, including the launch of the Virtus Strategic Plan for 2021-2024.

Read the full report here.

It’s a GOLD for Abdul Latif Romly (MAS)

Day 11: Men’s F20 Long Jump finishes Games campaign for athletes with Intellectual Impairment.

By Mousumi Mazumdar

After 11 days of non-stop actions, the events for athletes with an Intellectual Impairment at Tokyo 2020 concluded with the F20 Men’s Long-Jump today.

The rain was stronger than the preceding days at Tokyo Olympic Stadium, making it difficult for the athletes to perform. However, World Champions never give up, which was proved by the Malaysian jumper Abdul Latif Romly.

The Second time Paralympian successfully defended his World and Paralympic title in the long jump pit despite suffering from an injury during the competition. He recorded his season-best with 7.45m and was very emotional during the Medal Ceremony.

“This medal is for my family who I haven’t met in the past 9 months,” Abdul said.

“I slipped on the board while taking the jump and injured my groin muscles and couldn’t finish my competition. I am sad that I couldn’t break my World Record,” he said. The medical team is still monitoring the athlete’s injury and (at the time of this article) had not decided yet whether to admit the athlete to the hospital.

Athanasios Prodromou from Greece made a terrific debut at the games and seized his first medal, a Silver by covering a distance of 7.17m. It was also his Personal Best. Meanwhile, participating in his second Paralympic Games, Australian Nicholas Hum won his first medal tonight also.

Nicholas stated, “It’s an incredible feeling!”

“I have been working on a lot of aspects of my jump – mental, technical, lifting, diet, etc. Fortunately, Melbourne was not under complete lockdown so I could train,” he said.

Interestingly, the athlete used to play Basketball and was a part of the Australian Basketball team at the Global Games 2011 in Italy. He reflected upon how it was a wrong sport for him.

“I played basketball for a while, played athletics, and went back to basketball and realized it was a dumb decision and came back to Athletics,” said Nicholas.

His father was also a former state-level champion and serves as an inspiration to the athlete. The athlete recently became a dad and had a little baby girl on 30th August, whom he cannot wait to see. Hum also confirmed that he will stick to Athletics (Long-jump) at the upcoming Virtus Global Games 2023 in Vichy, France.

Virtus congratulates all the athletes for showcasing their spectacular performances. You inspire us all and we have been cheering you on from every corner of the world!

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be officially closed tomorrow at 8:00 pm Japan time.

Photo credit: Reuters

GOLD Medal dedicated to Grandad

Day-10 (Part-2): Title reclaimed after 9 years by Karolina Kucharczyk (POL)

By Mousumi Mazumdar

The women’s Athletics concluded tonight with F20 Long Jump. The rain from this morning continued its downpour and made athletes uncomfortable on the pit, but they came, jumping out with flying colors.

Two old rivals- Mikela Ristoski from Croatia and Karolina Kucharczyk from Poland came face-to-face again for the third time at a Paralympic Games. The veteran Polish jumper, going on to reclaim her title in Long-jump after 9 years. The Rio gold medalist from Croatia lost her title by just 0.57m and settled for Bronze.

Karoline Kucharczyk today, broke her own Paralympic record twice and set a new record of 6.03m. She has had an emotional journey since Rio 2016, when she won silver, and she made a vow to her grandad to bring home the Gold from Tokyo.

Karolina told Virtus, “I am very happy today because when I won silver in Rio, I was six weeks pregnant and could not stress much.”

“I promised my grandad that I will win Gold in Tokyo, but my granddad died just after my event in Rio, and I couldn’t even attend his funeral. I went to his grave with the silver and promised to turn it into Gold. Over the five years, I have worked very hard to fulfill my promise.”

“I am missing my grandad today but I know he was with me during my event.”

The athlete also mentioned that she missed the crowd. She was a bit disappointed that she did not break her own World record, because of some stress and the wet surface, she had problems and is hopeful that she will break it in Paris 2024.

“Kacper (her son) knows that he was inside me in Rio Paralympics and he feels like he was also a medalist.”

Meanwhile, Russian athlete, Aleksandra Ruchkina won Silver. Even though this is Aleksandra’s first Paralympic Games medal, she was disappointed with her own performance. She covered a distance of 5.59m.

“I wanted to get a better result. Two years ago I was in my form but this time even if I was not stressed or pressured, there was something wrong in the technical side and I could not perform well,” says Aleksandra.

The last event for athletes with Intellectual Impairment will be conducted tomorrow at the Men’s Long Jump Finals. Follow Virtus on socials where you can hear the post-event interviews.

