100 Days To Go To Gold Coast 2018


The Big Read (Paralympics)


Liz Johnson: London 2012 is less than 500 days away and I hope to have a fantastic story to tell

Liz_Johnson_head_and_shouldersAt the British Swimming Championship in Manchester a few weeks ago I was really pleased to secure my qualifying time for the European Championships in June. It's a case of waiting and seeing now which team will head to Berlin for the tournament but I would really hope to be taking part.

Ahead of Sheffield I've been in heavy weights training, and I've been taking antibiotics for an illness but I was still looking to race hard over the weekend and use the event as a training aid. The meet for me was more about race practice and posting a good time than setting a personal best and I definitely put my body under pressure and had to "race tough". I still swam under the European championships qualifying time in both the heat and the final it was just a lot more painful experience than in Manchester 3 weeks ago but I'm pleased with how the meet went overall.

The British International Disability Championships is one of the best attended events in the disability swimming calendar, so it's always an event I enjoy. It's particularly good to get the opportunity to get some of the other big nations such as Brazil and Germany coming over.

Between now and the European Championships I'll be competing in the BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester in May. I'll be on the way back from a hard training camp in Majorca the week beforehand but I'm hoping that it'll give me some "solar power" to medal at the event! It's not often that I compete at a multi-sport event so it would be great to try and catch some of the other events such as the athletics and wheelchair basketball.

Over the last few years the event has widened coverage of Paralympic sport in the media, and with this year's BT Paralympic World Cup being broadcast on Channel 4 I think it will really help to reach new audiences.

I've got a busy schedule between now and London 2012, and I'm going to be recording my journey to the Games through a new BT campaign that will bring together all sorts of stories between now and 2012 and beyond.

Liz_Johnson_lying_tile_at_London_2012_Aquatics_Centre
The campaign is looking for people from all walks of life to tweet, photograph, film and blog about their experiences of London 2012, or to use the Games as the inspiration for their creativity. As well as athletes and people involved in the Games they're asking members of the public to apply to become Storytellers at www.bt.com/london2012. I think it'll produce some fantastic stories – everyone has such different experiences of the Games and it'll be interested to see how this is captured by the public.

It's now less than 500 days until the start of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and as a BT ambassador I was delighted to be invited to their celebratory 500 days event at the BT Tower a few weeks ago. It was great to catch up with the other BT ambassadors like Lee Pearson and Dame Kelly Holmes, as well as other Olympic and Paralympic faces such as Rebecca Adlington, who launched the stunning fireworks display.  Then, a couple of days ago, I was invited to place the last tiles on the pool at the Olympic Park Aquatics Centre.  It was amazing to see first-hand where I hope to be competing in 2012.  It's a fantastic venue and competing in front of thousands of fans there is an opportunity that I'd relish.

I'm not really nervous about the fact that it's 500 days to go – it's a good point as the Games are close enough to start getting excited about, but far away enough that I know that I have enough time to plan properly for them. I'm in a good place with my training and preparation and I know, that when the time comes, I'll be ready to compete and perform at my best. It's nice to see the public start to get excited about the Games though, and I think that will only continue to increase as we get closer.

Liz Johnson is a BT Ambassador.  BT is the official communications services partner for London 2012 and has launched its search for creative members of the public to become the Storytellers of the London 2012 Games. For info and to apply click here 

Jody Cundy: The London 2012 Paralympic Games are becoming very real with just 500 days to go

Jody_Cundy_in_Sky_Team_kitI can't believe that with thousands of people running the London marathon, another mile stone on the run in to the Paralympics rolls around with today marking exactly 500 days to go to the Games.

All of a sudden the Paralympics in London are becoming very real and I couldn't be more excited.

With the World Track Championships all done and dusted for another year, it's time to switch focus to the road but not before hitting the track at the Good Friday (April 22) meet which for the first time in a few years won't be rained off as it's moved away from the outdoors of Herne Hill Velodrome in London to the indoor Velodrome, and my home track Manchester.

The event is going to be the racing debut for the team I helped set up and all our riders are down to ride.

I can't wait to pull on my skin suit in the Para-T colours for the first time, and fingers crossed the couriers manage to deliver it in time.

I'm going to be racing in the international sprint and keirin, which is a change from the normal track racing I do, which is usually me against the clock, but with others riders on the track elbow to elbow, it should be good fun.

Following the Good Friday meeting my road season really kicks off as I fly out to Sydney for the first round of the Paracycling Road World Cup series. I'm part of a small team of eight riders heading down under aiming to score more essential points for the London qualification process.

First up with have a ten day training and acclimatisation camp in Wollongong, and then we head into Sydney and to the Eastern Creek raceway for a 75.6 kilometres road race and then a few days later it's a 24.8km technical - tight and twisty - time trial around the Sydney Olympic park in Homebush Bay.

Since the World Championships I've had a very chilled few weeks and been busy with a few appearances. I returned to my home town to give an after dinner speech at the Rotary Club of Wisbech's 74th Charter Night.

I was also present in Salford Quays at the opening of the second of eight nationwide volunteer selection centres, where over 5,000 people will be interviewed for an opportunity to volunteer at the London 2012 Games.

As a team we had a day of meetings at the Celtic Manor in Newport Wales, a venue that we'll be seeing more of in the future, as it will be our base for the holding camp into the London Paralympics.

During our day of meetings we had chance to find out what was in store for the next 500 days and how the team was planning to take us forward. We also had an update about the now complete Velodrome and the equipment that we're developing for London, as well as a fitting session with Adidas and Next who will be providing the sportswear and formal wear for the Paralympic team in London.

With my new found endurance legs it turns out that in the quest for qualification points I'm going to be racing more than I ever have, so should be an exciting year. However we did hear some disappointing news, the UCI have decided for no apparent reason to change the rules for the Paracycling team sprint event, and have reduced the number of points a valid team can be comprised of.

It's an odd change of rules as the top four teams from the recent World Championships are now deemed to be illegal under the new rules. As world champions we'll never be able to ride all together in the world stripes we earned in Montichiari and the world record we set will no longer be valid.

To say I'm disappointed is an understatement and I have no idea why it happened, but the UCI are famous for this and we'll just have to adapt our team and continue to challenge at the very top.

