The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has paid tribute to the achievements and contributions of Dr. Cheri Blauwet, awarding the triple Paralympian and prolific medical professional its International Women’s Day Recognition.
Dr. Blauwet is a seven-time Paralympic medallist in wheelchair racing. She claimed one silver and three bronze medals at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, followed by one gold and a further two bronze at Athens 2004.
She is also a quadruple winner of the Los Angeles Marathon and a double victor from both the Boston and New York City marathons.
Following her retirement from her illustrious athletics career in 2008, Dr. Blauwet extended her legacy far beyond the field of play. It is her long standing commitment and influence within Para sport that convinced the IPC’s Women in Sport Committee that she should receive the Recognition.
On receiving the award, Dr. Blauwet said: “I am honoured and humbled to receive the 2017 IPC International Women's Day Award. I believe in the important and essential voice of women at every table, in every profession, in every sporting arena.
“We need to continue to mentor young women to become involved as athletes, coaches, sport managers, and even sports medicine doctors! Women with impairments are central to the Paralympic Movement and I am proud to be a part of such a wonderful community.”
Maintaining an active sports medicine practice at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, USA, Dr. Blauwet serves as an assistant professor in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.
Her published research has helped to increase participation in Para sports, studying injury rates and causes specific to Paralympic athletes and using sports to promote disability rights.
In addition to her professional responsibilities, Dr. Blauwet is active in advancing the Paralympic Movement. Dr. Blauwet chairs the IPC’s Medical Committee, serves as a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Medical and Scientific Expert Group, and was recently named to the board of directors for the United States Olympic Committee. She also recently served as treasurer on the US Anti-Doping Agency board of directors.
In 2015 Dr Blauwet also spoke alongside IPC President Sir Philip Craven at the United Nations in New York on “United action towards sustainable development for all through sport”.
Tine Rindum Teilmann, Chairperson of the IPC’s Women in Sport Committee, said: “Dr. Cheri Blauwet is, with her outstanding achievements, an excellent role model within the Paralympic Movement for all women and girls, from athletes to technical officials and committee leaders. She also leads the way for other female athletes to take up leadership positions within the movement.”
“We can’t think of a better person to receive the 2017 International Women’s Day Recognition than Dr. Cheri Blauwet,” Todd Nicholson, Chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council said. “Cheri has contributed to the Paralympic Movement in so many ways and the IPC Athletes’ Council would like to congratulate her on all of her accomplishments to date. This award recognises Cheri on this one day, but rest assured she is someone that has and will continue to provide great leadership and support to all those that follow in her success.”
The decision to award Dr. Blauwet with the Recognition was made by the IPC’s Women in Sport Committee. They voted for the winner from a shortlist that included four other influential people from within the world of Para sport – Irene Chang; Paola Fantanto; Dr. Batoul Moshrefjavadi and Liesl Tesch.
Chang has been a pioneer for women in sitting volleyball since the early 90s, undertaking leadership roles such as Secretary General, International Volleyball Referee and International Technical Official. Chang was also the first woman to be appointed as a Technical Delegate at an international sitting volleyball event, going on to be the first female Jury Member at Rio 2016.
Five-time Paralympian Fantanto is one of the most celebrated Italian athletes in history, having been the first national Para athlete to compete at an Olympic Games in Atlanta 1996. Contributing to the spread of awareness of Para sport, the Paralympic archery champion was named as one of 100 Legends of Italian Sport by the Italian Olympic Committee in 2015. Fantanto has served on the Executive Board of the Italian Disabled Sports Federation and the Italian Paralympic Committee, as well as other roles within both able-bodied and Para sport organisations in Italy.
Dr. Batoul Moshrefjavad has been at the forefront of developing and promoting Para sport for women in Iran.
During her time at the Iran National Paralympic Committee, 4,000 female athletes have been engaged across 11 sports and hundreds of coaches, officials and classifiers have been educated about increasing female participation.
Between the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Iran more than quadrupled the number of female athletes on their team, with a combined four golds, one silver and two bronze medals won.
Tesch is a two-time Paralympic gold medallist in sailing who has also competed in wheelchair basketball. The Australian is an ambassador for Para sport who has been involved in growing wheelchair basketball nationally as well as in Kenya, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bolivia and across Europe. Tesch also plays in the professional men’s leagues in Spain, Italy and France.
All those shortlisted were nominated by IPC Members. Previous recipients of the International Women’s Day Recognition are Canada’s Dr. Carla Qualtrough in 2016 and compatriot Chantal Petitclerc in 2015, Russia’s Rima Batalova in 2014 and Spain’s Sylvana Mestre in 2013.
The Recognition is given every year on 8 March to celebrate International Women’s Day, primarily to recognise a female leader from within the Paralympic Movement who has, and continues to, inspire and emulate the Paralympic values. The winner is considered to be a positive role-model for other women within the Movement.
The accolade can also be awarded to a man who fulfils the same criteria.
The IPC is celebrating International Women’s Day across its social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and at Paralympic.org with interviews from sportswomen and leaders from across the Para sport spectrum throughout the day.
photos Janos Schmidt