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EPYG 2019 declared the “best games ever”by EPC President Ratko Kovacic

Posted 7/1/2019

Finland’s midnight sun finally set on Sunday night as the European Para Youth Games 2019 came to an end, following 3 closely fought competition days across 8 sports, with Italy topping the medal table with 14 Gold, 8 Silver and 8 Bronze medals.

The event, hosted at the Pajulahti Olympic and Paralympic Training center from the 25-30th June, was the fifth and largest edition of the Games to date with over 600 participants from 27 countries taking part. The games were loved by athletes and spectators alike and were filled with fantastic highlights, including a World Record in the W20 F64 and ended with EPC President Ratko Kovacic declaring at the closing ceremony that EPYG 2019 was ‘the best games ever’ hosted.

Overseen by the European Paralympic Committee, the European Paralympic Youth Games are seen as an introductory international event for many aspiring para athletes, with the combination of new and rising stars in the Paralympic movement leading to an exciting competition for athletes and spectators alike. Conceived in 2011, the Games are part of the Committee’s aim to develop the Paralympic Movement by creating a platform to inspire young European athletes aged 13-23 to take part in Paralympic Sport and begin their Paralympic journey.

The 2019 edition of the Games included eight sports consisting of athletics, boccia, goalball, judo, showdown (demonstration sport), swimming, table tennis and wheelchair basketball.

The Pajulahti Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, Finland’s only Olympic AND Paralympic Training Center, is famous for its elite athlete training facilities and conveniently located accommodation services, all surrounded by beautiful Finnish nature and located on the shores of a fresh water lake. During EPYG 2019 the Training Center was transformed into an Athletes Village and utilised all of Pajulahti’s facilities as Training/Competition venues, with Swimming and Athletics taking place at external venues.  

Opening ceremony

Whilst teams arrived on Monday 24th June to begin their training and acclimatisation, EPYG 2019 was officially opened on Thursday evening following an opening ceremony full of passion, pride and perseverance. As the participating countries processed into the main Pajulahti Hall the atmosphere was electric as many countries became more and more excited singing songs and waving national flags. The host nation sought to utilise the opening ceremony to highlight and celebrate the success of Finnish disabled people and inspire event participants with performances from former World Champions and European medallists Para-Dance couple Timo Pyykkönen and Tuuli Harju.

The opening ceremony drew attention to the fact the host venue, the Pajulahti Olympic and Paralympic Training Center was celebrating its 90th anniversary since its founding in 1929 as a women’s gymnastics facility.

The spirit of the games was best summed up by NPC Finland Secretary General Tero Kuorikoski, who concluded his speech to the event participants with: ‘Dare to achieve the impossible; aspire to be the best you can be; and ultimately make sure you have fun along the way’.

The following morning, the Games kicked off with 7 out of 8 sports beginning their competition. The strongest performers in the Games unsurprisingly came from the largest delegations of Italy, France and Germany with 14, 12 and 11 Gold medals respectively. Host nation Finland came a respectable 4th in the medal table with a total of 18 medals.

Insert medal table


EPYG Athletics was hosted at the Rakokivi Sport Center and had a strong and positive atmosphere with many teams demonstrating international unity by heartening the athletes with their never-ending support.

France dominated with nine golds, six silvers and four bronzes. Italy came second with four golds, three silvers and one bronze whilst Finland came third with three golds and two silvers.

France’s delegation included notable competitor Yasser Musanganya who led the way to France claiming all medals in the M20 400m T54 Wheelchair race final. He won with the time of 54.16 seconds. Musanganya went on to also win the 100 and 800 metres M20 T54 Wheelchair Race events.

One of the most significant results of EPYG 2019, however, was when Kotolawska Faustina from Poland threw a world record 27.84m in the W20 F64 javelin. The event occurred on day two when Faustina, coming straight from the shot-put event, started with a disappointing first throw, however, her second throw significantly broke the World Record by two metres. Following a specially organised ceremony, Faustina expressed her delight at the result.

From the host nation, Finland’s Sini Paukkeri posted strong times in herWheelchair Races and is considered by many to be one of Finland’s most promising Paralympic athletes.


