Debbie van Biesen has been appointed Virtus academy manager ©Virtus

Virtus has announced the appointment of Debbie van Biesen as the organisation’s academy manager, a new initiative to develop a global hub of research, training and education.

The organisation said Van Biesen will join after seven years of full-time postdoctoral research at KU Leuven in Belgium.

She will divide her time across both organisations, leveraging on international and evidenced-based knowledge of elite athletes with intellectual disability and autism.

Van Biesen has published more than 25 peer-reviewed scientific articles in recognised journals in her field.

"I am excited to join Virtus and to apply my life’s work to generate advancements in the pursuit of greater access and development of sports pathways for athletes with an intellectual impairment," Van Biesen said.

Van Biesen's research has specialised in the domains of "Adapted Physical Activity" and "Disability Sport".

The focus of her research was on the role of cognition on sports performance, among elite Paralympic athletes with intellectual disabilities.

During her PhD, Van Biesen contributed to the development of evidence-based classification systems for elite athletes with intellectual disability, that led to their re-inclusion in the Paralympic Games.

She was then appointed as the coordinator of the International Research and Development Centre for Classification of Athletes with Intellectual Impairments, which was officially recognised by the International Paralympic Committee.

In that position, Van Biesen coordinated a collaborative network of national and international research groups and representatives of sports organisations, to perform cutting-edge research with an impact on society.

Virtus executive director Nick Parr said the appointment of the Virtus academy manager is part of organisation’s next four-year strategic plan.

Parr said it was a demonstration of the global effort to raise awareness and grow opportunities for elite athletes with an intellectual impairment.

"I congratulate and welcome Debbie to Virtus," Parr said.

"Her experience as part of KU Leuven is highly valued towards raising the profile of the eligibility and classifications for athletes with an intellectual impairment."

Virtus, formerly known as the International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability (INAS), also confirmed three World Championships planned this year.

The Virtus World Cycling Championship has been scheduled to take place from June 14 to 19 at Račice in the Czech Republic.

Antibes in France is set to host the 2021 Virtus World Basketball Championship from October 18 to 23.

The Virtus World Table Tennis Championships will be held in Bangkok in Thailand from December 6 to 10.