However, I will enquire to find out why, as it seems like such a strange rule change at a particular sensitive time in a Paralympic cycle, and is bound to upset and disrupt many riders who were aiming to ride the team sprint in London.

Next week I will be at the Lee Valley White Water Rafting Park, for the official opening of the first Olympic venue that will be open to the general public prior to the games next year.

It's going to be a scary and exciting day as by the sound of it I'm in a raft with a bunch of others to test out the course.

Oh boy, the things I have to do!

I also have my rider review, where I'll sit down with my coach and managers and discuss how the last 12 months have gone, and how I can maximise my performance and make sure no stone is unturned on route to London.

Jody Cundy was born with a deformed foot which was amputated when he was three-years-old. He represented Britain three times in swimming at the Paralympic Games from 1996 to 2004, winning three gold and two bronze medals. He then then switched to cycling in 2006 before winning gold at Beijing 2008 to become one of only a handful of athletes that have become Paralympic champions in two different sports

Louise Hunt: I believe my desired ambition can be achieved

Louise_HuntA few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take a tour of the Olympic Park and get a sneak preview of how the site will look at Games time.

It was really exciting to see it before it's completely finished and I can't wait to see the end result. For me personally, it was also a little overwhelming as it brought home how close the Games actually are now, and that I could potentially be competing at Eton Manor, the impressive wheelchair tennis site in the north of the Park.

I was born with spina bifida but have always been very sporty and played quite a lot with my family as a child.

I was introduced to wheelchair tennis when I was five-years-old, on a visit to the Stoke Mandeville primary games.

I started playing regularly, first at junior tennis camps across the country and then going on to play competitive matches. I played in my first international tournament when I was 12 years old.

The highlights of my career so far have been winning three Futures Series tournaments, including beating four players ranked inside the world Top 25.

One of my proudest moments came during the Turkish Open last year, where I managed to defend nine match points in the semi-final, before going on to win the Open.

This year I have won one Futures Event, one International Tennis Federation event and I also beat the world number 12, the highest ranked player I have ever beaten!

Louise_Hunt_2With Sunday marking 500 days to go, and the tennis qualification period starting next month, the feeling that the Games are drawing closer and closer is very real.

It would be a fantastic experience to compete at a home Games; however, throughout the qualification period I will simply be focusing on my training and taking each tournament as it comes.

If I focus on the small steps in my journey, I believe my desired ambition can be achieved.

I have just left for South Africa for two of the biggest tournaments on my calendar this year.

First I will play in the South African Open, an individual event in Sun City.

Then I will catch a bus across to Pretoria where I will meet the rest of the British team for The World Team Cup.

This will be my seventh World Team Cup and my fourth time competing in the women's squad. Unfortunately, our number one women's player is injured so there are just two of us in the team.

This means I'll be playing lots and lots of matches but I am really looking forward to it and after a busy few weeks of training feel totally prepared.

Before leaving, I travelled to my university [Bath] for the last of my four altitude training sessions, which have been preparing me for competition 1500 metres above sea level. It has been a great opportunity to get a feel for how my body will react.

The World Team Cup is a great chance to play against the top ranked women's players in the world. I see this as perfect practice for London 2012 as these are the players I will be competing against if I am selected.

I am very proud to be part of TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme). Not only does it help me financially, but it gives me the opportunity to work with professional coaches.  I have some great people around me, providing support and advice on all aspects of my game, which I find priceless.

TASS gives me the opportunity to pursue my dream and I know that my recent success would not have been achievable without it.

Over the next 12 months, my aim is to remain inside the world's Top 25 and climb the rankings by beating those players above me! And of course, the big dream is to qualify for the Paralympic Games!

Louise Hunt is currently ranked 22nd in the world and receives support from TASS, which is targeted at talented athletes between the ages of 16 and 35 who are already competing at national and international level, and are in education. Deloitte's investment has doubled the financial support available to disability athletes through the scheme and over 500 TASS awards have been made through SportsAid since Deloitte began its support in 2007. 33 athletes who competed at the last Summer Paralympics in Beijing in 2008 and two-thirds of the team at last year's Winter Paralympics in Vancouver had received Deloitte funding through TASS.

Nathan Stephens: Year out with injury helped me to improve my game

Nathan_Stephens_head_and_shoulders_with_BT_logoWhen someone tells you that you have a torn rotator cuff and bicep tendon, and you're a javelin and discus thrower, it is not exactly the best news that you could have!

That's what happened to me around a year ago. It resulted in having to go through an operation, followed by four months of intensive physiotherapy, before I could start to train and practise for my sport properly.

I missed an entire season but I had to take some positives out of the situation.

I had been attempting to change my technique before the injury, which meant specific changes to my training. Once I started to recover from the operation, and was in a position to start training again, I was able to forget about competing and just concentrate on a totally new training regime, working on my core strength and monitoring my progress on a week by week basis.

However, looking back, one of the most important things my time out allowed me to do was to really monitor the progress and results of my key competitors. As they were throwing certain distances, it enabled me to set my targets and standards accordingly. I went to some competitions to see them in action, like last year's BT Paralympic World Cup, meaning that, in a period when I was behind them physically, I could at least be one step ahead of them mentally.

All the hard work that I put in during my rehab phase more than paid off when I become a world champion at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships in January. It was awesome to win a gold – I've been throwing for ten years and I've always been behind the older guys but, for the first time, I felt like I'd caught them up.

At the time, I was just delighted to be out in New Zealand and spending time with the squad but, the longer I was there, the more I was convinced that I had something extra in the tank and could give a winning performance.

Rather than training heavily, most of the month I was in New Zealand was spent having more physio and just working out the little niggles. I'd really started to beat myself up that I might not be able to throw anymore, or that the arm might not be ready, but it turns out all the worrying was totally unnecessary in the end.

Nathan_Stephens_wins_World_Championships_January_28_2011It was also great to see so many of my GB team mates take home medals or make real strides in their development. When we went to Beijing, it felt like the GB Paralympic athletes weren't so much of a team.

