"In London the strength of the program will really be tested, but I am confident athletes who have come through talent search will again make a considerable contribution to Australia’s medal tally."
The value of the Australian Paralympic Committee’s ongoing work in athlete talent identification is set to soar at next year’s London Paralympic Games.
Almost a third of athletes named on the Australian Paralympic Shadow Squad for London 2012 were first identified at a Toyota Paralympic Talent Search Day, part of the Australian Paralympic Committee’s (APC) hugely successful Talent Search Program.
Of the 288 Australian athletes named on the London 2012 shadow squad, 92 are graduates of the APC program which has tested more than 1,700 potential Paralympians since it was established in 2005.
Although this number is likely to change with the final London Team qualification and selection processes still underway, the reach and impact of the talent search program has increased since the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, where 27 talent search athletes represented Australia and combined to win 14 medals, including two gold.
And with the program continuing to go from strength to strength since Beijing, APC Manager for Development and Pathways Tim Matthews says Australia can expect to see its full impact in London.
“In Beijing, the program was only three years old and to have the number of athletes and medalists in the Beijing Team in such a short time frame was an outstanding achievement,” said Matthews.
“By the time we get to London, the programme will be in its seventh year, which is a much better time frame for discovering and developing athletes with the potential for elite competition.
“In London the strength of the program will really be tested, but I am confident athletes who have come through talent search will again make a considerable contribution to Australia’s medal tally.”
Among those to find success through the program is 22-year-old Kelly Cartwright, who won two gold medals and broke the F42 long jump world record at the IPC Athletics World Championships earlier this year, and 24-year-old Jessica Gallagher, who at last year’s Vancouver Paralympics became the first Australian female to medal at a Paralympic Winter Games and has since turned her attention to javelin and long jump for London.
Both athletes are ones to watch at next year’s Paralympic Games along with a host of bright new talent including 18-year-old swimmer Ahmed Kelly, 18-year-old Australian junior wheelchair tennis champion Keegan Oh-Chee and Paralympic bronze medal-winning cyclist Jayme Paris.
Conducted nationwide, the APC’s Toyota Paralympic Talent Search program provides those with sporting potential, the opportunity to pursue any of the 16 Paralympic sports Australia contests. Paralympic sport caters for many physical disability groups including the vision impaired, wheelchair users, amputees, people with cerebral palsy and people with an intellectual disability.