Courtesy: International Paralympic Committee (IPC)
The winners of the 2023 PARA SPORT Awards were presented at a ceremony in Bahrain on 27 September. The winners included New Zealand’s Para cyclist Nicole Murray and Italian Para swimmer Simone Barlaam.
The PARA SPORT Awards celebrate those whose efforts have contributed to strengthening the impact of Para sports worldwide. In addition to awards for summer and winter sport athletes, there are categories for coaches, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) members, and volunteers.
The award ceremony was held alongside the IPC’s General Assembly and Conference, which is taking place between 27 and 29 September in Manama, Bahrain.
Best Female, Summer Sports: Nicole Murray (New Zealand, Para cycling)
New Zealand’s Nicole Murray was named Best Female Summer Sports athlete after winning five medals at the Para cycling world championships. Having never competed in a road race before, she captured a silver and a bronze in the highly competitive C5 classification at the 2022 Para Cycling Road World Championships. She then went on to become a double world champion at the Track World Championships.
Best Male, Summer Sports: Simone Barlaam (Italy, Para swimming)
Italian Para swimmer Simone Barlaam was named Best Male Summer Sports athlete for his incredible 2022 season, during which he set his 10th career world record. He claimed six gold medals at the Madeira 2022 World Para Swimming Championships for a career total of 13 world championship golds. He set four world records and two European records in the process.
Best Female, Winter Sports: Oksana Masters (USA, Para Nordic skiing)
Para Nordic skier Oksana Masters became the most decorated US winter Paralympian of all time in 2022. She won medals in all seven of her events at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games and became the first Para athlete from the USA to earn seven medals at one Paralympic Games.
Best Male, Winter Sports: Declan Farmer (USA, Para ice hockey)
Declan Farmer was named Best Male Winter Sports athlete after helping lead the U.S. Para ice hockey team during Beijing 2022 to their fourth consecutive gold medal. In his third Paralympic Games appearance, he had a tournament leading 18 points, including three in the final, setting the U.S. records for the most points and most assists in any single Paralympic Winter Games.
Rising Star Award: Johannes Aigner and guide Matteo Fleischmann (Austria, Para alpine skiing)
Austria’s Para alpine skier Johannes Aigner won the Rising Star Award with his guide Matteo Fleischmann. Aged 16 Aigner shot to stardom in the 2022 season, capturing five medals, including two gold medals, in his Paralympic debut at Beijing 2022. He also took four medals across four different events at the World Para Snow Sports Championships in 2022 and 2023. At the Para-Ski World Cup 2022/23 he had 16 wins in 16 World Cup starts.
Best Team: U.S. Para ice hockey team
The U.S. Para ice hockey team continued their dominance at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, winning a fifth Paralympic title to remain the sport’s most decorated team in Paralympic history. The U.S.A were the only undefeated team at the Paralympic tournament with a 4-0 record, including a 5-0 shutout against Canada in the final at Beijing’s National Indoor Stadium.
Citi Community Impact Award: Korea Paralympic Committee’s Dream Paralympic Project
Korea Paralympic Committee won the Citi Community Impact Award for organising the Dream Paralympic Project, which aims to promote awareness of Para sports among elementary and middle school students. The project, which was launched in 2019, a year after the Republic of Korea hosted the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, offers a unique opportunity for students attending schools near the Icheon National Training Center to learn and try Para sports. The project is dedicated to engaging 2,400 students (per year), providing opportunities for all students to participate regardless of their abilities.
Citi Volunteer Award: Rebecca Foulsham (New Zealand)
Rebecca Foulsham, a classifier from New Zealand, won a global online vote for the Citi Volunteer Award. Over three decades she has classified athletes at various levels of competition, from national to regional to international. She has been a key contributor to Para sport development in New Zealand across multiple sports during this time, and internationally she helps develop and update classification rules and educates other classifiers.
Breakthrough Award: Veronika Aigner and guide Elisabeth Aigner (Austria, Para alpine skiing)
Austrian Para alpine skier Veronika Aigner and her sister and guide Elisabeth won the Breakthrough Award after topping the podium at both the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games and the World Championships. In her Paralympic debut at Beijing 2022, Veronika won the giant slalom VI and the slalom VI competitions at Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre. She continued her impressive run at the World Para Snow Sports Championships 2023 in Espot, Spain, topping the podium in two events.
Best Coach: Riccardo Vernole (Italy, Para swimming)
Para swimming coach Riccardo Vernole won the Best Coach Award after leading Italy to a sensational 2022 season, during which the team topped the medals table for the second consecutive Para Swimming World Championships. Vernole, who is the most successful coach in Italian Paralympic swimming history, guided his swimmers to 64 medals at the Madeira 2022 World Para Swimming Championships, in Portugal.
The winners of the Citi Volunteer Award, the Breakthrough Award and Best Coach Award were announced ahead of the ceremony.