If you have a disability and a desire to compete in sport, the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) wants to hear from you.
The search for the next Australian Paralympic star will continue later this week when the APC conducts Paralympic Talent Search Days in five capital cities.
Australians with a disability are being invited to register for the session in their home state, and potentially begin an exciting sporting journey.
The Paralympic Talent Search Program was established by the APC in 2005 and has since identified 60 athletes who have gone on to represent Australia at the Paralympic Games.
At London 2012, 43 of the 161 athletes on the Australian Paralympic Team were products of the highly successful program and combined to win 28 of Australia’s 85 medals.
And with Rio 2016 now the focus, the program’s next phase aims to capitalise on the momentum generated by the outstanding performances of Australia’s Paralympians which recently inspired the nation.
Tim Matthews, the APC’s Manager for Development and Pathways, said the level of interest in Paralympic sport following the London Games has been staggering.
“We have seen a huge increase in registrations for Paralympic sport programs and our Talent Search activities. It’s very exciting,” Matthews said.
“It’s clear there are a lot of people who may not have believed they were eligible for Paralympic sport prior to watching the Paralympic Games this year and now have a much greater understanding of the types of disabilities eligible to participate, and also the range of sport options available to them.
“Interestingly, we have seen a significant spike in interest from people with a disability who currently compete at various levels within the able-bodied sport system.
“Having seen the excitement and atmosphere of the London Games, these athletes now want to play a part in the growth of the Paralympic movement in Australia.”
More than 100 people have registered for the Talent Search Days taking place in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth this week.
During each session, participants will undergo testing to measure physical attributes best suited to Paralympic sport, and will then be provided with support and advice about the next steps to take.
For some, such support typically includes an introduction to a local coach, sporting club or disability group, while for others who are identified as having elite potential, they can be fast-tracked into high performance training programs on the way towards state and national selection.
“The APC is working with our National Federation partners, School Sport organisations and other groups to ensure more and more Australians with a disability are given the opportunity to participate in Paralympic sport at the level of their choice,” Matthews said.
“While increased participation is a focus of ours, our main priority is to ensure the path from the grassroots to the elite level is able to appropriately cater for athletes throughout the country.”
This week’s Paralympic Talent Search Days:
Sydney - Thursday 11th October
Sydney Olympic Park; 10:00am – 2:00pm
Adelaide - Saturday 13th October
Westminster College, Marion; 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Perth - Saturday 13th October
Challenge Stadium, Mt Claremont; 10:00am – 2:00pm
Melbourne - Saturday 13th October
Victorian Institute of Sport, Albert Park; 1:00pm – 4:30pm
Brisbane - Sunday 14th October
Jimboomba Athletics Club, Jimboomba; 10:00am – 2:00pm
By Tim Mannion