Boost for disability sport in Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire
Disability sport in Leicestershire & Rutland, and in Northamptionshire is set to receive a welcome boost after Leicestershire Disability Athletics Development Group has received a £4k award and Northamptonshire Athletics Network £10k from Sport England to purchase new equipment.
The Leicestershire & Rutland money will be used to purchase a racing wheelchair & throwing frame for physically disabled athletes, and adapted starting equipment for deaf athletes which will allow opportunities for disabled people in the county to try athletics for the first time. In the Northamptonshire area the money will be used to purchase Racing Wheelchairs which will open up opportunities for local disabled people in to try Wheelchair Racing for the first time.
The Leicestershire Disability Athletics Development Group work closely with partners such as Leicester-Shire & Rutland Sport, Leicester City Council, LARISA and the School Sports Network to run three county championships each year: Indoor Sportshall Athletics, Cross Country and Outdoor Athletics. The 2012/13 events saw over 250 disabled athletes compete; a figure that looks set to increase significantly this year! The group also support Regional & National events hosted at their home site Saffron Lane Athletics Stadium, and run wheelchair racing community sessions for aspiring athletes.
Cherie D'Silva, Chair of the Leicestershire Disability Athletics Development Group and winner of the regional Services to Disability Athletics in the 2012 England AThletics VOlunteer awards, commented: "This is brilliant news for us – it comes at a time when the success of our competitions has meant that we have more and more disabled athletes coming forward and we do not have sufficient equipment for them. The new equipment that we can buy with the Sport England funding will allow even more disabled people to try the sport; for example our new Wednesday wheelchair racing group already has more athletes than wheelchairs – they currently have to take it in turns! The training is really paying off, on Sunday many of our Leicestershire young athletes attended a special Talent Day at Loughborough University and received coaching from specialist UK Athletics coaches for throwing, sprinting and wheelchair racing."
Sue Rey (Disability Representative for the Northamptonshire Athletics Network) added: "This is wonderful news; we are very excited to be successful in receiving this award. The Project can now commence and once the racing chairs are available we will be organising a 'Come and Try session' in the spring of 2014 at the track at Rockingham Triangle Sports Stadium, Corby. More details will be published nearer the time."
Lisa O’Keefe, Sport England's Director of Insight, said: "We know that many organisations and clubs delivering sport struggle to provide sporting opportunities for disabled people because of a lack of access to specialist equipment. We are delighted to award these vital funds which will play a transformative role in opening up sport to many people who previously found it inaccessible."
The award is part of Sport England's 'Get Equipped' fund which was designed to build on the success of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. £1 million of National Lottery funding is being distributed to organisations across England to allow them to provide specialist equipment which will help make sport a practical choice for many more disabled people inspired by the Games.
The number of disabled people playing sport regularly is on the rise. In December, Sport England's Active People Survey - an annual, in-depth measure of the nation's sporting habits – revealed that a record number of disabled people in England now play sport each week. The number of disabled people aged 16 and over playing sport once a week has increased by 62,000 over the last year, bringing the total number to its highest recorded figure of 1.67 million, 351,000 more than in 2005 when London won the bid to host the Games.
However, non-disabled people are still twice as likely to play sport as disabled people (39.2 per cent compared to 18.5 per cent) which is why Sport England continues to focus attention and investment to address this imbalance.
Photo: Leicestershire Wheelchair athlete Charlie trains in one of the groups current racing chairs.