Photo credit: OISPhotos

Superstar of the track takes home fourth Paralympic Gold

Day-10 (Part-1): Barbara Bieganowska- Zajac from wins her 4th Paralympic Gold medal in 1500m

By Mousumi Mazumdar

It was another rainy and damp day at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium and this did not stop the athletes’ splendid performances. Experienced Paralympians returned to the podium which has been dominated by first-timers.

Polish runner, Barbara Bieganowska, at the age of 40 years is one of the most decorated athletes Virtus has seen. This four-time Paralympian, and mother of two daughters, is known as the ‘Golden Basia’, she is the current World and Paralympic Record holder and clocked her season-best (SB) today with 4:27.84sec.

“I had to prepare for five years for this race, I have put in a lot of hard work and I feel very to be able to defend my Gold medal,” said Barbara.

On asking about how she manages between her practice and duties of a mother, she said “I love my daughters very much and they know it. I try to spend as much time with them as I can but recently I was away doing my preparations for the games.”

“They know that mummy is doing what she loves so they are very happy. It is my passion and also my profession because it helps me earn money too. It’s been 26 years that I am running and participating in competitions so they know what I do and support me a lot.”

Rio 2016 Bronze medalist- Liudmyla Danylina, from Ukrain finished second with 4:32.82sec and was very happy with her achievement. “I feel very happy. It is the only emotion I can feel right now. I would like to dedicate this medal to my country-Ukraine and my family” said Liudmyla.

Finishing third was a new face from Great Britain- Hannah Tounton with a timing of 4:35.34sec. “During the race I was really thinking to myself right, I’m going to out at my 1500/200m pace, and then on the last lap I’m going to really storm it,” she said

“That’s what I’ve really been doing cause I’ve been practicing lots of my sharp sprints especially when the bell goes. And that bell actually really helped. It actually did, when I crossed the finish line I was like oh my goodness, I’m going to get a bronze medal.”

“I feel amazing and I can’t wait to show all of my family and all my friends when I go home on Sunday. I’m going to celebrate my big belated 35th birthday which was in May and I’m going to have another party celebrating my track Tokyo celebration.”

In Men’s 1500m, Owen Miller (GBR) ran an unforgettable first Paralympic race as he clinched the Gold by clocking 3:54.57sec.

“It’s my first Paralympic Games and it’s been quite an experience. It was really hard, especially the last 18 months. I was training on the grass when the tracks were closed. My coach and my family helped me a lot during my training. This medal means the world to me,” Owen said.

“To be number 1 in the world is a great feeling, I have never done anything like this in my life so it’s very special.”

2019 World Champion Rabotnitskii Alexandr from Russia and Dieng Ndiaga from Italy, both on debut, won their first Paralympic Games medals as they finish second with 3:55.78sec and third with 3:57.24sec respectively.

“I am very happy, I trained a lot for this competition and expected a lot but not a Bronze medal. My best event is 800m but I feel good in participating in 400m and 1500m too. I will train a lot and prepare for the Paris2024 and Vichy 2023.”

Both Dieng and Barbara shared with Virtus their special message for the young athletes:

“My loved ones – do what you love and never push yourself into doing something you don’t like, but once you find your passion, set your goals and do as much as you can to achieve them.” – Barbara Bieganowsk (UKR), 4th Paralympic Gold Women’s 1500M

“If you want to achieve results, you have to work hard” – Dieng Ndiaga (ITA), first Paralympic Games, Bronze Medallist Men’s 1500M

 

The F20 Women’s Long Jump will be the closing event for the Day-10 Keep following Virtus for more updates.

Paralympians creating legacies at Tokyo 2020 Games

Day 9:New World Records created in Aquatics at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

By Mousumi Mazumdar

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be remembered for the Paralympians making an outstanding debut and the ‘WOW’ moments they gave the audience.

S14 athletes competed in the last races of their tournament to grab the remaining six medals. With the S14 events ending today, the medal tally is dominated by the Paralympic debutants. Reece Dunn from GBR was the most decorated swimmer with 3 Gold, 1 Silver, and 2 Bronze. He also broke 3 World records. Meanwhile, Valeriia Shabalina is taking 3 Gold and 1 Silver home and 1 new World record.

In Men’s 100m Backstroke Final, all eyes were on Reece Dunn (GBR) to see whether he can take another Gold and add it to his medal tally. However, world champion Benjamin Hance (AUS) swam to a new Paralympic record with 57.73sec, to take the Gold for Australia. It added the remaining Golden color to the fresher’s Paralympic medal collection as he already won one silver and One Bronze earlier during the event.