Peter Eriksson, our head coach, arrived in the post after Beijing and placed a real focus on creating a team environment. From the top Paralympians, like David Weir, right down to the new youngsters, everyone was joining up and encouraging each other in both training and competition in New Zealand. When London 2012 comes around next year, I think this will be the strongest team GB will ever have sent to a Paralympic Games.

Going to the Olympic Park recently was enough to get me motivated and excited about London 2012. The stadium, and park as a whole, look brilliant and all I can think of is how much I want the opening ceremony to arrive and for the Olympics and then Paralympics to kick off. I know there are so many other people out there who are as excited as me.

BT have just launched their search for members of the public to become the Storytellers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I'll be sharing my story and I hope people see this as a fantastic opportunity to get involved and channel their excitement in a creative way. After all, it's not all about sport – London 2012 will also be a massive cultural event and this campaign will enable people to share their thoughts in a variety of creative ways including writing, social networking, art, photography, film, music and beyond. People can find out more information, and apply to become Storytellers, at www.bt.com/london2012. The closing date is June 2011.

With the 500 Days To Go milestone now passed, there's no doubt that London 2012 is getting so close that it's no longer a dream in the distance, it's becoming incredibly real.

Nathan Stephens, who lost both legs after he was run over by a train when he was nine-years-old, won gold in the javelin event at the Christchurch 2011 IPC World Athletics Championships in January. The 22-year-old Welshman is also a BT ambassador. BT is searching for members of the public to become the Storytellers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. To apply visit www.bt.com/london2012

Jody Cundy: It is looking good for London 2012 for me and my teammates

Jody_Cundy_with_gold_medal_at_World_Para-Cycling_Championships_March_2011Wow, what can I say about the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships in Montichiari in Italy earlier this month?

There were three days of competition and for me; three medals, two world records and one national record.

Going into Italy, the main concerns I had were: Could I pull out the pursuit ride my training has been geared to? Could all the pursuit and endurance training I've done effect my top end speed? And would three events back to back be a step too far?

Well question one was answered on day one and it was a big yes!

Preparing for the worlds, my coach Chris Furber and I targeted a time of 4min 45sec in my first race as a realistic target.

If I could do this, then based on previous results this would put me in the top 5 or 6 riders in the world and score a healthy amount of points for the London qualification process. However it would be a massive challenge as my best time prior to the world championships was a 5:03.286. Things had been going well in training, and I was on target, I just had to get up there and put all the components together.

With Chris walking the line I tried to keep my first kilometre measured and controlled as I'd been finding it easy to get carried away, especially when your legs feel good. More importantly though this had been my big downfall in training and had led to some rather slow and incredibly painful efforts.

By the time I reached 3km I was feeling strong and still in control of my speed, and I now had my opponent all set for the catch. I swept by him in turn three and then pushed on through to the end, with my legs beginning to really burn with a lap to go, but hearing the bell I just had enough to get me to the finish line.

As I looked up to the score board I was amazed to see I'd rode a 4:44.085 (an almost 20 second personal best time) and had a rank one next to my name. With just one heat to go it meant I'd definitely be doing a second 4 kilometres in the finals but I would have to wait 5mins to find out what medal I'd be racing for.

In the final heat world champion and world record holder Jiří Ježek posted the fastest time of 4:41.895 and with his opponent falling short of my time it meant I was a guaranteed silver medallist and I would be racing Jiří in the final.

Before the final I talked with Chris and discussed how we were going to attack it as now I had made the final my competitive nature had taken over and I wanted to give Jiří a good fight and make him work for the title.

My qualifying ride was a controlled measured effort, and I believed I could squeeze out a little more and put some pressure on Jiří. So we decided on riding to the world record schedule, and see what would happen.

This was all well and good but by the time I was at lap three, I was a long way up on schedule, a very dangerous place to be in a pursuit especially as this schedule was four seconds faster than I rode in the morning. By lap six my over exuberance started to take its toll as I struggled to maintain the rhythm and speed I'd started with.

Kilo's two and three were pretty steady before I managed to find my legs again, but by then my race was over, Jiří had me in sight. I managed to make it to the 4 kilometre mark without being overlapped. But Jiří was world champion and I now had a new pet project to add to my list for London.

With the pursuit over and all my goals reached and exceeded; it was time to get back to events I know and love and to answer question two. The kilo was going to be an interesting race, with 25 riders down on the start list and team mate Terry Byrne snapping at my heels in training the pressure was on. Terry was off second rider and was out to post the marker everyone would be aiming at, and he did just that blasting out the gate to a two second personal best and a time that only I had gone quicker than.

I was last to go and with Terry's time still top of the table with Jiří Bouska second and Eduard Novak third, it was time to see how much my legs had recovered from the previous days efforts.

Jody_Cundy_riding_at_World_Championships_March_2011
Out of the gate and I wanted to get the bike up to speed as fast as possible, first lap complete and I was 0.971 seconds up, my legs were feeling good as I settled into my tri bars and continued to accelerate through the middle section of the ride as I crossed the line I was a full 2.55 seconds clear of Terry and 0.3 seconds inside my world record winning time from Manchester 2009. Question two was answered, I'd not lost any of my speed, and as a bonus from all the endurance training the last two laps didn't hurt as much as in previous kilos. I think that's the first time I've actually been able to enjoy my victory laps.

The last day of competition was the team sprint and I was teaming up with Darren Kenny, who had already successfully defended his 3 kilometre Pursuit and Kilo titles in the previous two days, and Terry Byrne who would be riding man two after his silver medal in the kilo the night before. This was a new line up compared to past events, as the rules and classification classes had changed since the last world championships, as our existing team was no longer a legal line up.

With 15 teams riding the competition had become stronger, and in ride 10 the Chinese team set a new world record time of 51.655, taking 0.5 seconds off the existing mark. However this didn't faze us as we knew that in training we'd been quicker than this new standard. Lined up on the track it was important that we executed the starts and changes over smoothly and legally, as fast as possible, and we did just that, blazing around to a 49.809 to take the top qualification spot and smash the world record in the process.

In the final, after looking at the race data from the heats we made some different gear choices and felt confident we could go faster. As we blasted round the track our confidence was well founded as we smashed the world record again, taking it down to 49.540 with the feedback from the morning making a big difference in the final, the Chinese finished in 51.771.

