Athletic organizations in Great Britain have launched a campaign to discover potential Paralympic athletes and fast-track them into training for the 2012 Games. The three-pronged talent drive, a cooperative effort of ParalympicsGB, U.K. Sport, and the English Institute of Sport, is open to athletes ages 15-35 with any qualifying disability, and can even help athletes identify their suitability for sports they have never attempted before.
“A campaign of this size so close to a Games is unprecedented, and whilst it can take athletes up to eight years to reach an Olympics, research has shown that potential participants for a Paralympic Games can be ready to compete at an elite level much sooner,” stated a UK Sport press release. “Results at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing show that 33 percent of British medalists had been part of a world-class elite program for less than two years, and 15 of the British gold medals were won by first time Paralympians.”
Chelsea Warr, Head of Athlete Development at UK Sport, said, “The ability to achieve a Paralympic Gold medal is a rare commodity, and identifying those capable of doing so in the final 1,000 days before 2012 will be no easy task. It is possible, however, as results at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing have shown, that with hard work, dedication and the right coaching set up, we can make someone’s dream a reality.”
Dave Smith, who only began training as a rower 12 months ago and hopes to compete in London in 2012, said, “Just a year ago I was competing in [bobsled]. The switch to Paralympic rowing was a challenge for me, and I’m improving all the time. I was delighted to become a world champion in my first season and am completely focused on achieving success in 2012…. I think my story demonstrates that with the right coaching and determination anything is possible. I hope other athletes in a similar position to me will grab their 2012 opportunity.”
ParalympicsGB Chief Executive, Phil Lane, said, “Whilst we have come second in the medal table at the past four Games, there are many events that we simply haven’t been able to field an athlete in. With the competition getting tougher all the time, it is vital that we have explored all avenues to recruit new athletes.”
For more information, visit www.uksport.gov.uk/talen