Sisters, competitors, Gold and Bronze medallists

Day-5 (Part 2): Ecuadorian sisters dominate Women’s F20 Shot Put at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

By Mousumi Mazumdar

The inaugural event in Athletics for athletes with an Intellectual Impairment was pushed off today. It was a very exciting day at the Olympic Stadium where
Ecuadorian sisters dominated the F20 Shot Put field.

Poleth Isamar Mendez Sanchez (ECU) set a new World Record to take GOLD at Tokyo 2020, by covering a distance of 14.39m in her second Paralympic Games. She had finished fifth in Rio 2016.

“I am very happy to win this Gold,” Poleth said.

Anais Mendez ECU competing in the Women’s Athletics Shot Put – F20 at the Olympic Stadium. Photo: OIS/Thomas Lovelock.

“I was very excited to compete alongside my sister, in the event she was my competitor and not my sister but in between the event I was also giving her advice on how to win.”

The Gold medal winner was doubly happy because her sister, Anais Mendez, in her debut to Paralympic Games, was competing in the same event. The newbie, Anais, won the Bronze with 14.06m distance.

Anais Mandez stated, she was very happy and very proud because she didn’t think she was going to win this medal. Having each other during the event, was a warm and supportive feeling for the Anais amidst the pandemic. Both women were seen engaging in short conversations between their events.

“We both are going to dance and celebrate our achievement tonight.” said Anais

Meanwhile, Ukrainian athlete Anastasiia Mysnyk made a hattrick with the Paralympic Silver medal. Anastasiia had won Silver in Rio 2016 and London 2012. She covered a distance of 14.16m. Speaking to Virtus, the athlete expressed how hard it has been to train during the Covid-19.

“I am very happy with the Silver. Me and my coach were working together on this and both are pleased with the result,” said Anastasiia.

“It was really difficult to train during the lockdown due to Covid-19.”

“I was training at home. Sometimes we had to go to the field or forest to train.”

The athletes have positive messages to share with young athletes with intellectual impairment.

The Ecuadorian duo, sisters Poleth, and Anais, says “Never give up, you need to keep fighting and never give up.”

Anastasiia’s message is “In this (COVID) situation, don’t be afraid. Try to get out of home and practice but don’t hurt yourself. Everything will be fine.”

That wraps up day 5. Tomorrow we see more athletics action from Tokyo Olympic Stadium. Follow Virtus on Socials to stay up to date.

Peter Palos now a three time Paralympic Gold Medallist

Day – 5 (Part 1): Peter Palos (HUN) claims third Gold and fourth Paralympic Medal in the Men’s Table Tennis Final

By Rebekah Thornton

Peter Palos (HUN) embraces Sam von Einem (AUS) after winning the gold match.

The final of the Men’s Class-11 category took place today in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Peter Palos (HUN) went up against Samuel von Einem (AUS) in a nail-biting final. Both no strangers to Paralympic finals, Palos claimed victory in the final set, with a score of 3-2.

With a Gold in Athens (2004) and London (2012), his medal from Tokyo2020 makes him a three-time Paralympic Gold medallist in an international career spanning two decades.

“I’m still not sure how I managed to win but here I am as a Paralympic champion yet again,” he said after the match.

Peter’s coach, Zsolt Vigh, called the match a “tactical war”, complimenting Samuel von Einem on his fast hand. The silver medallist from Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Samuel von Einem was excited to receive silver again.

“I was happy that I was able to medal and play on the big stage in the final again… Silver is fantastic”. von Einem said.  “It’s been a fantastic week for me. I might take a little break but then I’ll be looking forward to trying to go that one more in Paris 2024,” said von Einem.

Lucas Creange (FRA) and Florian van Acker (BEL) both took home bronze medals in the MS11 event.

Photos from 100m Breaststroke Men’s & Women’s FINALS (Credit: OISPhotos) | Table Tennis Men’s Singles Finals (Photo Credit: ITTF)

It was also a big day in the pool for the SB14 swimmers, with heats and finals for both the Men and Women’s 100m Breaststroke. Michelle Alonso Morales, Flag Bearer for Spain in the opening ceremony of Tokyo2020, successfully defended her 100m Breaststroke title for the third consecutive time, winning in World
Record time. Michelle Alonso Morales (ESP), nicknamed the ‘Little Mermaid’, won Gold at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Her win today solidifies her as a champion of para-swimming in the SB14 category, having set a new world record of 1:12.02 (beating her own World Record from 2016) in the process.

