Following on from the success of the London 2012 Paralympic games, Wales has seen a significant increase in participation and understanding of inclusive sport. With Rio 2016 Paralympics having started on September 7th Disability Sport Wales was preparing for a new raft of participants, keen to try a new sport.
Disability Sport Wales offers disabled people and their family, carers and friends the perfect opportunity to try over 25 sports, with a range of adapted equipment. For the 13th Year they held the Arriva Trains Wales insport Series (previously Wheelchair Sports Spectacular).
“This event attracts annually over 500 disabled people of all ages and ability levels, with a wide range of impairments. Taking place at Cardiff Met University, National Indoor Athletics Centre (NIAC) in Cyncoed, this popular event is free to all. This year the ParalympicsGB Carnival is also visiting the event as it tours around six locations in the UK.” said Disability Sport Wales
The event is designed to spot those who might have a burgeoning talent or those who simply want to take part in sport and have fun – there are sports to suit everyone, including those with high levels of disability. As well as having the opportunity to try the sports, participants can also find out about local clubs that they can join.
Disability Sport Wales said: “Last September John Prosser attended the event and met Welsh Rowing and in May he found himself winning gold and silver medals at the Invictus Games.”
Another success story from the event is Phil Pratt who first attended the event with his dad when he was 11. Now ten years later Phil says “I would encourage anyone with a disability to go to this event. It’s always great fun and you meet so many great clubs and coaches. I tried so many sports and loved wheelchair basketball. I joined the club that I met there and now I am thrilled to be in the GB Team for the Rio 2016 Paralympics.”
Also for me, it was great chance to catch up with other welsh Paralympians, such as Nathan Stephens a 3 x time Paralympian (Winter Games at Turin 2002 in Sledge Hockey and Summers at Beijing 2008 and London 2012 in the Javelin). Below is his story on how he got into disability sport.
I have known Nathan now without having to quest about over a decade, from our time in what was the FSAD regional swim squad at Disability Sport Events (I can’t remember what it stood for but it was the early days of what is now Disability Sport Wales), to competing alongside one another in sitting volleyball in the inaugural Grand Prix Series in 2009/10 where we won the league and came runner-up in the cup held at Crystal Palace National Sport Centre in London.
To going on to represent Great Britain at 2 Paralympics in Beijing and London either side of those volleyball exploits. Now Nathan is working for Disability Sport Wales as their Talent officer.
John Harris a 5 x time Paralympian (Summer Games of 1980 right through to Atlanta 1996) amassing the set of Gold, Silver and Bronze medals along the way. However, I first met John at an event at Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay in North Wales and the way he tells the story of his career is owe inspiring going from his early days of competing in the discuss to finishing his career in the pentathlon.
John is on the far left in the picture above.
Steffan Hughes a 3 x time Paralympian (Summer Games of Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 as guide runner for Tracey Hinton). How Steffan talked about how he got involved in disability sport was something I didn’t expect, he replied to a national wide ad looking for a guide runner, to get disqualified at his first event then going onto break a world record a few weeks after the disappointment of that DQ.
To going on to represent Great Britain at 3 Paralympics and being asked to come out of “retirement” for both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 games as his day job now is as a primary school teacher.
It was great to hear their experiences of the games and how Disability Sport Wales played a massive part in their lives. But it is thanks to events like the Insport Series that allows us as former athletes to help inspire and give something back to the next generation of disabled and able-bodied kids alike.
But not only that, I believe the guys I mentioned above would probably echo my sentiments when I say If it wasn’t for Disability Sport Wales and their staff and the support they give the Welsh athletes, I wouldn’t be able to call myself a ‘Paralympian’.
Pippa Britton a former Paralympic athlete herself and now Chair of Disability Sport Wales echoes what I think of Disability Sport Wales. “This event has now become an important date in the Disability Sport Wales calendar. Over the years many thousands of people have benefitted from this event by being introduced to new sports and clubs which they have gone on to join. Many of the sports that we showcase are excellent examples of inclusive activity whilst others offer the opportunity to engage specific Paralympic or disability specific programmes. It is important that we continue to keep the profile of disability sport high on everyone’s agenda in Wales and this event ticks all the right boxes, ensuring that we continue to maximise opportunities for disabled people to get hooked on sport for life.”
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