June 14 - Following successive Grand Prix victories, 16-year-old Italian wheelchair fencer Beatrice Vio has been named as the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athlete of the Month for May, after gaining 60 per cent of the public vote.
The teenager, affectionately known by her fans as "Bebe", joined the Italian squad just last year and has wasted no time in asserting her position on the international circuit, defeating London 2012 bronze-medal winner Marta Makowska of Poland to take gold in Montreal in April, before securing successive victories on home soil at Lonato del Garda in May, this time beating London 2012 silver medallist, Dani Gyongi of Hungary.
And she has since heaped praise on the support she has received from her fans and family, as well as her team-mates.
"It was wonderful, because there were so many friends who came to watch the competition to support me," Vio said of her victory in front of a rapturous home crowd.
"My teammates are very important to me because they always help me.
"Before the final against Dani [Gyongi] in Lonato I fell asleep collapsed on the floor after the effort made in the semi-final.
"Five minutes before the next match, Alessio Sarri woke me up.
"He is the oldest, I mean, the 'expert' of the team, and he told me very important things which calmed me down and gave me the energy to face the final.
"After the victory we were all very happy.
"Alessio was singing and waving my prosthetic arms in the air."
Vio, who is the only wheelchair fencer in the world with no arms or legs, has juggled her sporting career with studying a course in graphic arts and communication, and she is looking forward to being able to focus on her preparations for the upcoming International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing World Cup in Poland next month, and the World Championships in Budapest in August during her break from school.
"In the last few months I couldn't train much because I had to study a lot," she said.
"Only in the last few weeks was I able to do specific training in my gym with my coaches Federica and Alice, and a few workouts with Fabio Giovannini, the coach of the national team.
"But now school is over I will attend a series of pre-World Championship sessions where I will train a lot with the rest of the team."
"I can't wait to go to Warsaw where I will attend the World Cup," she said.
"As for Budapest I am very curious because it's my first real World Championship.
"I am also excited by the idea of going to the competition with all the Italian champions who are fencing standing up.
"There are many friends of mine and it will be wonderful to be in their midst."
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