PARALYMPIC stars of the past, present and future gathered at the University of Worcester Arena for a two-day extravaganza promoting disability sport.
The third British Paralympic Association Sports Fest, which ran on Sunday and Monday (November 24 and 25) saw international athletes and coaches demonstrate more than 20 Paralympic sports to around 400 visitors from across the region.
Several of Great Britain’s London 2012 Paralympic medalists, including athletes Josie Pearson and Dan Greaves and archer and former St John’s resident Mel Clarke, came along to join in with the fun and answer questions.
The University Arena is the countrys first fully inclusive sporting arena and was purpose-built to host elite level able-bodied and disabled sport.
Penny Briscoe, BPA director of sport, delivered a speech to the university’s Disability Sports Coaching students as part of Monday’s activities.
“We’re trying to throw the doors open, to encourage people to come in,” she said.
“Sometimes it can be a major step for people to come to an event like this, and people have to put themselves on the line a little bit, but from our point of view it can create opportunities and make connections.
“First and foremost, the event is about opportunity and inspiration, but there is also an chance for someone who may have the talent to be a Paralympian to begin their journey.
“This event shows that, whether you’re disabled or non-disabled, there is a route in sport that could be for you.”
Other stars to turn out included world champion in Archery, Richard Hennahane, 2011 and 2012 world champion in Para-triathlon Steve Judge, wheelchair tennis player, Louise Hunt, wheelchair rugby player Mandip Sehmi, and GB sledge hockey players Nathan Stephens, Gary Farmer, Karl Nicholson and Matt Coleman.
Event ambassador Josie Pearson said: “I’ve had a great day at Sports Fest and it’s been fantastic to represent athletics alongside so many different Paralympic sports.
“This event is a brilliant way to find out more about disability sport in general, whether you want to explore your competitive side or just find a new sport to take part in recreationally.
I’d definitely recommend it to people who want to get more involved in sport but don’t know quite where to begin.”
Fellow ambassador and Paralympic silver medallist Mel Clarke commented: “It’s been fantastic to be a part of Sports Fest. When I came out of my rehab, there wasn’t anything like this and it’s helpful because it really shows people what is out there for them.
“We’ve seen people this weekend who are quite newly injured and it’s been great to watch them having a go and throw themselves into it all, and we’ve had a lot of parents who have been able to see sports opportunities that they might not have thought possible before coming here. There’s been so many smiley faces over the past few days, it’s lovely.”
The event was part of a series of disability sports festivals hosted by the British Paralympic Association alongside the National Governing Bodies. The previous two events took place in Guildford and Sheffield.