With the final race complete and under my belt it was clear all my questions at the start of the week had been answered, I could pull out a world class pursuit, I hadn't lost any of my top end speed, and to top it off I was still riding fast on the last day of competition, setting the fastest third lap I'd ever done in the heats of the team sprint, with a 14.198.

Montichiari was a fabulous experience and one of those weekends of racing that as an athlete you love, because all the hard work has paid off and everything has come together.

As a team we topped the medal table with nine golds, eight silvers and one bronze. It's starting to look good for London.

All that's left to do now is sit down with Chris and analyse the performances and work out how to get even quicker for London. I have a few days off, and then I'll be back on my bike preparing for a summer of endurance that will hopefully set me up for next year.

Jody Cundy was born with a deformed foot which was amputated when he was three-years-old. He represented Britain three times in swimming at the Paralympic Games from 1996 to 2004, winning three gold and two bronze medals. He then then switched to cycling in 2006 before winning gold at Beijing 2008 to become one of only a handful of athletes that have become Paralympic champions in two different sports

Pictures courtesy of Kelkel

Andrew Parsons: 2,000 days to Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and we are ready to take advantage

andrew_parsonsAt the 2006 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Athletics Championships in Assen in the Netherlands, Brazil finished 17th in the medals table.

Yet in the athletics competition in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, we were tenth.

We are growing and it is not by chance.

As has happened with the country itself in the international markets, Brazilian Paralympics has grown strong because of serious planning and administration.

The third place on the medal table that Brazilian Paralympic athletes achieved at the 2011 (IPC) World Athletics Championships in Christchurch really does show the emerging strength of the Brazil in the key sport of track and field.

Over two thirds of the delegation in New Zealand in January finished among the top three in their disciplines which is simply a result of the professional work that the Brazilian Paralympic Committee (BPC) and its coaches are doing as we move towards London 2012 and perhaps more importantly for us, Rio 2016.

In Christchurch, we fought hard for the third place in the medals table with Great Britain.

Great Britain are obviously the hosts of the next Games and are putting a lot of investment and work into their team's build up for the event so to finish ahead of them in Christchurch means that Brazil really is strong at the moment and can justifiably hope for good results in London.

But as hosts of the Rio 2016 Paralympics, which takes place 2,000 days from now, Brazil needs to learn how to transform the opportunity the Games provides into investment for our athletes development and performance.

We still have some fields and sports that are uncovered.

We are still trying to get the entire budget we need to have the best preparation for London.

With the budget we have today, we can certainly build well, but it is not the ideal one to achieve excellence.

And we want excellence.

Our goal in London is to improve from Beijing 2008 to at least ninth place in the medal table.

At the end of 2009, we put together a big strategic plan with all responsible sports federations.

To reach our goal, I know we will need to perform at our very best because the competition is so strong.

For example, at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics, we finished just behind Russia and Canada in the medal table and we know it will be extremely hard to overtake them at London 2012 because they are both investing so much into Paralympic sport.

However, the results we obtained in 2010, and now 2011, show though we are heading on the right path.

Each medal, each record broken, each personal best makes us believe that we can fulfil our plan.

Andrew Parsons is President of the Brazilian Paralympic Committee and an International Paralympic Committee Governing Board member.

Lauren Woolstencroft: Happy memories from Vancouver 2010

Lauren_Woolstencroft_head_and_shouldersToday marks the one-year anniversary of the start of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games and I think I can speak for most people when I say that the Games exceeded everyone's expectations!

As an athlete who had competed in two Games already, it was amazing to see the support, attention, and media fanfare of a sport that usually receives no attention at all.

Canadians and fans from everywhere around the world really embraced these Games differently - the headlines were about the sport, less so about the disability which was really rewarding for us as athletes.

As Paralympians, we are really proud of the adversity that we've had to overcome but at the end of the day we are athletes who want to be the best in the world in our sport and the success of the Vancouver 2010 Games meant that the message is starting to get through.

Personally, my favourite experience from the Games was sharing my medals with my family and friends who were at the finish line to support me.

It meant a lot to me to show this success to my parents who first pushed me down the hill just because we loved the sport.

They believed in me from day one.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their amazing support of Paralympic sport so far and want to encourage everyone to keep that 2010 spirit alive and to keep following and cheering us on!

We have had some incredible results this past winter again on the World Stage and many athletes standing on the podium for Canada – they need our continued support to keep reaching for the top as they continue to work towards London 2012 and Sochi 2014.

Lauren Woolstencroft is former Paralympic alpine skier who made history at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics by becoming the first Canadian Winter Paralympian to win five gold medals at a single Games. The 29-year-old from Alberta, who was born missing her left arm below the elbow as well as both legs below the knees, retired last June and has since picked up numerous awards including Sport British Columbia's Best of BC Award and Best Female at the first-ever Canadian Paralympic Committee Awards Ceremony

Sir Philip Craven: Make a complaint so no-one hears this man’s polluted views again

You may have seen the story this week about the New Zealand broadcaster which has made headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons.
 
The story revolves around a "broadcaster" called Michael Laws who on his radio last Friday labeled Paralympic Sport "ludicrous" and claimed it was "crazy" that Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games gold medalist Adam Hall was shortlisted for a prestigious sports award just because he fell in his final run. He also came out with some other derogatory comments which I don’t wish to repeat.
 
To say I’m utterly disgusted by the whole affair is an understatement. I am stunned and staggered that people with views like Michael Laws still exist on this planet and even more surprised that there are still broadcasters out there who employ people like him.
 
Talkshow DJ’s aim to provoke and spark debate but what Michael Laws said is insulting to all Paralympic athletes around the world who put in hours of training every day of the week to compete at the highest level.
 
I have been pretty vocal with my views on the story but two things really are nagging me about the whole thing.
 
First, Laws claims that because Adam Hall fell during his second run in Vancouver, yet still managed to win gold, it shows that there is no competition in Paralympic Sport. Well that is utter nonsense.
 
I was there in Vancouver and saw the race. Adam Hall won gold for two reasons - a sensational opening run that put him well ahead of the field and an astonishing recovery during his second run when he fell that ensured he didn’t lose too much time.
 
