Research on investigating the correlates of physical activity in people with intellectual disabilities

Understanding barriers and enablers towards physical activity is an essential first step to developing interventions and increasing activity levels of people with intellectual disabilities. Virtus Academy manager Dr. Debbie Van Biesen along with her team of researchers recently published a paper where they investigated the correlates of physical activity in people with intellectual disability.

“I and my colleagues performed a review of all existing literature and identified that the three most consistent correlates of physical activity were age, the presence of more severe ID and the presence of physical mobility problems,” said Dr Debbie.

A total of 83 PA correlates were identified, retrieved from 39 studies with a total involvement of 26,456 participants with ID.  A correlation was considered consistent if it was reported in four or more studies.

Despite the abundance of evidence of the PA benefits for people with ID, we only found consistent evidence for three correlates reliably being related to PA in adults with ID. More research, particularly among young and older people is urgently needed.” Dr. Debbie added. 

As more severe intellectual disability and the presence of physical health problems were found to be important barriers to being active in adults with intellectual disability, this study is supporting the II-2 class (athletes with an intellectual disability and significant additional impairment) development within Virtus Sports Competitions.

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Turkey to host combined 2023 Virtus World and European Indoor Athletics Championship

Virtus, the international federation for sports for intellectual impairment is delighted to announce that Turkey will host a combined World and European Indoor Athletics Championship in 2023.

The World Championships should have been in early 2022, but were delayed due to the ongoing covid restrictions in place during last winter. They will now take place alongside the European Championships given extra incentive to the athletes.

The event will be hosted by Türkiye Özel Sporcular Spor Federasyonu – TÖSSFED  also known as the Turkish Special Athletes Sports Federation – TOSSFED. The event will take place from 8th to 13th March in Ataköy Arena in Istanbul, Turkey.

Virtus president Marc Truffaut said, “We are delighted that Turkey will be hosting this event which will help us raise awareness in the country about elite sports for athletes with intellectual impairment.”

Türkiye Özel Sporcular Spor Federasyonu – TÖSSFED  was formed in 2000 and has supported more than 100 athletes to participate at international events and achieve their sporting excellence so far.

The expression of Interest document will be shared soon with all the members followed by the application pack.

The girl with the photographic memory – Adriana Petrakis

It is well known that intellectual impairment affects people differently. For some people, it means they might struggle to remember things, but for others it can be a very different experience.

Tennis player Adrianna Petrakis from Australia is one such person who is blessed with an amazing memory which, with her autism, helps her remember even the smallest details.

She remembers peoples’ names, people’s birthdays with the exact year, and registration numbers of cars, she is very good at navigation too,” said Adrianna’s mother.

While Adriana’s memory retention is a gift, it can put a lot of pressure on the athlete.

“There is information everywhere around us. And because Adriana can remember things very easily, her brain gets overwhelmed from time to time with all the information she acquires from her surroundings. We started hiding magazines and newspapers from her and also limited her television time so that she doesn’t get exposed to too much information” says her mother.

Adriana was diagnosed with autism when she was twenty-two months old. This is a condition which means that people might see the world around us differently, might find it harder to communicate and find loud noise and light overwhelming. Her parents practised having eye contact with her as she was not looking at them while talking. She did a lot of occupational therapy and speech therapies. Adrianna’s younger sister played tennis, which motivated her to give it a try the sport and soon fell in love with the sport. Later, she started playing tennis as an alternative to her occupational therapy.

There was not much help twenty years ago for children with Autism. We talked to many different people looking for help, took Adrianna for early interventions, etc. She didn’t start talking until she was five and a half or six years; her first word was ‘bubble’” said Adrianna’s mother.

Adriana had her routine since she was a child, and it took us a while to adjust to her schedule but afterwards it was very easy for us to take care of Adrianna than my other two children. She was always very positive, she keeps the family grounded.”

Talking about her positivity, Adriana’s mother told Virtus how she never gets disappointed even if she loses a match and feels proud of herself for playing well and never cries.

Adriana is also a tennis/pickleball coach with South Australia’s first disability sports organization registered with the NDIS. She trains young children with autism and learning disabilities. In 2020, Adriana won the ‘Most Outstanding Athlete with a Disability Award.

Adriana is supported by Sport Inclusion Australia.

Portuguese players dominated the 2022 Virtus World Half Marathon

The 2022 Virtus World Half Marathon concluded today in the beautiful city of Viseu in Portugal. The event was organised by Virtus member ANDDI- PORTUGAL. The tournament took place as a part of the famous Mega Maratona de Viseu. Fifteen athletes with intellectual impairments took part in the event and ran alongside 700 other athletes.

The host nation kept the spotlight on them and won both male and teams championship title.

Men’s II1

Cristiano Pereira from Portugal was the World Champion in Men’s II1 category.