The Boccia event held in Pajulahti Hall took place across three days with 30 athletes taking part from 10 countries. The competition was defined by the presence of excellent tactics, including Portugal’s André Ramos who utilised his throwing ability to outmanoeuvre his opponents.

In the medal table, Portugal came top securing two gold and two silver medals. Crotia came second with one gold, one silver and one bronze. In third place was France with one gold medal.

The competition was impressive for demonstrating how even people with the most severe disabilities can ‘dare to achieve the impossible’.


Goalball for EPYG 2019 saw seven teams enter the competition with a total of thirty-seven athletes. The competition started off with a tense moment after Germany’s top player injured himself during a training session. This unfortunate incident gave other teams hope for medal success, however, Germany were not prepared to go down without a fight. Despite the injury which side lined the player for the initial group stages, he fought back and played through injury to beat a number of teams and secured Germany a silver medal.

Portugal sent their senior national team to the games whose class and style saw them win the gold medal in Pajulahti. Great Britain had a tough match against Romania in the bronze medal match but a sterling performance from Great Britain’s flag bearer, Joe Roper, saw the three lions tip the balance and win the game securing the bronze medal. It should be noted that Romania showed great stamina and determination due to having only four players, as opposed to the usual six, and managed to secure a respectable fourth place.


Lasting one day, the Judo competition for visually impaired athletes still made an impact with seven countries taking part. The event took place in the Nikula Hall, one of the older traditional, Finnish buildings in Pajulahti made entirely out of wood and complementing the well-established sport.

Germany found much success in the sport winning three gold medals. In particular, Germany’s Henry Mackney was a prominent martial artist, claiming gold in the Men-81kg category and also winning the Best Male Competitor award. Equally strong was the winner of Women-63kg, Jelena Breskovic from Croatia, who secured the Best Female Competitor Award with her performance.


Showdown was introduced the first time to EPYG in Pajulahti. The competition was a great introductory event with 16 athletes from six countries. It is hoped in the future that this will become a more regular event in the European Para Youth Games.

Slovakia triumphed in the Men’s category with Ladislav Brada and Jaroslav Gajdos securing gold and silver respectively. Finland’s Väinö Rihti claimed the bronze medal.


EPYG 2019 Swimming was hosted at the Mäkelänrinne Olympic Swimming Pool in Helsinki, with participants bussed to the venue from Pajulahti. The competition saw the larger delegations continue to do well in the competition.

Germany dominated in the pool, securing eight gold medals, seven silver and eight bronze, with many of their athletes using this event as preparation for the 2019 World Para Championships in London.

Italian Athlete Misha Palazzo ensured Italy came a strong second (5-2-2) and was by far the most successful athlete in the pool securing a total of four golds, one silver and two bronze medals.

Austria’s only athlete in the pool, Janina Falk, also put up a staggering performance winning three golds, two silvers and two bronzes and enabling Austria to claim third place in swimming.

Events were well attended by local and international spectators, with the Mäkelänrinne Olympic Swimming Pool in Helsinki drawing the largest crowds during its two day competition on Saturday and Sunday. The medal ceremonies hosted in Mäkelänrinne also stood out for their particularly patriotic atmospheres, with the Italian crowd singing on every occasion their national anthem was played.

Table Tennis

A total of thirteen countries secured multiple medals in the table tennis with Italy topping the medal table with five golds, one silver, three bronze. Slovakia came second with four golds and Norway came third with two golds and four bronzes.

During their time in Pajulahti event participants had the opportunity to vote for an athlete to win the Fair Play prize run by the Finnish Center for Integrity in Sports (FINCIS), with table tennis player Luka Trtnik from Slovenia receiving the prestigious award.

The event was prominent for demonstrating international unity and respect through teamwork in the Doubles tournaments which involved teams of mixed countries. In the M3-5 Mixed Doubles, Slovakia’s Travnicek and Norway’s Vegsund secured the gold medal.

Wheelchair Basketball

A total of 5 countries were entered into the competition and ranged from a very experienced French Team to Finland's brand new team who had only been formed a few months earlier. The latter brought national media attention to the competition, with Finland's national broadcaster YLE covering the team's journey to the competition. 

