JCU Student Bebe Vio Wins Gold Medal in Wheelchair Fencing at Tokyo Paralympics
“If it seems impossible, it can be done!” – Bebe Vio
JCU Communications major Bebe Vio won a gold medal in the women’s foil individual category B at the Tokyo Paralympic Games on August 28, 2021. It is her second gold after Rio 2016. Bebe beat Chinese fencer Jingjing Zhou 15-9 in the final to defend her Paralympic wheelchair fencing title.
The national women’s fencing team also won a silver medal in foil at the Tokyo games.
In addition to her two gold medals, Bebe, who hails from the Veneto region in northern Italy, has won three consecutive world championship titles in 2015, 2017, and 2019.
It was a challenging year for Bebe, who burst into tears of joy after her latest triumph. She told journalists that she didn’t think she would make it to Tokyo: “First I had an accident, then I got a staph infection and I had to have an operation in April. Initially, it looked like I was going to need my left arm amputated and that I might not survive. But the orthopedic surgeon performed a miracle. He and his staff were fantastic. This medal belongs to them.”
Bebe, who has been fencing since she was five years old, contracted a severe form of meningitis when she was 11. Doctors saved her life but had to amputate both her legs from the knee, and both her arms from the forearms. But just one year after her illness, Bebe started to fence again and became the only wheelchair fencer in the world to compete with no arms or legs.
The Emmy-winning Netflix documentary, Rising Phoenix (2020), which is about the history of the Paralympic Games, tells Bebe’s inspiring story along with that of eight other Paralympic athletes.
In addition to being a student and an athlete, Bebe is active in the non-profit organization created by her parents, Art4Sport, which promotes athletic activities for young amputees and supports their efforts.
Says JCU President Franco Pavoncello, “Bebe is a true inspiration for all of us at John Cabot. Over the past few years, she has proven that nothing can stop you from pursuing your dreams when you set your heart on them, no matter what the obstacles might be. Brava Bebe!”
Congratulations to Bebe Vio from the entire JCU community!