Jaryd Clifford
Jaryd Clifford

Greater focus on Para-Athletes leads to a spark in participation

The phrases ‘Paralympic Games’ and ‘Para-Athletes’ are becoming more frequently used within the athletic community. So what does it mean?

The common misconception centres on the ‘para’ part. Most people believe it is named thus after the medical term Paraplegia. Yet, the word really derives from the term parallel. In regards to the fact that the Paralympic Games are run parallel to the Olympic Games. The same elite athletes, competing in the same stadiums for the chance to earn the same honour, as the best in the world.

Ever since the 2012 London Games, the popularity and awareness of the Paralympics has reached a nearly equal (or parallel) level to that of the Olympics. The increasing media coverage has been paramount to showcasing some of the most incredible athletes to the world.

The recently run Australian Cross Country Championships, which were held in Melbourne (VIC, 29th August), has proved just how far the sporting community has come in regards to the inclusion of people with all ranges of abilities. The Championship broke all records with 62 Para-Athletes competing on the day, representing 5 states and 8 classifications.

(Statistics taken from the start list, http://athletics.com.au/Compete/Events/australian-cross-country-championships )

These figures, compared with recent years, are amazing. And have nearly doubled what they were before the London Games.

This major growth in Para-Athletes is due to the hard working efforts of the staff at Athletics Australia and various members of state and school sport associations. These efforts aren’t just increasing statistics, but also encouraging children with disabilities to partake in sport like never before. These events are helping the athletes to feel comfortable participating in the sports they love, rather than (in some cases) sitting on the side lines and not experiencing the true values that competitive sport has to offer.

Yet, as there is with anything, there is room for more. It would be great to see the smaller states put more of an effort into scouting out the talent that they inevitably have, to further increase the number of athletes participating in Para-Sport.

As we all know, the place in which our future stars are born and bred is at our grassroots level. So where do our juniors go after they finish school? The current answer, is nowhere. As of this moment there is still no Para race for open athletes at the National Cross Country Championships. I believe adding this to the program would be such a positive step forward for the athletic community. It would not just provide a further pathway to nurture the talent coming through the junior ranks, but provide an opportunity for all people with disabilities to get fit and involved in a form of competitive sport. There is no better sporting community to involve these ideas than that of the athletic community. So, let’s get behind these great new expansions to our sport and keep on supporting our Para-Athletes.

The National Championships has been a majorly positive step forward for the athletic community and I would like to thank all the people involved in creating such a positive environment for all the competitors.

If anyone is interested in keeping up to date with myself and Brayden Davidson’s (IPC World Championships Long Jump Cerebral Palsy representative) journey and our endeavours to create even more opportunities for Para-Athletes follow us on Instagram @teamjumpdistance.

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Lachlan Rayner
Lachlan is the Founder of Athletics Exclusive. His athletic background is basically made up of distance running, who competes in a range of events, varying from the 400m up to 3000m.

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