Bebe’s back: Vio chooses home World Cup for return


Italian Paralympic champion and global icon Beatrice (Bebe) Vio will make her return to the piste on Thursday (16 March) at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing World Cup in Pisa after nearly two years out.

Vio’s long-awaited comeback comes after a period of injury and studying in the USA. The 26-year-old will join more than 200 other fencers from 27 countries as they continue their hunt for Paralympic qualification points for Paris 2024. This includes the 2023 World Championships which will also be held in Italy, in Terni, from 2-8 October.

The World Cup will be broadcast live on the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing website (with Italian commentary) alongside live results.

Bebe Vio lunges towards an opponent from Georgia during a foil match

Vio plans to take the plunge back into competition in her most successful event – the women’s foil category B – in which she is the reigning Paralympic and world champion.

“The last competition I took part was the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021, but since then I haven’t been able to train consistently and compete, due to some physical problems and many study commitments,” Vio said. “In fact, I would like to graduate by May, so that I can then devote myself full time to preparation and qualifications for Paris 2024.”

But the Italian revealed some reservations about her return.

“I am very excited about this new restart. But it’s strange, I’ve been fencing since I was five, first standing up and then, from the age of 13, on a wheelchair. I have participated in many stages of the World Cup, three European Championships, three World Championships and two Paralympics, yet these days I feel agitated.

“This long absence from the competitions fills me with doubts and fears: will I be ready for the match? Will I still be able to fence at a high level? In addition to my historic opponents, how many new athletes will there be ready to challenge us? This feeling is strange but it’s nice, because on the one hand it stresses me, but on the other it pushes me to give my best, during preparation and in training. And it makes me happy, because I missed all this. I missed the fatigue and the sweat, my fantastic team mates, the trainers and the masters and above all the adrenaline, which is starting to flow through my veins again. I feel the tension rising, my body starting to quiver, my head now focused only on the competition and I know that my heart will soon be beating wildly again as I get on my wheelchair on the platform. I can’t wait to start…”

In Vio’s absence from the European Championships in 2022, Irma Khetsuriani claimed the regional title. It was the Georgian’s first European gold in eight years of competing and she will be keen to keep that momentum going.

Also hoping to steal Vio’s thunder is Thailand’s Saysunee Jana who enjoyed a storming start to the year in Washington D.C. in January, beating Khetsuriani to victory.

Khetsuriani and Jana are the respective world No.1 and No.2. Expect an almighty clash in Pisa as these three women go head-to-head.

Saysunee Jana is hugged by a teammate

A strong group of Vio’s teammates are also ones to watch for Pisa 2023.

Rossana Pasquino is the world No.2 in the women’s epee category B, an event in which Jana is also expected to feature heavily.

Pasquino holds the same position in the women’s sabre category B. Khetsuriani is the top seed here and claimed gold in Washington D.C. to lay down her intentions for the pre-Paralympic season.

Italy’s Andreea Mogos is the current women’s foil category A No.1.

Mogos will also face a tough line-up as she vies to build on her best World Cup ever season in the weapon from 2022 with five medals.

But comebacks will be a theme in Pisa. The Chinese team will also make their return including Paralympic champion Haiyan Gu. Also in the running is Hong Kong’s Yu Chui Yee and Eva Andreja Hajmasi.

Asian champion Yee was the victor in Washington D.C. whilst Hajmasi beat Mogos to European gold in December last year.

In the men’s the hosts have similar strong medal chances.

Emanuele Lambertini picked up European silver in both the epee and foil category A late last year.

He will face tough competition from Great Britain’s Paralympic, world and European champion Piers Gilliver in the epee and Hungary’s Paralympic silver medallist and European title-holder Richard Osvath in the foil.

China’s Gang Sun is the Paralympic gold medallist from Tokyo 2020 here.

Edoardo Giordan is the world No.1 in the men’s sabre category A and has already shown his form this season with victory in Washington D.C.

Gilliver could once again make a splash after winning his first European title in the weapon. Look out too for Germany’s Maurice Schmidt who stepped onto his first regional podium and has carried that form over into the new season.

China’s men’s foil and sabre category B Paralympic champion Yanke Feng could also be in the mix.

The 2023 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup will run from 16-19 March and will feature men’s and women’s epee, sabre and foil category A and B as well as the men’s epee, women’s sabre and mixed sabre team events.

Pisa 2023 is the second of five World Cups set to take place this year. Nimes, France, will host the competition from 20-23 April, followed by Warsaw, Poland, in July and Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, in December.

As well as the Worlds, the Asian Championships also head to Hangzhou, China, as part of the Asian Para Games from 23-28 October.