With the difference of only 1.32sec, Russian swimmer Emeliantsev Viacheslav won the Silver and Reece Dunn settled for Bronze with 59.97sec.

“I’ve loved it, every single second of it. I swam really well so that is just a bonus. It’s been great being here and I have really enjoyed myself.” Reece said at the OIS MC.

In Women’s race, it was a nail-biting fight between Valeriia Shabalina (RPC) and Bethany Firth (GBR). Bethany successfully defended her World Championship title and made it to the top of the Podium with 1:05.92sec while Shabalina Valeriia finished second just after 0.93sec.

“I am over the moon. This is my favorite event, the one I’ve been waiting for a whole week.” said Bethany (OIS MC)

“Winning it in London and Rio, I wanted to come here again and smash this one too. I spoke to my psychologist before about grounding myself and remembering why I am here and why I swim, looking at my cross tattoo.

“I just wanted to come out here and make everyone proud. It has been such an up and down season and without my support system, my family, and my church, I would not be here today” said Bethany (OIS MC)

Jessica-Jane Applegate (GBR) added to Great Britain’s spectacular swim medal tally at these Games, placing third with 1:07.93sec. She shares her tough journey to get to Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

“It was my last race, so I wanted to leave everything I had in the pool, and to come away with a bronze medal, it’s really good,” said Jessica-Jane at OIS MC

“I applied no pressure to myself, I just wanted to go out and have some fun tonight. It has been really tough, really tough. Training has been something else (laughs).”

“I took up cycling to try and keep my fitness up. I swam in my garden, in a swim spa… I only actually got in a swimming pool in April and I didn’t train long course until June, so I’ve only trained for four months. It has been really tough. I had to see a therapist for my mental health just to get me here because it has been really difficult.” says Jessica (OIS mc).

The swimmer had two car accidents this year leaving her with a neck injury. “There is nothing I can do other than come here and try and do my best. To come away with two individual bronzes and help the relay team achieve a gold medal is amazing.” She told OIS mc.

As the Virtus coverage of the S14 swimming also coming to a close, it is a testament to the resilience and strength of all the amazing Paralympians at Tokyo 2020, who inspire us all.

Stay tuned and follow Virtus on the final few days of the Games.

 

PRESS STATEMENT: Athlete support and well-being is paramount.

September 02, 2021.

When three F20 Shot Put athletes were marked as DNS – Did Not Start, it put a global spotlight on athletes with an intellectual impairment and their disability needs.

Ecuador’s Jordi Patricio Congo Villalba, Australian Todd Hodgetts, and Rio 2016 champion, Malaysian Muhammad Zolkefli – were disqualified from the event on 31 August, due to their late arrival at the call room. Officials allowed the three athletes to compete under protest allowing the competition to proceed and for the appeal processes to follow. The appeals were lodged, and the original decision was upheld.

This is difficult for those individuals disqualified and it may be difficult for those whose final standing were changed as well. We support all the athletes and call on all those involved to support the athletes as they process what happened. All athlete’s well-being should be monitored and attended to.

Virtus respects the competition rules and the position of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and World Para Athletics (WPA) in this disappointing situation. We are open to being part of any post Games review and to share input into any process, procedure or training that could better support athletes with intellectual impairment.

Ms Robyn Smith, Virtus Vice-President said, “We are disappointed with what happened, we cannot change what happened, but we can do our best to advocate and ensure it does not happen again.”

“Understanding the individual needs of athletes with intellectual impairment is essential as they are performing in a high-pressure situation, in an unfamiliar environment, and may need additional help and guidance to be in the right place at the right time, including ensuring they are at the call room of every event.”

Virtus recognises that three out of six competing countries did have their athletes to the call room at the required time. We congratulate all the F20 shot put athletes on an outstanding competition. A competition that resulted in multiple world record throws. The awarded Gold Medallist, Maksym Koval set a world record of 17.34m, the Silver medallist Oleksandr Yarovyi (UKR) with a personal best, and Greece’s champion Efstratios Nikolaidis taking home the Bronze. Let’s not forget that these highly trained and skilled athletes performed admirably.

Virtus supports everyone’s right to ensure that the rules were followed correctly. This includes the countries that protested, the countries that appealed, the officials and decision-making bodies with responsibility to issue a final ruling. Protest is inherent in sport, and we must not condemn or vilify those exercising their rights under the rules.

