18 July 2023

Likes of Hannah Cockroft and Jonnie Peacock can inspire ‘talent coming through’

18 July 2023

Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s big-hitters and emerging stars have been backed to inspire a new generation after a hugely successful showing at the Para Athletics World Championships.

Reigning Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft took gold in the women’s T34 100m and T34 800m, while Aled Davies secured a fifth world title in the men’s F63 shot put and Sammi Kinghorn a third in the women’s T53 100m.

However, 19-year-old Scot Ben Sandilands also led a group of potential future stars onto the podium in Paris with victory in the men’s T20 1500m to demonstrate the effectiveness of GB’s National Lottery-funded para athletics strategy drawn up in response to a disappointing return at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Paula Dunn, head coach for para athletics between 2012 and 2022, told the PA news agency: “We had a strategy in terms of not just looking in the short term at athletes, but building a sustainable programme, having a clear pathway of talent coming through, having talent identification and recruitment drives ahead of 2012, which was an amazing opportunity to create some role models and just increase that profile and awareness of the sport.

“We are just reaping the benefits of that long-term continued investment in the sport, which we’re really fortunate in this cycle amounts to around £9million of lottery support.

“That’s critical for our continued success. It’s nice when a strategy comes together and it starts delivering.”

In all, lottery support for para athletics has totalled £214million and the success that has helped to generate – Britain finished fourth in the medals table in Paris with 29, 10 of them gold – has made athletes such as Cockroft and sprinter Jonnie Peacock, one of the stars of the 2012 Paralympics in London, household names.

Asked how their profile has helped to attract new blood to the sport, Dunn said: “It’s critical. The children who turn on the TV this year – and definitely next year when the Paralympics are on – will see somebody who looks like them, and if you see somebody that looks like you, you’re more likely to go and have a go at that sport.

“For us, it’s critical to make sure we keep the profile high to keep that fresh blood coming into the sport.”

We always deliver. Is it going to be hard? Absolutely. The Paralympics now is exceptionally competitive. We can see that there are very small margins now between success and failure

Success at the World Championships will only increase excitement levels ahead of next summer’s Paralympic Games, which are also taking place in Paris, although Dunn knows only too well the hard work ahead of those hoping to thrive on the global stage again.

She said: “We always deliver. Is it going to be hard? Absolutely. The Paralympics now is exceptionally competitive. We can see that there are very small margins now between success and failure.

“We’ve got a great high performance system, we’ve got funding, so we’ve got everything in place now to deliver. But these guys now will be coming back, have a short break and then again their eyes will all be on Paris 2024 to go there and deliver on the global stage once again.”

:: National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen

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