Future Paralympic stars will have the chance to be fast-tracked on the road to Rio 2016 thanks to an exciting new initiative launched recently.
A partnership between UK Sport, The English Institute of Sport (EIS) and the British Paralympic Association (BPA) has launched Paralympic Potential: Bring on Brazil - the first Paralympic talent identification initiative since London 2012.
Competition is intense in Paralympic sport and the search is now on for new talent to prove they have “got what it takes for Rio”, to ensure continued success for ParalympicsGB after the team won a superb 120 medals at London 2012.
Nick Beighton, a finalist at London 2012, and others like him came through a similar talent identification process, before being nurtured by GB Rowing Team coaches and support staff in his quest to compete at the Games.
GB Rowing Team has joined forces with UK Sport, the EIS and the BPA to try and find the stars of the future like Nick as well as Tom Aggar, Paralympic Champion in 2008 and a finalist in 2012, Pamela Relph and Naomi Riches, already Paralympic Champions.
Karen Darke was among the medals in 2012, taking silver in the hand-cycling and recently helped to launch the scheme.
She won her 2012 medal having taken up the sport seriously only three years before.
Karen said: “The Beijing Paralympic Games was truly inspirational for me and I was determined to give it my best shot to compete at London 2012.
“Looking back, the three year journey from my first races in Handcycling to winning a silver medal at a home Paralympic Games in London is one of the most incredible and intense things I have experienced in my life.
“Nothing can really compare with the elation of competing for your country at a Paralympic Games and I am living proof that with determination and sacrifice you can fulfil your dream. I would encourage anyone with a disability who is active and already involved in some form of sport to sign-up and you could be part of the ParalmypicsGB team in Rio.”
Paralympic Potential: Bring on Brazil is seeking disabled athletes aged between 18-35 years old with the drive to compete and win at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016. The programme will be run by the UK Talent Team, with support from the BPA.
The UK Talent Team is a collaboration between UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS). It supports World Class Programmes to identify and develop talented athletes
Jayne Ellis, Paralympic Talent Scientist for the UK Talent Team, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for disabled people to get involved in Paralympic Sport and I find it really exciting to think about the talent we could unearth through Paralympic Potential: Bring on Brazil.
“We are looking at potential athletes for a wide range of sports and the only criteria are you need to be fit, used to playing sport and really focused on achieving your goals.
“Those selected will ultimately have the chance to become part of World Class Performance Programmes within Paralympic sports here in the UK, which are regarded as being among the finest in the world.”
Penny Briscoe, Director of Sport at the British Paralympic Association, said: “We know from our experience with talent initiatives in the past that they can be a really important way of identifying the World Champions and Paralympians of the future. The last Paralympic Potential campaign that was run inspired a number of stars and we are confident that the UK Talent Team will find us some more talented athletes this time around.
“London 2012 provided us with an incredible opportunity to inspire disabled and non-disabled people alike. Hopefully with this campaign we will reach out to those who watched British athletes on TV or in the stadia at the Paralympics last year and who thought to themselves „I would love that to be me next time around‟. This is their chance.”
Since 2007, the UK Talent Team have worked in partnership with 20 Olympic and Paralympic sports and over 100 World Class coaches and run eight national athlete recruitment campaigns assessing more than 7,000 athletes.
These projects have been highly successful and resulted in more than 100 athletes being selected by sports for the World Class Performance Programme with a total of 102 international medals won.
Athletes wishing to prove they have “got what it takes for Rio” can sign-up for at www.paralympics.org.uk/potential with assessment days planned in June and July. UK