Winners of II1 – Asia Santos (left), Christiano Pereira (centre) and Mohamed Harsi (right)

“I am very proud because I could repeat my win and defended my World Championship title successfully. I am now a two times Virtus World Champion in Half-Marathon. My happiness also doubled because I won in my home country, in my region. 

The Portuguese athlete also described how hard he was training for this tournament, practising twice daily and also over the weekend.

Asia Santos from Spain grabbed the Silver in the same event and Mohamed Harsh from Denmark made it to the final spot on the podium.

Women’s II1

Winners from Women’s II1 category- Anna Bodziony and Monica Wyrobek from Poland.

In the Women’s II1 category, Anna Bodziony won the Championship title and was followed by Monica Wyrobek in second place. Both were representing Poland.

Men’s II3

Alexander Neilson from Denmark

In II3, although Alexander Neilson from Denmark was the only participant in his category, he had a marvellous race and finished overall fourth, including both athletes with and without impairments. He was awarded the Gold medal in his category.

Team event

Portuguese team posing with their trophy

In Teams event, the Portuguese men took the trophy this year. The team consisted of Christiano Pereira, Paulo Benevente, João Monteiro and Luis Pimentel.

For full results, visit Mega Maratona website.

Ebru Acer snatched away Gold from Paralympian Lea Ferney

The finals of the Women’s II1 Table Tennis match couldn’t have been more thrilling.

At the Virtus European Summer Games, in Cracow Poland, 20-year-old Ebru Acer from Turkey defeated the ITTF World no.1 Lea Ferney with 3-2 result. What a fantastic debut performance by the Turkish player.

Ebru was playing an attacking game from the first set and took a lead by 2-1 in the first two sets, putting pressure on Lea. However, the French made a terrific comeback in the fourth set and pushed the game into the final deciding match.

The Tokyo Paralympic medalist took a lead in the fifth match with 5-1, and the cheering audience from the French team added to the pressure on Ebru. But, Ebru brought back her ace game and took away the Gold from the world champion.

“I am extremely happy today and proud to win this medal for my country. I defeated my toughest opponents today “

Ebru dedicated her medal to the president of Virtus turkey for all his support.

Handball players standing shoulder to shoulder standing on a handball court

Portugal win their fourth Virtus European Championship title in Handball

The Portuguese won the men’s II1 Handball final match today against Poland by 26-23. The Portuguese stayed undefeated for the fourth time in the past nine years.

At the Virtus European Summer Games 2022 in Cracow Poland, both teams kept their defence high in the first half, giving very few opportunities for the opponent to score. By the end of the first half, the Portuguese team was leading 11-10.

But in the second half, the Portuguese stepped up the attacking whilst keeping a strong defence.

“We played against a strong team today but I am very happy that the team worked together and we won the title” said the team coach, Antonio Pereira.

The host team repeatedly tried to make a comeback and pulled the score to 20-25 in the 55th minute of the match. However, they could not stand against the aggressive Portuguese team and lost the match by 26-23.

Best Goalkeeper award- Miguel Meireles (Por)

Top goal scorer award- Kamil Bak (Pol)

Best player- Fabio Moleiro (Por)


Portuguese team takes the trophy home in Basketball

Portugal took the championship title for the II1 men’s basketball match at the 2022 Virtus European Summer Games.

Both the finalists, Portugal and France staged a heart-stopping match for the crowd at the Hala 100-Lecia KS Cracovia stadium today.

France took the lead in the first quarter by 23-18, but the Portuguese reversed the game in the second leading 28-24. But scoring 29 points more in the third quarter, the Portuguese created a massive lead of 57-28 which was then increased to 74-39 in the fourth quarter.

“Our strength was the teamwork and our coach’s strategies for the game. ” the team captain told Virtus.

Despite tasting defeat, the French team were seen demonstrating something extraordinary on the court. The team congratulated and cheered for the winning team whilst they made their way to the podium for the champions.

The French team had many first time players who had a great learning experience in this game according to the team coach.

“It was a very difficult match for our team as the team had new players. I think it was a fantastic experience for the team before the Global Games next year” said the French coach.

Bronze for Poland

The host country played against Italy for third place today and won with a huge lead of 67-31.

The Italian team was under a lot of pressure from the first quarter and could not recover until the end. With the match points of 22-8, 39-16,46-28 and 67-31, the Polish team thrashed the Italian team.

The star player from the Polish team was Patryk Nowakowski, who scored 32 points for the team, more than the total baskets of the Italian team.

“This win is very important for the team. We are a little disappointed that we didn’t make it to the finals but we are happy with what we have got,” said Kamil Nowakowski

Best Five Players

  1. Fabio Soares from Portugal
  2. Christiano Correia from Portugal
  3. Maduka Ndelo Junior from France
  4. Patryk Nowakowski from Poland
  5. Beiman Julio Pagliasacchi from Italy

Fair play award

The fair play award was presented to Matteo Galli from Italy.


