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Rio Woolf is a vivid example of the power of the Paralympic Games to transform lives. The little British boy, who had his lower right leg amputated at 14 months, had given up on sports. He had grown disheartened at always being one step behind his friends. Then the Paralympic Games arrived in his country. Inspired by the athletes who “flew” down the track in the 100m, 200m and 400m events at the London 2012 Games, young Rio had a new dream: to become a Paralympic athlete.
“When he saw the athletes running with their ‘special legs’, he was thrilled,” said his mum, Juliette. “Since that moment, he never stopped following his heroes. When he got his carbon-fibre prosthesis, he started running again with his friends at school, and now he not only kept up, he began beating them.”
To celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities, on Tuesday 3 December, the Rio 2016 Organising Committee hosted the Woolf family at its headquarters to learn more about Rio’s journey and his discovery of the Paralympic world. Now five years old, Rio, who was born with a rare bone deficiency, had been invited to Brazil by the Brazilian Paralympic Committee (CPB).
“Rio is a great example of the kind of legacy that the Paralympic Games can leave to all of us,” said Mariana Mello, Rio 2016’s Head of Paralympic Integration. “His story shows how Paralympic sport can inspire and completely change people’s lives. It's very nice to hear stories like that and hosting him to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities with us is even better.”
As part of his visit to Brazil with mum Juliett and dad Trevor, Rio visited São Paulo with the CPB for the Paralympic School Games. The last days of their trip were dedicated to Rio de Janeiro, a city that, 10 years ago, was the inspiration for the name of the couple’s first child, when they visited on their honeymoon.
Rio, who now insists on pronouncing his name with a Carioca accent, listed the highlights of his trip. “I visited Salvador, São Paulo, Manaus and Rio. I saw Alan (Fonteles) at Corinthians Stadium, at the hotel, at the restaurant.”
Accompanied by the Rio 2016 team, Rio and his family visited city sights like Copacabana beach and Sugarloaf Mountain, plus the venue for the Rio 2016 opening ceremony, the legendary Maracanã Stadium.
“It was a very exciting visit for us,” said Juliette. “We were in Copacabana, in the same streets where we spent our honeymoon and where we came up with the idea of calling our first son Rio, in honour of this wonderful city. Being back here is a dream come true. I feel that the city is even better, cleaner and safer, and I can't wait to come back here for the 2016 Paralympic Games.”
Paralympic integration at the Rio 2016 Organising Committee
Rio’s visit to the Rio 2016 headquarters was not the only awareness-raising activity held to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities at the organising committee. Several members of staff spent the day in a wheelchair to help understand the importance of accessibility. President Carlos Nuzman also took part in this activity.
And on the Rio 2016 YouTube channel, you can check out the video stories of Vanessa and Sidney, who overcame their difficulties in order to help others.