Such a comeback would be considered by most people as heroic and it is, but not in the eyes of Laws. 
 
It’s a shame then that he didn’t tune into the 1994 Winter Olympics to see Alberto Tomba, one of the greatest Olympic skiers of all time, in action. The Italian had a terrible first run in the men’s slalom and was 1.84sec behind the leader. In his second run however, he put in a mesmerising performance to move up the leader board and take silver.
 
No-one, including Laws, claimed this was due to lack of competition, just the skill of an elite athlete at the top of his game and the same can be said about Adam Hall.

The second thing bothering me is RadioWorks, the station which employs Michael Laws.
 
When the story broke, the station claimed they were taking no action as they had not received any complaints.
 
Why on earth should it take complaints from listeners for them to realise that what their employee said was an absolute disgrace and wrong on so many levels?
 
This is why I have sent a letter to the station asking for them to remove Laws from their airwaves. No-one should have to listen to that man’s polluted views again and I have encouraged listeners and advertisers in New Zealand to boycott the station until he is rightly removed.
 
As ever the Paralympic Community has been full of support with many people sharing their disgust at Laws on the IPC’s official Facebook and Twitter pages - Facebook.com/paralympicsporttv and twitter.com/Paralympic.
 
I would urge people to do the same, but also to write to Radio Works to complain about Michael Laws. This man needs removing immediately and the more complaints they receive the more likely this is to happen. To complain simply visit the "Make a Complaint" section of www.mediaworks.co.nz. For reference the show was broadcast on 11 February 2011 between 9am and 12pm and hopefully soon it won’t be broadcast again.
 
Fingers crossed this sorry episode will come to an end soon. If RadioWorks are still unsure of what to do I’m sure BBC Radio Two and more recently Sky Sports have some good cases for them to study.

Sir Philip Craven is the President of the International Paralympic Committee
 
 
 

Peter Eriksson: We don't have time to put up our feet and celebrate

Peter_ErikssonWe have just arrived back in the UK after a long journey home from New Zealand which has given me plenty of time to reflect on the last four weeks and in particular the last nine days of competition. And whilst there's no chance that I'll be getting carried away or putting my feet up ahead of the 2012 Paralympics, I am delighted with what the team have achieved in these World Championships.

When I took over as Paralympic Head Coach at UKA, I inherited a team that had underperformed in Beijing finishing 18th in the medal table. There was little team unity and support services were of inconsistent quality and there was not enough accountability among coaches or athletes.

So what has changed in two years to see the team come third in the medal table behind only China and Russia with a staggering 38 medals, 12 of which are gold?

Like our Olympic colleagues there was a cultural challenge ahead of us, and the four pillared approach that supports the Olympic programme is mirrored in the Paralympic programme. Those pillars are; excellence - in facilities, coaching and support teams; a coach not management driven approach; coach education and accountability.

There were difficult decisions to be made about athletes, staff and coaches. Some athletes were removed from funding, those who remained were given very clear targets with the consequences of not realising those targets spelt out plainly. Coaches too were challenged as we moved towards a more world class environment that accepted no compromises.

Reversing the fortunes of our Paralympic team was always going to be a long term project. Before these World Championships in New Zealand I would have said that a large proportion of the athletes on our programme had a greater potential to medal in Rio in 2016. The performances I've seen this last week or so have made me revise that prediction.

Some of our younger athletes, spurred on by the ultimate prize in 2012, have stepped up and shown they can mix it with the best athletes in the world and win medals. We can continue to support these superb athletes thanks to a blend of lottery funding and commercial income that UKA attracts through Aviva and other partners. Our thanks must go to the lottery playing public and our sponsors for their investment in our vision.

Despite everything there is one major challenge we have ahead of London 2012 and that is to get the public more engaged in Paralympic sport. We, as athletics, are relatively lucky, in New Zealand we had BBC and Channel 4 crews with us and this very website sent a dedicated correspondent to cover the entire competition.

Performances such as those from David Weir, Nathan Stephens and Hannah Cockcroft garnered national newspaper coverage but if we want to see the whole nation united behind the Paralympic team next year, we need to all do more; the sports, the funding agencies, 2012 and the media. Of course success helps, but sports need to do more to help the public understand the athletes and what it takes to get to the start line and we need the support of media outlets to do that.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the athletes get a break now, a chance to put their feet up and celebrate a record medal haul, but that is not what our opposition will be doing. Instead it is back into training to ensure we make every single one of the next 574 days count. We need to be better than we were in 2011 if we are to restore pride in British Paralympic athletics.

Peter Eriksson is UK Athletics Head Coach for the Paralympics and former coach to Chantal Petitclerc of Canada, the most successful Paralympic track and field athlete in history. In total, his athletes have won 119 medals in Paralympic Games. Now based in the UK, he coaches two of Britain's up and coming wheelchair racers, Hannah Cockroft and Josie Pearson,

Danny Crates: The marathon could be tough given my hate-hate relationship with distance running

Danny_Crates_head_and_shouldersAs an international athlete for 12 years, it may come as some surprise to hear that the longest run I have ever done is nine miles.

And believe me that it has been an unpleasant experience for me on my Sunday recovery runs.

Recovery, I think not!

It can safely be said that me and long distance running is a real hate-hate relationship.

So with that in mind, what better way to spend Sunday April 17, 2011, than running the Virgin London Marathon?

I figured that being a runner, the marathon is a must-do, tick-off-the-list event.

All that said, I am really looking forward to the challenge, and most importantly the experience. I will be running for SportsAid, a fantastic charity, helping the next generation of sports men and women.

So, how is the training going?

Well I was getting back into the running by November 2010, as well as still playing a bit of rugby. Nothing great, just some steady running.

Unfortunately I then suffered the first bad cold of the season, so I was out for two weeks.

I was just getting back again when one of my delightful children decided to share another cold with me – two more weeks out. Add to that a lot of snow. Not the best start to my Marathon campaign.

So where am I now?

Well, back running again, I have enlisted the help of a coach who was involved with the Paralympic endurance squad. When he stopped laughing, he set about giving me some great advice.

