World ParaVolley welcomes first female president

Lori Okimura of the United States becomes first woman to become Full-Time International Federation President for Sitting Volleyball and Beach ParaVolley

World ParaVolley, the international sport federation for sitting volleyball and beach paravolley, enters the year of the Paralympics with a new President and a commitment to improving communications and operations in many areas for the entirely volunteer organisation. Lori Okimura, of Los Angeles, California and Maui, Hawaii in the United States, entered into the full-time position of President on January 1, 2024 after the early retirement of previous President, Barry Couzner OAM of Australia, who led the organization successfully for ten years.

Okimura previously served as Vice President, elected in 2022, before being promoted via constitutional succession to President upon the announcement of Couzner’s early retirement. She was appointed previously as World ParaVolley’s first female Sport Director and served as a technical official since 2016 for sitting volleyball and beach paravolley. She was appointed an international technical official for the Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

For more than 30 years, she has worked in the international sports industry in multiple areas from production and manufacturing to marketing and sales and most recently in non-profit governance and executive management. Her volunteer service through those years included serving as a Trustee of Safe Sport International, an advisor to the Foundation for Global Sport Development’s Athlete Helpline, as an Executive Board Member of Angel City Sports, a humanitarian and adaptive sports organization based in Los Angeles, California focused on providing opportunities through sport to adults, children and veterans with physical differences and impairments.

She served on the Board of Directors of USA Volleyball for 7 years, 5 years as Board Chair, until her final term ended in 2019. She served as a member of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) beach commission from 2016-2021, and as a technical delegate for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour since 2004. (Full bio on the World ParaVolley Website)

“I happily hand the reins over to Vice President Lori Okimura with great confidence that she is the best person to undertake the role of President. Lori has many decades of sport experience and with LA28 coming up, her amazing connections in the USA will potentially reap great financial and other benefits for World ParaVolley,” said Couzner in a farewell message to the Board and World ParaVolley community at large in December 2023.


“In addition, she has many international networks with organisations such as the IPC, FIVB, and APSO.”

Okimura becomes the first female, first North American, and first person of Native Hawaiian ancestry to hold the full-time position of World ParaVolley President and the seventh person to perform the duties of President since 1980 when Founding President, Pieter Joon (NED) established the World Organisation Volleyball for Disabled (WOVD) which was rebranded in 2014 to World ParaVolley. Joon remains Honorary President and was inducted to the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2022. Previously, Anita Goltnik-Urnaut (SLO) served as acting President from 2004 to 2006. The next Presidential election for World ParaVolley will be held during the 2024 General Assembly, expected to take place at the end of the year after the Paris 2024 Paralympics.

“In the first weeks of the year, I have been meeting with our leaders and members of the community eager to share their thoughts. I look forward to continuing a direct dialogue with many moving forward as the Board does important work to formulate the strategic plan for the LA28 Paralympic period and beyond. We have been fortunate to have a strong and effective leader as Barry, who positioned World ParaVolley well to achieve our shared goals. I look forward to bringing in more of my expertise and resources to help address areas where we have potential to improve and increase our capacity.”



History of Past Presidents
World Organisation Volleyball for the Disabled
1980 to 2001 – Pieter Joon (NED), Founding President, Honorary President
2001 to 2004 – Juan Pont (ESP)
2004 to 2006 – Anita Goltnik-Urnaut (SLO), Acting President
2006 to 2010 – Pierre van Meenen (FRA)
2010 to 2014 – Dr. Hossam Mostafa (EGY)
(Organisation became World ParaVolley in 2014)
2014 to 2024 – Barry Couzner OAM (AUS)
2024 to present – Lori Okimura (USA)

Working together with other WPV International Technical Officials from around the world to support WPV events. Photo credit: ParaVolley Egypt.
Pictured with IPC President, Andrew Parsons in Manama, Bahrain. Representing World ParaVolley at the IPC General Assembly, focused on strengthening relationships and collaboration.
Working towards gender balance and increased opportunities for development in Arab and African countries. Photo credit: Egyptian General Syndicate of Sports Professionals.
Pictured with Para Athletics World Champion, Ezra Frech PLY and PlayLA CEO AP Diaz, discussing disability awareness leading to LA28 Paralympis. Accessing international networks and relationships in other para sports to support growth of World ParaVolley initiatives. Photo credit: LA 84 Foundation Play Equity Summit
Pictured with FIVB President, Dr Ary Graca, and General Director, Fabio Azevedo during a President’s first visit to meet with the USA Volleyball Board of Directors in 2017. Looking to collaborate more through past relationships with international federations to seek increased cooperation and mutual support. Photo credit: Bill Kauffman for USA Volleyball.