The legacy of the London Olympic Games was supposed to be more young people becoming involved in sport, and Britain becoming a healthy place for children to grow up. Sadly the honeymoon is over and reports state that there has been a marked drop off in sports participation. This should be no surprise as most sports suffer the same hangover, football and rugby being two that once a year has passed after their World Cups numbers drop.
However when it comes to the Paralympics it is a different story. In fact it is completely the opposite, as sport for youngsters with a disability is very much on the rise in the UK.
Panathon is one of the reasons for this. This is a program to give youngsters with a disability the opportunity to try competitive sports that they would never get the chance to do at school. It has helped make sport accessible to these children and with Paralympian heroes such as swimmer Liz Johnson as ambassadors the program has gathered huge momentum.
Australia is lucky that such programs already exist through organisations such as Wheelchair Sports WA. Western Australia sent 17 Paralympians to London as well as three coaches. These representatives returned with 12 medals, 2 Gold, 9 Silver and 1 Bronze medals from the London Games. The medals coming in Athletics, Handcycling, Swimming, and Wheelchair Basketball.
Wheelchair Sports WA has some great junior programs in place and children do not have to follow the elite pathway if they do not want to, it is all about participation, inclusion and having fun. The key is making the public aware of the great work being done and the inspirational athletes under our noses.