The Visa Paralympic Hall of Fame celebrates retired athletes and coaches who have not only achieved greatness in their sport but have also given back to their communities. This year, five new members— two male athletes, two female athletes and one coach—were inducted during the Paralympic Games in Rio.
Congratulations to the Class of 2016:
- Chantal Petitclerc, a Canadian wheelchair racer, is the most decorated female track Paralympian, winning 21 medals, including 14 gold medals. She is serving as Team Canada’s Chef de Mission (or ambassador) for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
- Junichi Kawai, a fully blind Japanese swimmer, is Japan’s most successful male Para swimmer with 21 medals, including five gold medals over six Paralympic Games between 1992 and 2012. Kawai also founded the Paralympians Association of Japan in 2003.
- Franz Nietlispach, a wheelchair athlete from Switzerland, won 14 gold medals while competing in nine Paralympic Games (his events were athletics, handcycling and table tennis).
- The late Neroli Susan Fairhall of Christchurch, New Zealand, competed in four Paralympic Games, winning gold in archery at Arnhem in 1980. She was also the first athlete with an impairment (she was paralyzed from the waist down after a motorcycle accident) to compete in an Olympic Games, finishing 35th at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games for Team New Zealand.
- Coach inductee Martin Morse served as head coach of the University of Illinois Wheelchair Track and Road Racing Team from 1981 to 2004, during which time his athletes won 52 Paralympic medals.
Petitclerc, Kawai and Nietlispach accepted their awards in person in front of the largest attendance since Visa launched the event in 2006. “To be here at this time in my life where I have been retired for a while, my son is two-and-a-half years old, and as Chef de Mission …,” said Petitclerc. “This really feels like it’s closing a chapter in my life in the best way that it can happen.”