Louise Fiddes (GBR) touched the wall in a time of 1:15.93 to earn silver, while Beatriz Borges Carneiro (BRA) won bronze with a time of 1:17.61, just 0.2 ahead of her twin sister, Debora Borges Carneiro (BRA) who placed fourth. Naohide Yamaguchi, the 20-year-old from Japan won his first medal of Tokyo2020 with another World Record time.

The anticipation was high for the Men’s 100m Breaststroke, with many big names in the final. After placing fourth in both the Men’s 100m Butterfly and the Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay, Yamaguchi left nothing in the pool in today’s 100m Breaststroke final. He won Gold with a time of 1:03.77, beating his own World Record by .23 seconds. This is the second major international win in the event for Yamaguchi, having placed first at the 2019 World Championships in London. Australian SB14 swimmer Jake Michel won Silver with a time of 1:04.28, exceeding his original ambition of just competing at Tokyo2020. Scott Quin (GBR) touched the wall in third with a time of 1:05.91. His Bronze from today becoming his second Paralympic medal in two Games, having won
Silver at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Elena Prokofeva shows she is GOLDEN!

Day – 4 (Part 2): Elena Prokofeva (RPC), at the age of 50, claims the GOLD medal in the Women’s Table Tennis.

By Mousumi Mazumdar

The Semi-finals and Final in the Women’s Class-11 category made their way into the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium today.

Elena Prokofeva (RPC) Table Tennis (WS11) Gold Medallist at Tokyo 2020. Photo:OISPhotos

Finalists, Elena Prokofeva (RPC) and Lea Ferney (FRA) made their debut into the Paralympic Games this time at Tokyo 2020. Current ITTF World Rank number 1 Prokofeva stayed undefeated by the young French player, Lea, with a score of 3-1. Prokofeva took up the sport at the age of 9 and never giving up for 41 years, training hard for her debut into the Paralympic Games.

Lea Ferney wins Silver at Tokyo 2020

Lea Ferney wins silver in Women’s table Tennis (WS11) at Tokyo 2020. Photo: OISPhotos

“I waited a lot for this day and I just did what I needed to do,” she told Olympic Information Services (OIS) after the match.

On the other hand, 17-year old Lea Ferney, is overjoyed and expressed her happiness on winning the Silver medal, at her debut.

“I was surprised even to get selected for the Paralympics because you have to come first amongst everyone in France.” said Ferney.

“I came here to win. I am not disappointed with the Silver because I am bringing a medal home. I am only 17 years old so it’s only the starting. I am not thinking about anything now, I will just celebrate.” she said.


Maki Ito from Japan and Ting Ting Wong from Hong Kong secured Bronze.

“I am very happy with the Bronze medal because it is my first Paralympic Games,” said T.T. Wong. She plans to learn from this Paralympic Games and prepare for the next one.

The last event for the day (for Intellectual Impairment class events) was held late evening at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.

The crowd was thrilled to witness the most exciting race to date in the S14 swimmers, the Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay.

The anticipation was already high, with teams strategically planning their relay order, and all eyes were focused on the battle of the strokes between Reece Dunn (GBR) and Gabriel Bandeira (BRA). The audiences worldwide were not disappointed with both men racing the fastest times.

The result, Great Britain adds to their medal tally of Gold for the Mixed 4x100m Freestyle with a new World Record of 3:40.63sec in the event. Swimmers Reece Dunn, Bethany Firth, Jessica-Jane Applegate and Jordan Catchpole were ecstatic with the team result, and Bethany and Jessica- Jane adding to their total medal counts as well.

The Australian team of Ricky Betar, Benjamin Hance, Ruby Storm and Madeleine McTernan claimed second place with 3:46.38sec. Their strategy of having Ricky and Ben – take the first 2 spots with the girls bringing it home, certainly made the race open to a first-place win during the middle, but team GBR were faster!

The Brazilians settled for the third place with 3:51.23sec. The team consisted of Debora Carneiro, Gabriel Bandeira, Oliveira Soares and Felipe Vila Real.

Table Tennis is on its last event tomorrow with the Men’s Singles Table Tennis Finals, the Medal event for 100m Breaststroke will also be taking place across town, at the same time in the evening, and the day finishes off in Athletics at the Gold Medal event in Women’s Shot Put Finals.

A busy day to look forward to with medal events in II-class events across all three sports – Athletics, Table Tennis and Swimming.

Keep following us on Virtus Socials.