Ms Smith also condemned some of the comments that had been made on social media about the incident. “This was a very difficult situation for the three athletes and their teams, and natural that people wanted to convey their frustration, however it is important that comments made on social media are respectful of the individuals, nations and organisations involved.”

Virtus calls on everyone to similarly respect these rights and to not feed into social media attacks – especially against athletes and against nations exercising their rights under the rules. The athletes disqualified and those who ended up on the podium deserve our respect and admiration.

Marc Truffaut, Virtus President who is attending the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as a part of the French Athletics team, said that in a competition setting, more can be done to ensure the athlete, any athlete, feels supported.

“Athletes should be supported to do what they are expected to do, outside of performing their best to win,” Mr Truffaut said.

“There are so many distractions, so many instructions, and most of all, noise and nervousness for athletes as they set their mind to focus on one thing – competing to win.”

“We need to ensure that all people at the Games and future international competitions, including coaches, officials and volunteers are provided training on the unique cognitive and communication characteristics, specific to athletes with intellectual impairment.”

For Virtus, the person-first approach has underpinned events such as the Global Games 2019 (GG2019) in Brisbane, Australia. Cognitive awareness training and communications strategies were provided to staff, officials, and volunteers of GG2019. Virtus has the expertise to provide this training to organisations globally.

Truffaut explained, “These athletes have so much to share with the world, and with the right approach they can do so and will inspire others to take up sport, but we all need to be aware of their individual support needs.”

There is a lot more work to be done. This year’s Paralympics campaign is just the beginning of a decade of action. In the theme of #StrongerTogether and with a highlight on #WeThe15, there is no better time to call on partners of influence, including the International Paralympic Committee and International Federations, to generate awareness for the Invisibility of an Intellectual Impairment.

–END–

Media Contact: Nithi Suppiah, Advisor Marketing & Communications nithi.suppiah@virtus.sport

About Virtus World Intellectual Impairment Sport
Virtus is the brand name of the International Federation for athletes with intellectual impairments and a member of the International Paralympic Committee. The organisation was formed in 1986 and has grown to a membership of more than 80 nations across the world. These cover Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, North America and Oceania.

Virtus is on a mission to drive the development of elite sport worldwide for athletes with an intellectual impairment, helping more than 500,000 of the world’s best athletes, from over 80 nations, compete in winter and summer sports, from Athletics to Alpine Skiing, Cycling, Equestrian, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis and Rowing amongst them.

We promote the inclusion of people with intellectual impairments in society. We work with our member nations and the International Federations for each sport, on educating our members on eligibility and classification so that they can develop their athlete pool, helping create high-performance sport for athletes with an intellectual impairment.

Breanna Clark USA breaks world record at T20 400 meter at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Singing and dancing celebrations for Gold Medallists

Day-7: Another hot, humid and wet evening at Tokyo did not affect multiple World records.

By Mousumi Mazumdar

Valeriia Shabalina (RPC) and Reece Dunn (GBR) claimed their third Gold.

Shabalina claims her third gold medal from Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in the women’s 200m Individual Medley. She clocked a time of 2:20.99sec, to beat the former champion Bethany Firth (GBR).

It was a close fight between the two rivals as Bethany finished just 0.03.80sec after Shabalina. Louise Fiddes from GBR claimed her second Paralympic Medal by finishing third with a timing of 2:29.21sec.

“I get more energy from winning” says Shabalina (OIS MC).

In Men’s event, another exhilarating performance, as the leading three swimmers went neck to neck, and in the end, Reece Dunn (GBR) stayed undefeated as he claimed his third Gold from the competition and sets a new World Record with 2:08.02sec.

“Quite excited. I didn’t expect to get a gold in that one, I just wanted to get a medal,” said Dunn

“Obviously, it was a good race. I don’t know how I did that. First 150m was strong, and it was just about hanging on. I knew they would catch me on the breaststroke, I just had to try and pull away in the free and get the job done. I try my best, because the breaststroke is my weak event.”

“I’ve got dodgy knees, can’t kick really well, just got to try and get through the water and give myself the best chance I can at the 150m and see where I am on the freestyle” he told OIS News.

Dunn suffered with posterior shoulder impingement after the 4x100m mixed relays and was heavily fatigued but expressed he was mentally on top notch and was confident going into the races and was not nervous at all.

“I believe no one can beat me and even in my worse events I go into that believing I’m the best,” says Dunn (OIS MC).

