DISABLED people from Worcestershire and beyond visited Worcester’s “phenomenal” sports arena for an event which carried on the legacy of the greatest ever Paralympic Games.
Sports Fest, at the University of Worcester Arena, saw winners of Paralympic medals, disability sports coaches and a variety of sports come together for a two-day showcase.
Schools from around the county descended on the arena yesterday where they learned more about the different sports, levels of disability considered and to show off their skills.
Kirsten Olver, a support assistant at Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College, brought along four physically disabled pupils for the day.
“We’re really big on inclusive sports in school and when we heard about this we thought it would be a great opportunity. It gets them to try different sport and not all these opportunities are available in school,” she said.
“There are a lot more inclusive sports days since the Paralympics and the children love them.”
Mike Eglesfield, previously the partnership development manager for the School Sports partnership but now a senior assistant teacher at various state schools, also visited for the day.
He said: “We know every child across Worcestershire that has a disability and we know them quite well and it’s my job now to work with school children and help them access the curriculum and, for me, especially sport.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the children and for us.”
Sports on offer included individual events to team games, such as powerlifting, wheelchair rugby, fencing, sitting volleyball, sailing, tennis and archery.
Mel Clarke, Worcestershire’s own double Paralympic medallist for archery and an ambassador for the British Paralympic Association’s Sports Fest event, was on hand to help people try out her sport.
She said: “It was an opportunity to get athletes together and for the public to come and have a go at sports they may not have thought of trying out.
“This could inspire someone to perform and ultimately represent their country, and maybe medal in future Paralympics.”
On her first visit to the venue last week, the silver medal winner at last year’s Games and bronze winner at Beijing 2008 said the arena would play a big role in ensuring sporting success following London 2012.
“It’s a fantastic venue,” she said. “It’s a lot bigger than I thought, and to see the courts and the facilities inside is phenomenal – it’s definitely up there with the best training facilities I’ve seen.
“In general, facilities for disabled athletes are improving, and to be able to train somewhere of this standard will have a huge impact on athletes. “ The more accessible somewhere is, the less you have to worry about, and the better your training will be, so obviously that has a positive effect on performance.”
She added that facilities like the arena were needed to help the next generation of athletes.
The next Games are in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and Mel is targeting a third successive medal in Brazil.
The Great Britain team claimed 120 medals in London last year – 34 of them gold – in what was widely considered the greatest Paralympics in history.
- For more pictures, see today's Worcester News.