Humidity affects the game for van Acker

Day-4: Former Paralympic champion, Florian van Acker, blames humidity for losing Table Tennis semi-final match.

By Mousumi Mazumdar

Florian van Acker was disappointed with the humid weather here at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, which he claims cost him the chance of progressing to the Finals. Florian competed against Australia’s Samuel von Einem who won 3-2.

“I was playing fine until the second match, but then I started feeling the humidity which affected my grip as I was sweating a lot and started to get under pressure.” said van Acker.

“I would have played better but the weather got to me today. My friends from Belgium did warn me about this but I did not think it will be a problem, but I believe them today.”

The player may have settled for Bronze today but he has already made up his mind for Gold in Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

On the other hand, French player, Lucas Creange was excited to win his first medal at the Paralympic games. “I am very happy that I won the Bronze medal it is very important for me because I lost in the quarterfinals in Rio 2016.” Creange said.

My objective now is to participate in the World Championships and prepare for the upcoming Virtus 2023 Global Games, Vichy and Paris 2024.” He also adds for the young aspiring athletes to “just get into the sport, keep practicing and participating.”

In the Final match for Class-11 category, Sam von Einem will play against Peter Palos (HUN) tomorrow afternoon.

Stay updated by following Virtus sport on social media.

Medallist 200m Freestyle Women

Swimmers Reece Dunn and Valeriia Shabalina doubled their Gold tally

Day-3: Swimmers Reece Dunn and Valeriia Shabalina doubled their Gold tally

By Mousumi Mazumdar

Another busy and exciting day at the Tokyo Aquatics and Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium with finals and quarterfinal events taking place at the respective venues.

In Swimming, the Paralympic debut maker- Reece Dunn from Great Britain is becoming quite a sensation at the pool in S14 category.

Reece Dunn GBR GOLD

Gold Medallist Reece Dunn GBR. Photo: OIS/Thomas Lovelock.

Dunn not only won his second Gold medal at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, he also set a new World Record in 200m Freestyle 1:52.40sec in a neck to neck race with – Gabriel Bandeira Silver (1:52.74sec) from Brazil. Viacheslav Emeliantsev from RPC settled for Bronze by timing 1:55.58sec.

In Women’s category, Valeriia Shabalina (PRC) claimed her second Gold at pool winning the title for S14 200m Freestyle by clocking 2:03.71sec, beating the former Paralympic champion from Great Britain- Bethany Firth who settled for Silver with a timing of 2:03.99sec. Team GBR also took home the Bronze with swimmer and Virtus ambassador, Jessica-Jane Applegate finishing with a time of 2:09.53sec.

In Table Tennis, an extremely thrilling match was seen between Hungarian player Peter Palos and host nation’s ‘Wild Horse’ Asano Takashi. Long rallies of aggressive smashes were delivered by the Japanese player across the table, which were returned gently by the Hungarian. After a nerve wrecking fight Peter secured his place in the semi-finals with 3-2 game. “I feel very tired, the match was very exhausting and I feel so good after winning the match” says the bronze medallist from Rio 2016, Peter Palos.

Asano disappointed after losing to Palos in Qtr Finals

Asano disappointed after losing to Palos in Qtr Finals. Photo: Kyodo News

Japan’s Asano says he is very sorry to all the people who supported him. “My target was to win a Gold medal this time but could not do so. The opponent (Palos) is like a king in the world of Para Table-Tennis, he won Gold in London, Bronze in Rio so he is very strong and has a very good mental strength. I promise to win a Gold in Paris 2024” says Asano.

On another table, Cuesta Martinez from Spain was seen putting pressure on Sam von Einem from Australia in the initial rounds but the Aussie had a smooth win eventually and moved into quarterfinals with a score of 3-1.

In the third match, Lucas Creange (FRA) stayed undefeated by Takashi Takemori (JPN) and qualified into the semi-finals with a flat win with 3-0 points.

The defending Champion from Rio, Florian vanAcker (BEL)  faced some difficult moves from the Chang Gi Kim, from Korea in the first and third match. However, with the score of 3-1, the Belgian player moved also moves into the Semi-finals.

The Semi-Final matches for both Women’s and Men’s Category will be played tomorrow. Remember to follow Virtus on Social media for regular updates.

Rio 2016

Table Tennis heats up Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium

Day-2: Rio 2016 Paralympic Table Tennis medallists, begin defence of title in Tokyo.