I am now up to 11 miles on my weekend run, so have beaten my all-time longest distance, and plan to increase this week-on-week.

I hope to complete a half marathon about four weeks prior to the London marathon.

So please help me drag my sorry backside around the course by sponsoring me at Virgin Money Giving.

A few well-chosen words to help me chuckle my way around would not go a miss either!

Danny Crates is one of Britain's most recognisable Paralympians having won gold in the 800 metres T46 final at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, an event in which he holds the world record. Crates also won a Paralympic bronze medal in the 400m T46 final at the Sydney 2000 Games. In 2008, Crates received the honour of carrying the British flag at the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Paralympics. He retired as an athlete at the 2009 London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace and now works as a television presenter

Tom Degun: World Championships truly first class, but no excuse for shambolic marathon incident

Tom_Degun_in_Christchurch_Jan_31Before labelling me a hater, let me make one thing clear - I thought the Christchurch 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships were phenomenal.

So, they were in January and in New Zealand with just over a year to go before the London 2012 Paralympics. That didn't seem to bother anyone here and it didn't decrease the quality of the action at the magnificent QE II Stadium where nearly 50 world records fell.

Great Opening and Closing Ceremonies, beautiful place, beautiful venue, decent crowds - when the sun came out - and Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius of South Africa quite rightly making headlines because of his captivating duel with the USA's Jerome Singleton.

Superb.

However, no serious judgement of these Championships can be made without referencing the absolute shambles that occurred during yesterday morning's marathon event.

It was a great decision to have the marathon on the last day of the competition.

On what was a sunny and clear Sunday morning, the blue-ribbon event of these Games had the opportunity to show off Christchurch in all its splendour and with Britain's Dave Weir, who won three World Championship golds here, set to take on huge rival Kurt Fearnley of Australia in the T54 race, the scene was set for an epic clash.

Throw 2010 London Marathon winner Josh Cassidy of Canada and world record holder Ernst van Dyk of South Africa into the equation and you couldn't have asked for more.

Well actually...maybe you could.

Maybe you could have politely requested that the roads were closed so that the world's top Paralympic stars didn't have to worry about getting hit by a car while they were competing for one of the greatest prizes in the sport.

I first suspected something was wrong when rumours of an urgent meeting between senior officials here was called regarding the marathon late on day eight of the competition, the evening before the race took place.

What was said, one can only hazard a guess - but it was just hours later that an IPC technical delegate informed all National Paralympic Committees that there were no road closures as had been previously promised.

So baffling was the move that the British athletes still headed down to the warm-up track near the start line before it was confirmed that this was in fact not a joke.

The Canadians even took their spots on the start line before they were quite rightly pulled out by a team manager who didn't particularly want to see his top stars crushed by a lorry.

T54_event

Suddenly, you had a men's marathon T54 event (pictured) without Weir - who later described the event as "ludicrous" - and Cassidy and the rest of the athletes left completely perplexed.

One of the strangest conversations I had in my time here was with Ernst van Dyk shortly after he completed the marathon and just missed out on the medals.

"At one point, I went for an overtake but there was a car coming the other way so I had to pull back in!

"I came all the way from South Africa for this one event so I wasn't going to pull out but, I mean, come on, this is the World Championships.

"When you are going at top speed, it isn't all that easy to stop when a car pulls out in front of you at a junction."

Unsurprisingly, France's Denis Lemeunier crashed but fortunately received only minor injuries.

With traffic fully in play around the course, it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

My big issue is how hard is it to close a few roads on a sleepy Sunday morning in Christchurch?

The place is hardly ever busy anyway and I'm sure that shutting a couple of roads here doesn't involve quite the same logistics as closing London's Piccadilly Circus.

In fact you could have probably done it with a couple of cones and I found it perplexing when I heard that some of the Australian team had gone out to help stop traffic so the racers could continue the course.

Equally strange was the course itself.

It was an irritatingly boring three-lap route of the outskirts of the city and, for no apparent reason, the finish line was in the middle of a hidden away residential area that appeared to have the locals surprised.

Why not have it start and finish at the QE II Stadium approximately two minutes away or, better still, in the picturesque and easily accessible Cathedral Square where the triumphant Opening Ceremony was staged?

If the genius who decided to have the Opening Ceremony in the city centre deserves huge praise, the clown heading up decisions of the marathon has fully merited criticism.

The guy I felt most sorry for was Kurt Fearnley.

The triple Paralympic champion had just claimed one of the biggest titles of his career in a sprint finish but without a knowledgeable official in sight, it was he who was bombarded with questions about what he thought of the pull-outs and the course safety.

Fearnley, who came especially for the marathon race having recently got married, diplomatically said it was a huge blow for him to see Weir and Cassidy pull out and the fact made it "a tough race" for him to line up for.

He is a top competitor who wants to race the best and he was in such good marathon form that he would have probably still have won against a full field and proper course without traffic littered across it.

It is just unfair that his moment was tarnished - how annoying it is that such a wonderful event has been marred by something so preventable.

An investigation has been launched by the IPC and I guess that if things are learnt so that this ridiculous and dangerous incident doesn't occur again then at least some good would have come from it.

When the dust settles, I am confident that this won't continue to cloud the brilliant work that went on before it, but as the Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams duet goes: "Oh what a shame."

Tom Degun is a reporter for insideworldparasport and is currently in Christchurch covering the IPC Athletics World Championships

Liam Harbison: Paralympics Ireland rebrand better reflects our dynamism, ambition and success

Liam_Harbison_Jan_28To be a Paralympian requires huge sacrifice, commitment, desire, ambition, and above all sporting excellence.

Paralympics Ireland, and all it represents, strives to match the excellence and abilities of Ireland's Paralympians.

The rebranding aims to modernise Paralympics Ireland for the next 50 years of Paralympic Sport in Ireland.

We are extremely proud of the tradition of achievement from Irish Paralympians.

As one of only 13 nations to compete in the first Paralympic Games in 1960 in Rome our great nation has competed in every Summer Paralympic Games since.

Now that the Movement has past its 50th birthday last year, we have to look forward.

The success of Ireland's Paralympic athletes hasn't come about by chance, but by planned progression in support services to athletes by governing bodies of sport, and increasingly by the Paralympic Council of Ireland since its remit changed from coordination to performance in 2002.

