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talent for 2016: have you got what it takes?

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Ola Abidogun

12 June 2012

UK Athletics (UKA) is launching a talent search in Manchester on Saturday 21 July to attract more disabled children from mainstream schools into athletics.

The project is committed to attracting athletes with a disability - primarily, but not limited to black and ethnic minority groups who are currently under represented in the national team - from the major cities in the sprints, jumps and throwing events.
The successful athletes will be brought into a weekly academy to monitor their performances and support their development through the next four years with a focus on the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016.

To ensure the initiative has the greatest impact and to continue the integration of all abilities into the sport, the initial test event, which will take place at the Athletics Centre at Sportcity, Manchester from 12-3pm on 21 July, will have exit routes for all talented athletes into the Aviva Athletics Academy (Paralympic stream) or into the Manchester Academy (Olympic stream).

All potential athletes aged from 11-18 years old who have a less severe physical impairment such as Cerebral Palsy (ambulant), have a visual impairment or are amputees, or who are non-disabled, are encouraged to come along, but the test day is not recommended for pupils with special educational needs or wheelchair users.

“This is a really simple, yet potentially really effective project which could result in great success for our athletics teams,” says Manchester’s Paula Dunn, a former Olympic, World and Commonwealth sprinter and Commonwealth Games silver medallist over 100m in 1986, who is now the Paralympic Performance Manager at UKA.

“There were a lot of distractions for me growing up in Manchester, as there are with many young people today, but getting involved in athletics at an early age provided me with the foundation, confidence and discipline to strive for success and to reach my potential. We need to provide incentives, opportunities and positive role models for young athletes to get involved in track and field and show them that there’s something out there for them, even if they haven’t realised it yet.”
In addition to targeting ‘Talent for 2016’ through a series of tests, other activities will take place including music, street art, rollerblading and basketball.

The current UKA Paralympic Performance team has now fast tracked a number of disabled athletes through to Aviva GB & NI vests at junior and senior level through the Aviva Parallel Success Talent programme and currently over 10 new athletes have the potential to compete at the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016.

The project will also be piloted in London and Birmingham in 2012.