Bebe Vio is a champion fencer with an indomitable will and the unusual characteristic of being a quadruple amputee.
Beatrice “Bebe” Vio is a 24-year-old Italian champion fencer with an unusual characteristic: She’s a quadruple amputee.
It sounds impossible, but using prosthetic arms and fencing from a wheelchair, she has beaten the odds—and her competitors—at Absolute Italian Championships, World Cups, European Championships, World Championships, and the Paralympic Games. She’s racked up a total of 53 gold medals, 9 silver medals, and 7 bronze medals.
She started fencing when she was just 5 years old. Then, in 2008, at the age of 11, she was struck by severe meningitis, which led to an infection in her legs and arms.
In order to save her life, doctors had to amputate her limbs (her legs at the knees and her arms at her elbows). Two years later she began fencing from a wheelchair.
Lending a hand
Her prostheses are an integral part of her life, but she’s willing to share. She lent one of her arms for a few minutes to a photographer so he could take some shots with the limb holding a billboard.
In a video she posted on Instagram, you can see the man at a distance taking the photos and then returning the prosthesis to the owner. Bebe comments, with her typical sense of humor, “Don’t worry, Gus! In times of difficulty I’ll always lend you a hand. You know, I’m always available.”
Lending even what you don’t have: this is something that we “able-bodied” people could never do. It reminds us that no, we are not the best at everything, even with two arms.
Arms aren’t necessary
“When I was little, they told me that you can’t fence without arms and that I’d have to change sports, but I proved to everyone that arms aren’t necessary: if you have a dream, go for it,” Bebe said during the opening press conference of the Paralympics, as reported by the Dire news agency.
Indeed, she went for her dream in Rio and Tokyo. She won bronze and silver respectively in the team competitions and gold in individual competition both times at these two Paralympics.
In the meantime, she remains an undisputed champion of hope and humor. She’s become the ambassador not only of her sport, but of a new way of experiencing and seeing disability.
For her, it’s a normal thing. To quote another of her posts, “When you wake up in the morning and you get dressed fast, and you put on mismatched hands!”