Wheelchair Basketball proved to be one of the best attended sports during the games, with lots of fast paced action and high scoring games. Fans from across Europe attended the event, with Portuguese supporters being particularly vocal, electrifying the atmosphere whenever present in the stands. 

France were in a league of their own in Wheelchair Basketball, winning every single game and consistently performing above the competition. For example Team France rolled over the competition with a 95-28 Win in the Final over Italy to secure the Gold Medal, with excellent performances from number 8, Mamady Traore and number 11, Enzo Trabuchet. 

Italy put up a strong performance during the games and relied on their excellent teamwork and sharing of the ball, with number 11, Alessio Torquati, being selected as an All Star at the end of the tournamant. 

Ireland secured their only medal of the Games following a hard fought bronze medal match against Portugal, securing the 42-24 win largely down to the efforts of number 11, Tiarnan O'Donnell. 

MVP of the tournament, as voted by event participants, was Manuel Gomez from France. 

Additional Programme

Being an introductory international event for many athletes, the European Para Youth Games also utilises expertise in the Paralympic movement to educate athletes on a variety of topics to prepare them for professional Paralympic careers. Run by the Agitos Foundation’s Proud Paralympian programme, EPYG 2019 hosted two Proud Paralympian Ambassadors, alpine skier and World Cup medallist Erin Latimer and multi Paralympic medallist Phelipe Rodrigues, who delivered all the sessions over the first three days of the event before competition began.

During the Opening Ceremony, the European Para Youth Games 2019 was officially challenged by the 2018 IAAF World U20 championships in Tampere to uphold the Finnish Baton of Fair Play and ensure all competitors played true and clean. The project, organised by the FINCIS, has been tradition in Finland since 2009 and is implemented on any occasion when Finland hosts international sports competitions.

Closing ceremony

Following a fantastic five days of events, EPYG 2019 concluded on Sunday at the closing ceremony hosted at Pajalahti Hall once again. The excitement and passion of the participating countries filled the hall as many teams were delighted with their success but saddened that the games were coming to a close.

Continuing the theme from the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony sought to highlight the achievements of disabled athletes and people in Finland, with performances from blind accordion player Erika Toivola and Special Olympics Athlete and Rhythmic gymnast Saga Tsokkinen.

Managing Director of Pajulahti Lasse Mikkelsson delivered the opening speech congratulating the athletes on their achievements and inviting them all to return to Pajulahti for training camps in the near future.

The Games were official closed by EPC President Ratko Kovacic who proudly declared EPYG 2019 as ‘the best games ever’. This comment was met by applause and cheers from the crowd who expressed their appreciation to the LOC for organising the games in such a professional manner.

The EPYG 2019 LOC would like to thank all the event participants, staff, volunteers and organisations for their support in delivering such a successful event. They look forward to welcoming athletes and teams back to Pajulahti in the near future.

The next edition of the European Paralympic Youth Games is due to be hosted in Poland in January for the first winter edition of the event.

For media and photo copyright inquiries please contact European Paralympic Youth Games Officer Adam Pratchett:


Photos Copyright: Pajulahti Olympic and Paralympic Training Center and Jussi Eskola

EPC President Mr Ratko KovacicEPC President Mr Ratko Kovacic

Team France at the Opening CeremonyTeam France at the Opening Ceremony

Tuuli Harju and Timo PyykkonenTuuli Harju and Timo Pyykkonen

Poland's Kotolawska Faustina who threw a World Record 27.84m in the W20 F64 JavelinPoland's Kotolawska Faustina who threw a World Record 27.84m in the W20 F64 Javelin

Boccia at EPYG 2019Boccia at EPYG 2019

Goalball at EPYG 2019Goalball at EPYG 2019

Judo at EPYG 2019Judo at EPYG 2019

Swimming hosted at the Mäkelänrinne Olympic Swimming PoolSwimming hosted at the Mäkelänrinne Olympic Swimming Pool

Table Tennis at EPYG 2019Table Tennis at EPYG 2019

Finland vs Portugal in Wheelchair BasketballFinland vs Portugal in Wheelchair Basketball 















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