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Countdown to Beijing 2008

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Tracey Hinton

With exactly two years to go to the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games that opens on 6 September 2008, the UK Athletics Disability chief says he is heartened by the early performances in Assen and particularly by those of younger members of the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team.

Tim Jones, Senior Performance Manager for Disability at UK Athletics said he is encouraged by the early performances of the GB & NI team at the International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships.

Great Britain were sixth in the overall medals table at close of play on Tuesday, after 78 of the 203 events with four gold medals, four silvers and three bronzes.
Jones said he has been encouraged and impressed by the performances of some of the younger members of the 46-strong team.

They include athletes like Elizabeth Clegg (Border Harriers AC, Edinburgh Woollen Mill), who twice broke her personal best on the way to a silver medal in the T12 200m at the tender age of just 16.

Katherine Deal (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers), the youngest member of the team aged just 14, put in a terrific performance to finish fourth in the T13 400m. Eighteen-year-old Ben Rushgrove (City of Bath, TeamBath) meanwhile captured T36 100m European record in Assen.

Katrina Hart, a 16-year-old Worcester AC athlete, set a personal best in the T37 100m, while 18-year-old Nathan Stephens (FDSW) is among GB athletes to have impressed in the team events.
Jones said: “It’s particularly important that half way through the Paralympic cycle we don’t just focus on gold medals, but also on potential for the future.

“We have shown that we have some outstanding young athletes who at this moment in time are relatively under-trained and under-developed and who can make huge progress over the next two years.

“It clearly vindicates our decision to bring development athletes along to Assen,” he added.

“We have known we’ve got one or two stars in the team. The fact we have some younger athletes who have done outstandingly well shows we have got the potential to have a team that can do a good job for us in Beijing.”

But Jones said whatever its final medals tally, the team won’t be able to rest on its laurels after the championships.

“It’s important to recognise that Paralympic sport is only going to get tougher,” he said.

“We’ve got a completely new team of staff working on the disability programme and the quality of work that’s done by the athletes over the next winter is absolutely vital.  
“Our athletes have two blocks of winter work through to Beijing and it is important that they are well planned, well prepared and suitably committed. If winter training blocks go well there could be a sizeable improvement in performance and we could make some terrific strides forward. 

“Some tough decisions may need to be taken about people’s coaching environments to make sure we get the results we need at Beijing. No-one can be comfortable over the next two years.

“We need to use the next 12 months to experiment and innovate to make sure we are making the best decisions going into Beijing,” he added.