It’s raining Virtus World records

Besides the temperature in the city of Cracow, what else is rising? The performance of Virtus athletes!!

Three more World Records were broken today in the II1 swimming events (short course).

French swimmers broke two records in one race

The French relay team toppled the previous Virtus World record by clocking 1:42.62secs. Maillet Nathan, Blaise Simon, Daniel Matthys and Meny Jordan had been practising relay together since 2016 and they were thrilled with their achievement today.

“It’s our first time breaking a world record and we are really happy as well as surprised! It’s a wonderful moment for all of us,” said Meny Jordan.

“I was the finisher and I’m very happy because I beat my previous record. I was very surprised when I finished the race because not only did we win the Gold, we broke the world record!” Daniel Matthys added.

Double celebration for Nathan Maillet

Nathan Maillet from the French relay team

The relay race was particularly special for Nathan as he broke two records in the same race – the relay record and an individual event record.

While trying to do the best for his team as the starter, Nathan swam the best 50m freestyle race under pressure and cracked the Virtus World Record for men’s II1 50m Freestyle.

“The strategy for any relay race is to take a lead in the first 50m. So I was just trying to swim as fast as I can for my team and I’m surprised to break the world record. I am filled with joy.”

Spanish swimmers finish with a blaze

The Spanish II1 women’s relay team gave another thrilling performance to the crowd today by breaking their second relay record. Coronado Tejeda Eva, Galache Arellano Ariadna, Zalve Maier Sara and Perez Suarez Laura once again showed a stunning team effort by setting the new record in the Women’s II1 4x50m Freestyle relay with the timing of 2:01.93secs.

“After breaking the records yesterday, I believe the girls gained much spirit and confidence which helped them create this new record”,  the Spanish team coach Celia mentioned.



It’s a World Record but not my personal best

Tokyo 2020 Paralympian Pernilla Lindberg from Sweden claimed her second Virtus World Record at the European Summer Games 2022 (VESG 2022). Pernilla broke the Women’s II1 800m Freestyle with 9:22.52 and the Women’s II1 400m Freestyle with 4:34.19

However, the swimmer was not happy with her performance.

“I know it’s a World Record but I am not happy about it because it is NOT my personal best.”

Pernilla explained to Virtus that she had swum faster in a previous event, however, that had not been recognised as a World record, and so was looking to go one better in the European Summer Games.

Pernilla Lindberg posing with Eva Coronado after their race. P.C- Roger Lindberg

In addition, the Swedish swimmer won Gold in Women’s II1 100m Backstroke and was delighted with that performance after setting a Swedish record, which is also her personal best.

“Pernilla always focuses on giving her personal best” said Pernilla’s coach and father, Roger Lindberg.

Angelova wins first medal for Bulgaria at 2022 Virtus European Summer Games

Bulgarian athlete Angelova Radena scripted history today by winning the very first Virtus medal for Bulgaria in Women’s II2 Triathlon event.

With a total of eight athletes, team Bulgaria participated in their first event ever at the 2022 Virtus European Summer Games.

“It is a perfect moment for me because I have won my first medal which is also my country’s first medal.”

Angelova dedicated her medal to her coach.

Angelova celebrating after her win

Talking to Virtus, the Bulgarian coach expressed how special the medal is,  not just for the athlete, but also for the entire country.

“I feel very proud of my athletes today. They were participating for the first time so we didn’t have any expectations but Angelova made me extremely happy with her result. Virtus competitions are all about elite performance and our athletes were not that good. For about eight years we have been trying to improve their performance and they finally qualified for the Virtus European Games.”

“It was a very long journey for us and this is something very big for Bulgaria and it will motivate all the athletes back there to push their limits, improve their performance and give a new start for the elite performance sports back in the country,” the team coach said.

II2 is a class for athletes with an intellectual disability and additional functional impairment.

Nathan Maillet sets new World Records

Nathan Maillet from France broke the World record in 100m Freestyle mens with a timing of 53.74secs. Talking to Virtus, the swimmer mentioned his strategy for his race.

Nathan Maillet from France

“When we arrived there, I had a staff at my service and, in fact, we established a major strategy with Bertrand Sebire, national coach. The strategy was that I go unnoticed compared to other swimmers. I correctly followed my strategy and that’s how I was able to break the world record. For me, it was crazy and frankly, I still have trouble believing that I actually did it.”

Two more World Records for Spanish Team

It was another thrilling day for the Spanish swimming team on the second day of the 2022 Virtus European Summer Games.

Both Women’s II-1 and Men’s II-1 relay team from Spain broke two more records in Men’s and Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay event. They clocked a time of 5:06.62secs and 4:18.44ecs to set the new records respectively.

The full results can be accessed from here.