It’s nearing the end of a successful and ‘important’ Paralympic Games for Andrew Parsons, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President.
Just ahead of the Closing Ceremony, Parsons was keen to highlight the performances of the Paralympic athletes who have made the start line given the constraints and challenges of the pandemic.
“They had to use a lot of creativity. But the resilience was incredible. And to see in the 22 sports here how they performed [with] world records broken, the best performances ever… It's amazing. I'm really, really proud of them and really, really happy,” he said in an interview with Olympics.com.
"I think we sent a very important message to the world that persons with disabilities are out there, 1.2 billion people, cannot be ignored."
Andrew Parsons: "The world would like to see more ‘Bebe Vios’"
One of the stars of the Games has been Italian wheelchair fencer Bebe Vio who successfully defended her individual foil B title. Together with her Italian teammates, she also improved on the team foil bronze medal from Rio 2016 to take home silver at Tokyo 2020.
“I think the best thing about Bebe is [that] not only that she's an amazing athlete, but [she has] character and charisma. It's difficult to copy that because it's something really personal.”
The 24-year-old is one of the most recognisable Paralympic athletes on the planet and was one of the stars of the highly-rated Netflix documentary ‘Rising Phoenix’. She has amassed 1.1 million followers on Instagram alone and leads the way in terms of big sponsorship contracts.
“I think the world would like to see more ‘Bebe Vios’… There is a way for Paralympic athletes to become global icons. We have seen it in the past. We're seeing with Bebe Vio now. And there are so many other athletes who are already icons in their nations, but they have the potential to become global icons.”
Andrew Parsons: Proud of welcoming Afghan athletes
Away from the field of play, Parsons is proud of welcoming two athletes, Houssain Rasouli and Zakia Khudadadi from Afghanistan, into the Athlete’s Village in Japan. Their Paralympic dreams looked to be under threat due to the instability in the country. They managed to leave Kabul in what was labelled ‘a major global operation’.
“It was a very emotional moment for me… [And it] was just amazing to see how sport could really play an important role,” Parsons said.
Zakia became the first woman to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympic Games losing her first-round bout in the taekwondo to Ziyodakhon Isakova of Uzbekistan 17-12. Rasouli arrived too late to compete in his favoured 100m event but competed in the long jump instead.
IPC President on future plans
Despite his hectic schedule, Parsons has overused the words ‘fantastic’ and ‘thank you’ throughout his stay in Tokyo. He won’t be taking a holiday after the event with an IPC General Assembly in December and the Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing following shortly after in March 2022.
“I'm excited, let's say, for the positives, but also absolutely conscious that we will have tough Games from when we speak about (coronavirus-related) restrictions and our ability to interact with the Chinese population.”