The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has announced that Jitske Visser has been elected as Chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council for the next three years.

Visser takes over the role of Chairperson from Canadian Chelsey Gotell, who was elected to the Council in 2017. The 29-year-old, who won gold with the Netherlands Women’s wheelchair basketball team at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, was elected to the IPC Athletes’ Council in September.

As Chairperson, Visser will be an ex oficio member of the IPC Governing Board with voting rights – she will attend her first IPC Governing Board meeting on Thursday 18 November 2021. She will also be put forward by the IPC to join the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission.

The IPC Athletes’ Council is a group of elected athlete representatives who act as the collective voice of Paralympic and Para athletes within the IPC and the greater Paralympic Movement. Its role is to provide feedback and advice, and report to the IPC Governing Board on behalf of and in the interest of the athletes in all IPC matters. The Chair is elected by their fellow Athletes’ Council members.

A four-time Paralympian, Visser’s first Paralympic Games as an athlete was at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, where aged just 15 she was the youngest member of the Dutch delegation. She won bronze with the Netherlands Women’s basketball team at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Her finest moment came at Tokyo 2020 when the Netherlands beat China 50-31 in the gold medal match. Her Netherlands team are also the reigning world champions.

Beyond international sport, Jitske is an athlete for RSB Thuringia Bulls wheelchair basketball team in Germany, with whom she won the German championship in May of this year.

Visser said:

“Being elected as Chairperson is a huge honour to me. I am excited and proud to be representing the voice of the athletes. I’d like to thank Chelsey for her leadership and commitment as Chair of the Athletes’ Council.

“I am looking forward to building on the foundations and achievements of the Athletes’ Council and engaging with athlete representatives within the athlete community.”

Gotell added:

“The IPC Athletes’ Council has accomplished a significant amount over the last four and a half years. It has been an absolute honour to serve as Chair of the Athletes’ Council and be the athlete voice on the IPC Governing Board. I am proud to be stepping away from the group knowing that we have created a stronger foundation for the athlete voice within the IPC and the wider Paralympic Movement.

“I am confident that Jitske as the new IPC Athletes’ Council Chairperson and the rest of the Council will continue to progress the mandate of the Athletes’ Council in a meaningful way. I look forward to watching their progress and cheering them on from the sidelines over the coming years.”

Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said:

“Congratulations to Jitske on becoming the new IPC Athletes’ Council Chairperson. She is straight into the action attending her first IPC Governing Board meeting the day after being elected, but Jitske has extensive experience of the Games and Para sport, so I’m sure that she will do her fellow athletes proud.

“The last two years have been extremely challenging for athletes, but the Athletes’ Council have played a crucial role ensuring that when decisions have been made that their voice has been central to everyone’s thinking. The IPC Governing Board welcomes their continued input to ensure that we remain an athlete-centric organisation.”

The IPC Athletes’ Council is made up of nine athletes in total, which includes the six summer athletes and three winter athletes. The five summer sport members in addition to Visser are: Martina Caironi (Italy, Para Athletics), Daniel Dias (Brazil, Para Swimming), Omara Durand Elias (Cuba, Para Athletics), Takayuki Suzuki (Japan, Para Swimming), and Zahra Nemati (Iran, Para Archery). The three winter sport council members are Marie Bochet (France, Para Alpine Skiing), Birgit Skarstein (Norway, Para Nordic Skiing), and Rudolf Klemetti (Finland, Para Nordic Skiing).

In addition to the nine elected members, the IPC Athletes’ Council can co-opt up to three additional members on two-year terms, to ensure there is balance between gender, regions, sports and disability groups.

There will be an election for the three winter sport athlete positions at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. The National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) have until 3 December 2021 to nominate their athlete for election.

All Athletes’ Council members are active Paralympic athletes. This means he or she must have competed in the current edition of the Paralympic Games at which the election is taking place or have competed in either of the previous two editions of the Paralympic Games (London 2012 and Rio 2016).

The Chair is usually a four-year appointment, however, the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games by one year has meant that this current term has been reduced to three. Chelsey Gotell served an extra year.

For further information on the IPC Athletes’ Council, please visit https://www.paralympic.org/athletes-council

Photo Credit: Shingo Ito (X-1)