Gabriel Bandeira (2:09.56sec) added another Silver to his tally, making a total 4 medals from the tournament. Ukrainian swimmer Vasyl Krainyk won his first medal as he finished third with a timing of 2:09.92sec. It was also his first Paralympic medal.

France's Charles-Antoine Kouakoa crosses the finish line to win Gold at the 400 meter

France’s Charles-Antoine Kouakoa crosses the finish line to win Gold.
Photo: OIS Photos

The Men’s 400m finals was another thrilling race as all three winners finished almost at the same time with just micro seconds apart. Charles-Antoine Kouakou (FRA) was extremely happy to win his first medal (47.63sec).

“I am really happy. I did better than my previous performance,” said Kouakou.

He told Virtus, he will celebrate by singing and he is also going to prepare for the Global Games 2023 in Vichy, France, straight after the Tokyo games are over.

Rodriguez Bolivar (ESP) finished second (47.71sec) Columba Blango (GBR) settled for Bronze with 47.81sec and seemed quite happy with his results.

“It was my first Paralympic games and I plan to participate in more games in future. It was a great experience and I am going to use that for the next games in the future,” said Blango.

His dad was an Olympian and it was his dream to compete at this level. He believes running was his natural gift and he just took it up and trained hard.

 

In Women’s 400m finals, defending Paralympian Breanna Clark (USA) created a new World record (55.18sec) and was seen dancing on the tracks for quite some time after the race. Yuliia Shuliar (UKR) claimed the Silver whilst setting a new personal best of 56.18sec.

“I am glad to win the silver and actually I am not bothered about the positions, I am just happy that I am improving my timing,” said Yuliia.

Brazilian runner Jardenia Felix Barbosa da Silva opened her medal tally for the Paralympic Games with a Bronze.

In F20 Men’s Shot put, three athletes Congo Villalba from Ecuador, Hodgetts from Australia and Zolkefli from Malaysia were performing under protest. More information will come from the officials. Maksym Koval (UKR) created a new World record by covering a distance of 17.34m. followed by Yarovyi Oleksandr who set his personal best of 17.30 and Nikolaidis Efstratios from Greece.

Day 6: Games debutants light up the track

By Mousumi Mazumdar & Rebekah Thornton

It was an intense day on the Tracks for the T20 Men and Women 400m Heats. While the world was focused on the defending champion, Daniel Martins (BRA), the newcomers swooped in and amazed everyone with their spectacular performance in Heat-1.

Dieng Ndiaga (ITA), Anderson Alexander Colorado Mina (ECU), and Charles-Antoine Kouakou (FRA) ran their first-ever Paralympic Games race at Tokyo 2020. Qualifying first was Rodriguez Ramirez from Spain and clocked his personal best of 48.57sec. He was placed fifth at Rio 2016.

The defending champion had a hard time due to the global pandemic, speaking to Virtus, Daniel says “I suffered from COVID three months back and was almost taken to the hospital, one of my lungs was affected and I lost a lot of practice time.”

Heat-2, Correia Baessa (POR), Blango Columba (GBR), Luis Felipe Rodriguez Bolivar (VEN) made a remarkable first entrance into the Game and qualified for the finals.

In the Women’s 400m, only minutes after Yuliia Shuliar (UKR) broke the Paralympic Record in Heat 1, the Gold medalist from Rio 2016, Breanna Clark (USA) set a new Paralympic Record with 56.07sec.
“I have been doing three things, training hard, running hard, and working hard,” said Breanna.
“During the lockdown, we turned our home into a gym when the gyms closed and we also worked out on the beaches. My aim is to break these world records and set personal bests for everyone, not just for me.”

Siti Noor Iasah Mohamad Ariffin (MAS), the only female representing Malaysia in athletics at the Games, sprinted into the final of the Women’s T20 400m today. From Johor Bahru, the 31-year-old athlete said she was running for her son. She was so overcome with emotion post-race that she did not realize she had secured herself a spot in the final.
“I promised my son that Mumma would run as fast as I could. That race was for my son,” she said post-race.

Coming from a talented athletic family, her husband, Muhammad Hafiz Abu Bakar, represented Malaysia in the F37 Shot Put at the 2014 Asian Para Games in Korea. This will be her last competitive meet before her retirement, making her one to watch in the T20 400m final tomorrow night.

Tomorrow there will be several medal events taking place- F20 Men’s Shot put, T20 Men’s and Women’s 400m Finals and the 200m Individual Medley at the Aquatics.

Keep following Virtus to stay updated.