Olympian Rayssa Leal and Paralympian Holly Robinson may be the inaugural recipients of the Visa Award but there are two other organizations that will also benefit.
The Visa Award, a fan-voted accolade recognizing inspirational moments away from the field of play at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, calls for the winners to select a charity for donations totaling $100,000 from Visa, a worldwide Olympic and Paralympic partner.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and Visa on Tuesday announced that Olympic skateboarder Leal and Paralympic javelin thrower Robinson have selected Social Skate and Ronald McDonald House, respectively, to each receive $50,000.
Leal, the 13-year-old from Brazil who won a silver medal in Tokyo, received the Visa Award in August after a fan vote on the Tokyo 2020 FanZone platform. She was chosen for the way she rose above the competition to lift her rivals’ spirits with acts of kindness, friendship and solidarity.
“We are always like this, we are always happy, hoping for everyone to land their tricks, and when they do, we all celebrate,” Leal said.
“For me, skateboarding is a family. I am seeing a lot of girls starting in the sport, saying that they want to try to go to the Olympics like us. I’m super happy with that because skateboarding used to be marginalised. You didn’t use to see many girls in the sport. We were able to change the way people looked at skateboarding. That is very gratifying. This is very important. A lot has changed and that makes us very happy.”
Leal’s charity, Social Skate, was established in 2011 with the aim of making a positive contribution to the lives of socioeconomically vulnerable children and adolescents in Brazil. The organization operates in the Calmon Viana neighborhood, in the city of Poá – São Paulo, where activities related to sport, education, culture and leisure are offered in an interdisciplinary way.
Robinson, who took home gold in the women’s javelin F46 event in Tokyo, was recognized by fans last month for the way she included competition officials after her victory celebrations.
“I have chosen a charity called Ronald McDonald House South Island, which helps many families across New Zealand and children going through the toughest times in their lives,” Robinson said.
“I know many families personally who have benefitted from this charity, and I am very grateful that I am able to help them through this donation. Again, thank you so much to everybody who voted for me, it’s really special that I can get to help someone who helps so many.”
“At the heart of the Paralympic Movement are four core values of determination, equality, inspiration and courage,” said IPC President Andrew Parsons. “In Tokyo, Holly Robinson not only showed all those elements to secure her first Paralympic gold medal, but she also displayed something else we hold dear in the Paralympic Movement, and that is inclusion. The fact is that sport does not take place at all without referees and officials, and they were as central to our historic Games as anyone else, so it was fantastic to see Holly and her New Zealand teammates celebrate the role of the officials.”
IOC President Thomas Bach praised the Visa Award initiative as an important conduit to bring fans and athletes together, despite the lack of spectators in Tokyo.
“The fans around the world were longing for such an engagement. They wanted to be part of the action and cheer for their athletes. That is why the Visa Award was absolutely a highlight in all these efforts, because it brought what could be the three most important elements together: first the athletes, second the fans around the world, and third the values. And because these memorable moments are about the values, about the messages conveyed by these Olympic Games and by the athletes.”
Andrea Fairchild, Senior Vice President of Global Sponsorship Marketing, Visa, praised the winners of the award.
“We are so proud to recognise Rayssa and Holly and their charities – thank you for uplifting us and reminding us that we are stronger together.”
The Visa Award will be back for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.