Para Sport Awards 2023: Italian swimming coach Riccardo Vernole named Best Coach
Para swimming coach Riccardo Vernole was named Best Coach at the 2023 Para Sport Awards after leading Italy to a sensational 2022 season, during which the team topped the medal 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.
"This award is a recognition that I feel strongly about because I've been a part of this world since I was born. In the 56 years of my life, I've witnessed an evolution in the Paralympic Movement that nobody or only few had imagined."
"The growth of the Movement allowed me to understand the importance of coaches in the Paralympic area," he said. "As coaches, in essence, we are a fundamental part of the athletes' life, and this is the reason why I recognise that Paralympic sport has a priceless professional and social value."
From a volunteer to a coach
Vernole's involvement in Para sports started as a volunteer in 1981 at the International Games for the Disabled in Rome. He has led many Italian Para athletes, including four-time Paralympic medallist Simone Barlaam and seven-time medallist Stefano Raimondi, to success since becoming a coach.
Italy bagged 27 gold medals at Madeira 2022, with Barlaam and Raimondi each topping the podium five times in the individual events.
"I receive this award, but I want to share this with all the coaches I've met during my career, who were fundamental to my pathway and also for many athletes," Vernole said.
The 2023 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, IPC members, and volunteers.
The Best Coach Award, which is among the 10 categories, recognises the achievements of a coach of a summer or winter sport. The Para Sport Award ceremony will be held alongside the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) General Assembly on September 27 in Manama, Bahrain.