By Mousumi Mazumdar

In the second day of competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, 7th ranked player Takashi Takemori of Japan, gave a tough fight to the Rio 2016 Gold medallist, Florian Von Acker (Belgium). Both players entertained the crowd with powerful smashes, before Florian went on to win the match 3-2.

Meanwhile the Rio 2016 Bronze medallist, Peter Palos from Hungary, is in his best form of his career and stands at No. 1 in the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) ranking going into Tokyo.

Interestingly, while majority of the athletes expressed the hardship they faced during the Covid-19 lockdown, Palos expressed different emotions. “Fortunately, I did not miss out on my practice during the lockdown like others, as my club was open. There were league going on and I was able to compete. I think this is a big advantage for me” says Palos.

He was also relieved with live spectators not being present to cheer the host nations players. “I miss the crowd when I am playing with competitors from other countries but today, when I was playing against Koya Kato from Japan, I did not miss the crowd because obviously the home crowd would have supported him which would have put pressure on me” says Palos. He considers Florian and Takashi to be his strongest competitors.

On the other hand, Australian player, Sam Von Einem was excited to win today’s match and stay on top of his group. “I have been working as hard as possible. There were no international tournaments but I did what I could and it is great to be here.”

The last round of Qualifications continue on Day 3, then it’s straight onto the Men’s Quarter Finals in the night. Who will be the final eight? 

Keep checking Virtus website for updates.

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

DAY-1: Russian Shabalina breaks her own record World Record

By Mousumi Mazumdar

Valeriia Shabalina holds her Gold Medal in S14 100 meter Butterfly at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Valeriia Shabalina holds her Gold Medal in S14 100 meter Butterfly at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Photo: OIS/Joel Marklund

On the first day of competition at the 2020 Paralympic Games, in the Women’s 100m Butterfly S14, Shabalina Valeriia (WR) broke her own WR of 1:03.68 and set a new one for 1:03.59sec. Talking to Virtus, Shabalina says “My hands and legs were shivering just before the event and I was very stressed because it was the most important event of my life, but my coach helped me stay calm. I am happy with my performance now.”

Silver medal winner with a timing of 1:05.48 sec, Paige Leonhardt from Australia said “personally I didn’t execute what I wanted to during the heats, so I really wanted to have a really good and strong race, and that’s what I did and came back with a silver medal. I also got to share the podium with Ruby and I am very proud of her.”

Ruby Storm (AUS) claimed the bronze with a timing of 1:06.50sec. “It was very unexpected, I came third in the heats and was really shocked about that and I came away with a Bronze medal” said the swimmer.

Men’s 100m Butterfly S14

A thrilling start was seen when three swimmers Liam Schluter from AUS in heat 1, Gabriel Bandeira (BRA) heat-2 and Reece Dunn (GBR) recorded Paralympic records in their respective heats but the Brazilian made it to the top of the podium.

Creating a new Paralympic record of 54.76sec, Bandeira grabbed the first S14 class Gold medal from Tokyo 2020.

Gabriel Bandeira holds Gold medal for 100 meter Butterfly at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Gabriel Bandeira (BRA) holds Gold medal for 100 meter Butterfly at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Photo: OIS/Joel Marklund

Bandeira says “I feel so happy, I trained a lot for this day. In the morning I controlled through the race (heat) and in the finals I just gave it all. I was quite nervous as I wrote down on paper- ‘I will swim very fast’ which helped me a lot.”

World record holder-Reece Dunn had to face defeat and settle for Silver with the timing of 55.99sec while Australian swimmer Benjamin James Hance claimed the bronze with 56.90sec.

Although, Lawrence Sapp from USA could not make it to the podium, the athlete was very excited to make his Paralympic debut. He lead the race until 50m but finished fifth.

Meanwhile Dai Tokarin, the host nation’s champion, ranked second in the World and was expected to give a strong competition to the WR holder Reece Dunn, but was left heartbroken when he could not qualify for the 100m Butterfly Finals with the timing of 58.44sec.

Seefeld – Austria to host 2022 World Skiing Championships

Virtus, the International Federation for sport for athletes with intellectual impairments, has announced that Austria will host the 2022 Virtus World Skiing Championship.

The event, hosted by Osterreichischer Behindertensportverband (Virtus member organization in Austria) takes place between 15th to 19th March 2022 at Seefeld, Austria. The event was previously scheduled to take place in 2021 but was postponed due to the ongoing pandemic.