Some huge changes have taken place in the intervening years:

* We have regular multi-sport and sport specific training camps throughout the Games cycle.

* Detailed performance planning in a range of sports on an annual basis coordinated by Paralympics Ireland Performance staff.

* Increased numbers of personnel across Paralympic sports, including a staff of seven in Paralympics Ireland itself.

* An extensive system of sports science and medical service provision, provided by some of the finest sports science and medical professionals operating in Ireland.

* Team manager and coach support programmes

* Major increases in funding from Government and corporate partners

High performance sport costs. If we want Ireland's Paralympians to stand on the podium in London, Rio and beyond, we must invest in it. The immense assistance from the Irish Sports Council to date has assisted us hugely in bringing our sport to where it is today.

In an age of austerity, our levels of funding have remained constant, a recognition by the state in the prowess of Ireland's Paralympians.

However, as we move into the next chapter of the Irish Paralympic story our ambitions require further growth in support to sustain our long term success.

The response to our efforts to recruit a whole range of new partners into the Irish Paralympic family has been phenomenal.

To be in a position where 10 organisations invest in Paralympics Ireland in the height of a recession is a great leap of faith by our partners.

However, we aim to provide a substantial return on that investment with the performances of Irish athletes at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

As with all NPCs worldwide, here in Ireland we place great value in the Irish Paralympic family. It has been our pleasure to welcome so many new corporate partners into our family in the last 12 months.

Liam_Harbison

However, our new partners have brought more than just finance or product to our organisation - they've brought huge knowledge which they were more than willing to share with us.

As we move to develop the business side of Paralympics Ireland to sustain the growth of Irish Paralympic sport that knowledge has been invaluable.

One of the key reasons for the change to Paralympics Ireland and the launch of a new organisation logo have come from an extensive consultation with our partners, members and board.

They have told us that they love what we do, they love what we're about and what and who we represent. They have also told us however, that we needed a cleaner, fresher look, that's more reflective of the dynamism, ambition and success of Paralympic sport.

Additionally, the athletes debated the new logo concept at the Renault Ireland Team 2012 Camp in November from which they clearly stated their wish to wear the iconic Irish symbol of the "shamrock" on their chest in Paralympic competition.

Paralympics Ireland conducted an extensive awareness audit in mid-2010 which revealed a poor reach into the Irish psyche.

With our new look and name, backed by an extensive marketing strategy supported by our partners, we strive to ensure that the achievements of Ireland's Paralympic athletes will resonate with the nation of Ireland at London 2012 and beyond.

To complement the new name and look of Paralympic Sport in Ireland, we wanted to encompass the power, spirit and determination of Ireland's Paralympians in a short but extremely evocative tagline.

We felt the means to achieve this was by reflecting the emotional response one gives on viewing video footage of Paralympic athletes competing for Ireland on the world stage.

Irish Paralympic athletes continue to inspire us by their feats of performance excellence year after year and Games after Games.

There are no barriers to the level of achievement they aspire to.

We feel they are, and will continue to be, INSPIRING BEYOND BELIEF.

Finally, I referenced our great nation earlier. Despite the knocking our national reputation has taken in the international arena of late due to poor economic policies and banking system faults, our nation will bounce back.

We firmly believe in the power of sport to lead that fightback. Irish Paralympians are so proud to wear the green jersey of Ireland and will continue to do so in the coming years.

Paralympics Ireland and Ireland's Paralympians will inspire our nation beyond belief and will play a considerable part in making our nation great once again.

The London opportunity is huge - we intend to grasp it.

Liam Harbison is chief executive officer of the Paralympics Ireland

Tom Degun: Rain, earthquakes and a chance meeting with the New Zealand Prime Minister

Tom_Degun_in_ChristchurchI have been in New Zealand for less than a week but my stay in Christchurch has been nothing if not eventful.

Perhaps the incident that best sums up such a fact is the earthquakes I survived just three days ago.

The first measured a substantial 5.1 which, while not devastating, "can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings."

It was 6.03am local time when the occurrence interrupted my hard-earned sleep and for the first few seconds, I thought I was just having a very bizarre dream.

However, I quickly realised that this was far from the case when the rumbling knocked me onto the hotel floor. My laptop, carefully positioned on a nearby table, as well as other items I had set around the room, also began falling to the floor in a highly unsettling half-a-minute.

I can only accurately describe the earth, literally shaking, as highly unsettling and my mind flashed through the limited earthquake advice I may or may have not come across in my relatively short 23-years.

Hide under the bed; find a high place to take refuge, run outside.

Before I could select one of the rather unappealing options, the shaking stopped as quickly as it had begun.

Later that morning, I encountered two more earthquakes measuring 3.4 and 4.0 but they felt like next to nothing compared to my first, daunting experience.

Anyway, after shaking off my self-pity, I carried on with the serious business of covering the 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships with my next stop being the Opening Ceremony.

Rather than taking place at the 20,000 capacity QE II Stadium, where the athletics is taking place, a bright spark in the Organising Committee decided that the Opening Ceremony take place in the beautiful Cathedral Square; the heart of Christchurch.

The setting allowed the public, innocently roaming the city, to view proceeding close up at no cost and also feel like an integral a part of the charming spectacle.

Maori dances, including the famous Haka, were the key theme in the distinctively Kiwi event which saw all the competing nations march into Cathedral Square to a rapturous reception.

From the stage, VIP speeches came from Paralympics New Zealand chief executive Fiona Pickering, IPC vice president Greg Hartung and none other than the New Zealand Prime Minister himself John Key.

Following the enjoyable event, I headed towards a local plush hotel, laptop in hand, to write up my report on the event when I suddenly came across the same group of VIP's that had spoken to the assembled crowds moments before.

In the centre was the New Zealand Prime Minister and despite a number of security guards surrounding him, he appeared bizarrely accessible.

Not wanting to cause too much trouble, I asked one the security guards if a picture with the Prime Minister would be a possibility.

"Just go and ask him mate," was the surprising response I got.

Acting on the advice, I tapped the Prime Minister on the shoulder and asked him just that.

