London 2012 launches Paralympic recruitment drive

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The Independent Online

Today marks 1000 days until the start of the Paralympic Games in 2012, and it's not too late to qualify. That's the message from the UK Talent Team (UK Sport & EIS) and Paralympics GB to prospective members of Britain's elite squads.

Experience from previous Paralympic Games has shown that a large percentage of athletes had been part of a UK Sport Lottery funded programme for just two years before competing at the Games. Athletes such as rower Dave Smith demonstrate this point. The 31-year-old world champion started rowing only this year after attending a Paralympics GB Talent ID Day.

With less than three years to go until London 2012, athletes with a disability have never had a better chance to put themselves forwards for a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete for gold in front of a home crowd.

Talent 2012: Paralympic Potential is a nationwide talent search open to athletes aged between 15 and 35. There are genuine opportunities across a range of sports for athletes capable of achieving high-level success in a short time frame.

Results at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing show that 33 per cent of British medalists had been part of a world class elite programme for less than two years and 15 of the British Gold medals were won by first time Paralympians.

To register your interest or for more information, go to Applications close on 11th January 2010.


Matt Skelhon

DOB 30.10.84

Home Town Peterborough

Lives Stilton, nr Peterborough

Shooting (R1 10m air rifle standing, R3 10m air rifle prone)

Highest achievement Gold, Paralympic Games 2008, Beijing

Matt is one of the rising stars of Paralympic sport in Britain. He won Paralympic gold in Beijing in shooting just three years after being injured in a car accident. Although he had experience shooting at tin-cans in his back garden as a youngster, Matt had no prior competitive background in shooting before he was spotted by coaches while competing at the Spinal Unit Games. He made his GB debut in 2007, a year before competing for ParalympicsGB in Beijing. In the final at the Paralympics, Matt shot a world record 600 out of 600 to secure the gold medal. Matt's rapid rise through the ranks in the GB team is an example of how the pathway through to Paralympic sport can be faster than in Olympic sport.

Judith Hamer

Age 18 years old

Home Town Exeter

Lives Exeter

Wheelchair Basketball

Highest achievement Bronze, 2009 European championships, Stoke Mandeville

Judith took up basketball approximately two years ago, after attending a ParalympicGB talent ID day. She made her GB debut at the 2009 Paralympic World Cup in Manchester and recently competed for GB at the European Championships. She is still just 18 years old and is a top prospect for London 2012. A phenomenally determined individual, Judith also featured in the BBC2 programme Beyond Boundaries in 2007, in which she walked across Ecuador. She was born with one leg slightly longer than the other, and after numerous operations to try to lengthen her leg she chose to have it amputated.

Dave Smith


Home Town Dunfermline

Lives Ascot

Rowing (mixed coxed four)

Highest achievement Gold, 2009 World Rowing Championships

Dave is a current world champion in adaptive rowing and a great example of how athletes can progress through the ranks quickly. A former member of the GB bobsleigh team, Dave has a fused ankle which limited his development in that sport. On the advice of a coach, he attended a ParalympicsGB talent ID day where GB Rowing coaches immediately saw his potential. Dave joined the GB rowing team in early 2009 and became a world champion later that year. Dave's case is particularly interesting because his fused ankle is ‘minimal disability', i.e. most people wouldn't even be able to tell he had a disability at all.

Danielle Brown

Age 19 years old


Home Town Skipton

Lives Lothersdale


Highest achievement Beijing Paralympic Games result: gold, women's individual compound

Danielle burst onto the international scene in 2007, winning double gold at the World Championships aged just 17. She followed this by winning two Paralympic gold medals in Beijing. She is currently studying law at University of Leicester. Recent results include double gold at the 2009 World Championships in the women's individual compound and women's team compound. Danielle has a condition that causes chronic pain in her feet.

Sarah Storey

DOB 26.10.77

Home Town Manchester

Lives Manchester

Cycling (various events)

Highest achievement Double gold, LC1 individual pursuit (track) time trial (road), Paralympic Games, Beijing

Sarah is a minimal disability athlete (she has an upper limb impairment). One of the top cyclists in Britain, Sarah's gold medal-winning time in Beijing would have secured her a top ten finish at the Olympics in her event, and she is recently defended her title at the able-bodied National Championships in cycling. Sarah is a multi-medallist at the Paralympic Games, having previously competed in swimming. She has competed in five Paralympic Games, making her international debut in 1992 age just 14 and switching sports in 2005 after a series of ear infections kept her out of the water. She has 16 Paralympic medals in swimming to her name and a further two gold medals in cycling from Beijing (one on the track and one on the road). Not only is Sarah a great athlete and ambassador for Paralympic sport but she is also a great example of talent transfer.

Eleni Papadopolous

DOB 20.07.1992

Home Town Gateshead

Lives Gateshead

Swimming (various events)

Highest achievement: two silver medals, European Championships 2009

A member of the British swimming team that excelled at the 2009 European championships, Eleni is a top prospect for London 2012. She is seventeen years old and balances her swimming with studying at Newcastle Royal Grammar School.

Nyree Lewis


Home Town Rhonda Valley, Wales

Lives Hereford

Swimming (various events)

Highest achievement: nine Paralympic medals over three Paralympic Games

Nyree made her GB debut in 1999 and over the last ten years has established herself as one of GB's most successful swimmers. Nyree has represented ParalympicsGB in three Paralympic Games, securing medals at every one. Her partner is fellow established Paralympic swimmer Sascha Kindred. She will collect her MBE on 1 Dec.

Sam Ingram

Age 24 years old

Home Town Coventry

Lives Edinburgh

Judo (-90kg)

Highest achievement Bronze, Paralympic Games, Beijing

Sam made his GB debut in 2007 and won bronze at the Paralympic Games the following year. A visually-impaired athlete, he has a brother who also competed in VI judo and who only narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Paralympics in Beijing. Sam recently won bronze at the 2009 European Championships.