28/08/2009

London Paralympics Targeted

Paralympic athletes are on the 'final countdown'.

As the countdown begins towards the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, NI Sports Minister Nelson McCausland is today calling for local sportspeople to get involved.

The DUP Executive Minister (who is pictured here) said: "With only three years to go to the start of the Paralympics Games, I would encourage everyone to become involved and get inspired.

"Northern Ireland's athletes are currently in training and focusing on that all important date of 29 August 2012, the Paralympic opening ceremony, when all their hopes and dreams of the previous three years will come to fruition," he said.

"Northern Ireland has produced a number of talented Paralympians, who enjoyed considerable success at Beijing.

"Michael McKillop and Jason Smyth both brought home gold in 2008 and have provided inspiration to all in Northern Ireland to become the best that they can be," the Minister continued.

"For many, this will be a once in a lifetime experience that we must grasp with both hands. I would encourage athletes of all abilities to become involved and aspire to be an Olympic or Paralympic medallist, a title that lives with you forever."

He explained that Northern Ireland has several programmes underway to encourage participation in sport and in particular, Disability Sport NI (DSNI) and its Disability Sports 5 star Challenge.
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Over the life of the project, DSNI aim to involve at least 65 schools in Northern Ireland and have 13,650 children participate in the programme by March 2013.

Angela Hendra, Chair of Disability Sport NI, said: "I can't believe how fast the time has gone and it is now only three years until the Paralympic Games in London.

"It is fantastic to hold it so close to home where more people from Northern Ireland will have the opportunity to see the events first hand and feel a part of such a monumental event. I am certain the Games will have a hugely positive impact on disability sport by increasing awareness and by inspiring more people with disabilities to become active in sport throughout Northern Ireland."

Michael McKillop, Paralympic gold medallist and world record holder in 800m, commented: "The Beijing Games were an incredible experience and it was such an honour to bring home a gold medal.

"To have the 2012 Games taking place so close at hand in London will be fantastic. My training and racing have gone really well this season and I hope that when London 2012 comes round I will be in a position to successfully defend my Paralympic title."

The specialist event for those less able-bodied atheletes takes place immediately following the main London 2012 Olympics, from 27 July-12 Aug.

See: www.london2012.com

(BMcC/KMcA)

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