The organizing committee comprises of key personnel from the LOC of 2019 International Ski Federation (FSI) Nordic World Championship in Seefeld along with experience of hosting FIS Nordic triple and wishes to set a new benchmark for this event.

Marc Truffaut, Virtus President said “I would like to congratulate Virtus Austria for winning the bid to host this event. It was unfortunate that we had to postpone this event from 2021 to 2022, however I am very positive that this time we will come back stronger. With the expertise of our LOC in organizing FIS events in 2019, this event will undoubtably will be one of the spectacular skiing event Virtus members have witnessed before.”

Former winner of the Virtus Sportswomen of the Year, Heidi Mackowitz will be skiing on home snow. Previously, at an unfortunate accident during training in 2013, Heidi broke her femur bone in five different places but after fighting against all odds and people’s perceptions, Heidi made a comeback on to the slopes in 2016 and won 2nd and 3rd place at the 2016 Virtus World Skiing Championship in Poland.

Virtus wishes all the athletes a very good luck.

2021 World Athletics Championships close

The 2021 Virtus World Athletics Championships have closed with 3 new World Records set including France’s Beatrice Aoustin who broke her own WR throwing 50.51 in the Hammer.

Competing on home soil, Karolina Kucharczyk jumped a Virtus record of 2.54m in the Triple Jump, whilst also taking a new record in the 100m Hurdles, finishing in 14.37.

The event was the largest to be held by Virtus under the new Covid protocols. All participants were tested ahead of arrival in Poland, and again mid-way, before a final test ahead of departure. All covid tests were negative.

Virtus would like to thank hosts Sprawni-Razem for their efforts in the difficult circumstances that exist and all the nations and teams that supported the event. Jose Costa Perreira, Sport Director – Athletics, said ” With 10 nations and more than 100 athletes, this was a smaller event than we are used to but was a huge success given the barriers many nations face. Congratulations to our Polish hosts who delivered a fantastic event, live-streamed to the world”.

Full results can be found here.

Launching The Virtus Academy

Virtus – the International Federation for sport for athletes with an intellectual impairment – will today formally launch the Virtus Academy, a global hub of research, training and education.

The occasion will be marked by an online presentation with delegates from across the Virtus membership, universities and academic institutions around the world and colleagues and partners from the International Sport Federations.

The aim of the Academy is to grow the scientific evidence base to inform decision making and strategy, to support coaches and volunteers through improved education and training, and to bring together resources and guidance into a single hub.

It will operate in 5 key pillars:

  • The Athlete Lounge – providing resources and support to athletes on issues such as healthy eating, mental wellbeing and more
  • The Coaches Area – providing high quality, sport-specific and other resources to optimize their coaching practice
  • The Resource Library – featuring the latest academic and published resources and research to support the development of sport
  • The Research Hub – undertaking leading research in the field of sport for athletes with an intellectual impairment
  • The Eligibility and Classification Zone – providing training and guidance to psychologists, and supporting International Federations to develop classification and train classifiers

Project Manager, Dr Debbie Van Biesen said “For the first time, the Academy brings together the existing knowledge and expertise in this area, but also we will grow the evidence base to ensure that everything we do is driven by science and the most current data available. Virtus’ mission is to drive the development of elite sport for athletes with an intellectual impairment and the Academy is a key part of our strategy to achieve that”.

Prof. Jan Burns MBE – Virtus’ Head of Eligibility and a leading advocate of the initiative – said “I’m delighted to see the Academy come to fruition today after so much hard work by so many people. Together with Virtus’ work to deliver high-level competition for the world’s best athletes and our many projects and activities around the world to develop opportunities for people with an intellectual disability, Down syndrome and autism to get involved and excel in sport, this new addition to our programme ensures Virtus is at the forefront of scientific and research, education and training”.

To coincide with the launch, the Academy website has gone live with resources and materials available for download, including the RAID database (a searchable database of existing guides and research) and more, and is expected to grow quickly as more resources, training events and guides are added.

In June, the Academy will be launching its first research study which aims to understand the funding available to sport for people with an intellectual impairment across the world. Produced in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University and funded by the European Union, the study aims to understand how different countries support both the participation in sport and elite athletes with an intellectual impairment, and the impact that the global pandemic has had. Van Biesen explained ‘we already know that funding to sport is being cut in many places as a result of the pandemic and sport for people with an intellectual impairment is one of the first places that these cuts take place. This research will help us ensure that people with an intellectual impairment are not unfairly targeted’.

The Virtus Academy launches on 31st May and can be visited at