The incredible story of Bebe Vio: The girl with no arms and legs who rose to sports stardom

Beatrice "“Bebe" Maria Vio, the most popular Italian wheelchair fencer, is a living example of how a terrible misfortune can be transformed into a glorious destiny.

Bornin Venice and raised in Mogliano Veneto, she won the Gold Medal in the 2016Paralympic Games based in Rio, by getting the winning score against the ChineseZhou Jingjing: that was the climax of a long series slams and finally the eventthat brought her huge media attention.

Atthe age of eleven, Bebe contracted a severe meningitis that caused her the lossof both arms and legs and several face and body scars. After three months ofintense rehabilitation and thanks to a prosthesis specifically designed for her,she could go back to the love of her life, fencing: a discipline she had beenpracticing since the age of five.

Asshe explained on national TV, soon after the end of the rehab she went straightto the prosthetic centre saying: "“Do something, give me something, but I want togo back to practice fencing!" The professionals working at the centre told her aboutthe possibility to do fencing on the wheelchair. Bebe replied: "“Fencing in awheelchair? Nooo, this is stuff for handicapped people, I don't want it!" Lateron, she humbly admitted how extremely ignorant she was about the Paralympicworld and disability in general. Right from there her new life started itscourse.

"“Howcould that be possible," you may wonder, "“to showcase such a genuine andundefeated grit?" not merely referring to her victories, but to the innerstrength that accompanies every moment of her daily life. Fortune, or vocation,or innate skills, I leave you the choice.

Noone, not even her own parents, believed she could go back to hold the foil withsuch agility. Well, all the credit belongs to Bebe, to her strength, optimismand spirit of competition, but also to the lead of her two coaches, FedericaBerton and Alice Esposito, that pushed her in 2010 to take part in her firstwheelchair fencing competition, becoming the first athlete in the world to pullfencing with prosthetic arms.

Despiteher young age, many are the sports awards she has gained since that day. To namea few: the Under 20 Italian Championship in 2011, which became the Overall Titlein the following two years; the double gold at the Strasbourg Europeans of2014, both with the individual foil and team game; gold again in the same yearat the Under 17 World Cup in Warsaw. More recently, Bebe scored another gold asindividual at the 2015 World Championships in Eger, while at the games ofCasale Monferrato, in 2016, she reconquered the European gold.

Nowadays,Bebe's sports career has become emblematic of turning a severe impairment into aspecial gift and is probably what inspired her parents in creating a non-profitorganisation. The "“Art4sport Onlus" promotes sport for amputee young people andhelps their efforts succeed.

Today,Bebe Vio gains and actions are not just limited to sport. A great commitmenthas been put into many campaigns for vaccination against meningitis, which haveseen her also posing for the Australian photographer Anne Geddes.

Anotherremarkable event was being part of the special guests added to the Italiangovernment delegation who attended the last official dinner at the White Houseof the Obama administration. When she received the formal invitation, shethought to be a victim of "“Scherzi a parte", the Italian TV pranks series,making publicly fun of herself on Facebook.

Whatthe audience love the most of this incredible girl is exactly her self-ironythat makes everybody laughs anytime she opens her mouth and talks aboutherself: "“Mom always told me that I could become anything in life... so I decidedto be a selfie stick!" - That is the statement that she posted on Facebook a few months ago, whilepublishing a selfie using her right prosthesis. Needless to say, in just a fewhours the "“likes" and "“shares" became thousands.

"“Being specialmeans to be able to make people understand that your weakness can be one of thethings you can be proud of the most".

In the end, citing Sir Edmund Hillary, "“it's not themountain we conquer, but ourselves", and so far, she seems to have achieved,widely, the top of herself.