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Talent 2012: Paralympic Potential

Posted: 3rd December 2009 | Source: UK Sport

1000 days to go and there is still time to be on the podium in 2012

Today marks 1000 days until the start of the Paralympic Games in London and there is still time to become a Paralympic Gold medalist in front of a home crowd in 2012.

With time ticking down until the Opening Ceremony begins, athletes with an impairment have never had a better chance to put themselves forward for a once in a lifetime opportunity to walk into the Olympic Stadium at Stratford as part of the ParalympicsGB team.

Talent 2012: Paralympic Potential is a nationwide talent search being run by UK Sport, EIS and the British Paralympic Association. 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.

Results at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing show that 33% of British medalists had been part of a world class elite programme 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 1000 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 who is hoping to compete in London in 2012, said:

"Just a year ago I was competing in Bobsleigh. 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."

The campaign is open to athletes aged between 15 and 35 with any form of impairment who believe they have what it takes to become a Paralympic Champion in 1000 days time. 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."

Cycling's Sarah Storey is a Talent 2012 ambassador for UK Sport and is excited about the programme and the possibility of finding as yet undiscovered podium athletes:

"Sport has provided me with so many unique opportunities and I have experienced some incredible places and inspiring events. Switching to cycling was never part of my ‘plan', but I'm so glad I did, now aiming for cycling gold in London 2012 drives me every single day. If there are athletes out there who love sport, think they are good enough and could be eligible to compete at the Paralympic Games I would encourage them to sign up at www.uksport.gov.uk/talent and see what happens!"

Those people with any form of disability, who think they might have what it takes to become a Paralympic Champion in London in 2012, should register their interest at www.uksport.gov.uk/talent before the 11th January 2010.

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