South East Wales

London 2012: Cardiff Paralympics taster for children

Nathan Stephens
Image caption Nathan Stephens is the world record holder for F57 javelin

A taster session at a sporting event could be the start of a path leading to Paralympics glory for Cardiff schoolchildren.

About 50 young people are taking part in Paralympic sports on Thursday to mark the 300-day countdown to the start of the London games in 2012.

Organisers hope it will inspire them to take up one of the sports on a regular basis at locally-run sessions.

Activities include football, rowing, and wheelchair rugby and basketball.

The event is at Talybont, Cardiff University's sports village at Maindy, and youngsters are also able to try out boccia, a sport specially designed for people with reduced mobility, which involves throwing or moving balls towards a target, in a similar way to bowls or petanque.

Joanna Coates-McGrath, disability sports development officer for Cardiff council, said: "All the sports will be delivered by coaches from local clubs that provide the sports on a weekly basis.

"The idea behind the event is for the children to be inspired by the Paralympics and go on to join one of the clubs and take part regularly.

"We are looking to put them on the pathway into a sport where they may excel in the future and even become a Paralympian themselves."

The football sessions are run by Cardiff City Football Club and offer separate training for young people with reduced mobility and cerebral palsy, wheelchair users and those with impaired hearing, as well as for learning disabled children and adults.

Disability project manager Rob Franklin, who organises the club's Every Player Counts programme, said it was a real opportunity to interest more young people in their training sessions.

The club holds its wheelchair football on Tuesdays, which Mr Franklin is hoping to expand.

'Next level'

"We're in the middle of trying to transform it and take it to the next level; set up matches against other sides," he said.

"We're trying to create provision for everyone. Put something back into the community, and get everyone playing football.

"A lot of people say, 'oh, I didn't know you could play football in a wheelchair'."

The children have the chance to meet a young Paralympian. Nathan Stephens, 21, came fourth in the javelin, eighth in the shot and 11th in the discus in Beijing in 2008.

Stephens, who is originally from Bridgend, lost his legs in a train accident at the age of nine.

As well as his athletic events, he competed in ice-sledge hockey in the Paralympic Winter Games in 2006 and also swims for Wales.

He is now the world champion in the F57 javelin class, and is making preparations for the 2012 London Paralympics from his Cardiff base.

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