"Yeah no worries mate," he said. "Where do you want stand?"

As the flash went off, a grin spread across my face as I wondered how different this procedure might be from getting a picture taken with the likes of Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron or America's President Barack Obama.

Tom_Degun_with_New_Zealand_PM_Christchurch_21_2011Unlike those two, John Key appeared to be someone you could simply just go out for a beer with!

He said he hoped I enjoyed the Championships, which got underway the very next morning.

Unfortunately, the rain pelted down for the majority of day one and I have no doubt it played a role in keeping the crowds at a disappointingly low level.

Sporting events, particularly athletics, are so much more enjoyable to sit and watch when the sun is beaming down on the action.

In rare moments, this did happen and the QE II shone in all its glory.

However, these instances were few and far between and all involved will be praying for the recent heat wave in the area to quickly return.

It isn't something one often things about but the weather can actually be a crucial factor in how well major sporting events are perceived.

Looking ahead to London 2012, just think how much better the grand old city will look in the pictures beamed around the world baked in sun and under clear blue skies rather than in dark, damp and grey conditions.

As far as the action on the track goes, first class.

Seven world records fell and it was fascinating to watch the likes of Britain's David Weir and Switzerland's Marcel Hug going at it.

The speed at which they go around the track is breath-taking and watching athletes of their calibre compete on the track is the greatest advert Paralympic sport has.

If you get a chance to watch Paralympic sport in person, do it; you won't regret it.

My prediction for the rest of the Championships? More first class action and sheer hope that the bloody sun comes back.

Still I can't complain too much.

Rain, earthquakes and a chance meeting with the New Zealand Prime Minister.

It has been an interesting baptism of fire in New Zealand.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insideworldparasport and is currently in Christchurch covering the IPC Athletics World Championships

Gerd Schönfelder: Paralympic athletes are now celebrated as sports stars

Gerd_SchnfelderBecoming the first German to be honoured with the Juan Antonio Samaranch IOC Disabled Athlete Award was a wonderful surprise.

I am delighted and, if I'm honest, really proud of what I have achieved over the years. But even more than that, I am thrilled to be part of the momentum the Paralympic Movement has been gathering in Germany recently.

When I look back at my six Paralympic Winter Games, I realise things have changed tremendously.

While Albertville 1992 was like a family event with little media coverage, Vancouver 2010 was a highly professional sports celebration that attracted enormous media attention.

Paralympic sport has continually developed, professionalised and earned real prominence in the sports world. The change is easily recognisable when it comes to the growth in sponsorship programmes and the promotion of Paralympic sport in Germany.

Nowadays, there is a top-team sponsorship programme, professional coaches, world-class facilities – the list goes on.

Generally, I would say that Paralympic sport enjoys much higher media and public attention than ever before and Paralympic athletes are celebrated as sports stars.

Most significantly, the Paralympic Games today is an independent event of genuine importance for host cities. Part of the reason is that it offers huge potential for promoting a positive image of a region and an entire country.

But the crucial factor is the chance the Paralympic Games represents for integration and the creation of equal opportunities for people with a disability.

Media coverage of Paralympic sport has increased exponentially. In days gone by, only specialist programmes broadcasted news about it.

Now, it is part of the high-profile sports programmes on TV. That generates greater publicity and enthusiasm for the Paralympic Movement and the incredible performances of its athletes.

By showing the heights people with a disability are able to reach, Paralympic athletes contribute to raising awareness for issues like barrier-freedom, sport for all and the importance of an integrated society.

Gerd_Schnfelder_Jan_20_2
In times of demographic change it is highly important to familiarise people with these issues.

Anyone could be affected by them at any time and, after all, everyone is going to be old one day!

Experiencing the Paralympic Games first hand, you get a real buzz from the enthusiasm and sense of unity and in the end it makes you rethink your attitudes towards the more vulnerable people in society.

Thanks to sports events like the Paralympic Games, the Paralympic Movement can effect real and lasting positive social change.

The changing status of Paralympic sport becomes obvious when listening to feedback from volunteers who have worked at the Paralympic Games - their judgment is incredibly positive.

The perception is that the Paralympic Games do so much to further ideals like friendship, fair play and passion for sport.

The Paralympic Movement in Germany has risen to such prominence in recent years that a Paralympic Winter Games would have an invigorating effect worldwide.

The enthusiasm for Paralympic sport and its athletes is unique here in Germany.

I would love to experience a true Olympic atmosphere in my home country.

That's why I support the Munich bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games 2018.

Gerd Schönfelder is one of the greatest Winter Paralympians of all time with 22 Paralympic Winter Games medals, 12 World Championships and eight World Cups to his name. He is also a sports ambassador for Munich 2018 and the first German ever to receive the Juan Antonio Samaranch IOC Disabled Athlete Award.

Tom Degun: Despite its undeniable beauty, why host an IPC World Championships in New Zealand...in January?

Tom_Degun_in_Christchurch_Jan_19I can't deny that New Zealand is a truly beautiful place.

I'm still undecided if the spectacular views the country offers are quite worth the 26-hour flight and three plane changes it took me to get here from London Heathrow Airport.

But the rolling green hills, which I am certain featured heavily in the stunning Lord of the Rings trilogy not too long ago, are a welcome sight for sorry (or jet-lagged) eyes.

Aside from the sightseeing, I am actually here for the serious business of the 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships.

The competition, from January 21-30, is the last major gathering of international athletes before the London 2012 Paralympic Games, with nearly 1,100 from 70 countries set to compete in Christchurch.

With that in mind, I, like many others, had two rather important questions.

Despite its undeniably picturesque setting, why New Zealand and why January?

After all, the London 2012 Paralympics begins on August 29, 2012 and for practically all the top athletes here, that event is very much the pinnacle.

This year is little more than a preparation for 2012 so why would it not make sense to have the event in August and in Europe to help them build towards the Paralympics?

Christchurch saw off strong bids from Barcelona in Spain and Minneapolis in the United States to host the competition back in 2007 at an IPC General Assembly in Seoul in Korea.

It will be the first time the event has been staged outside Europe - which is no bad thing - but for my money, Barcelona hosting the Championships in August would have provided far better preparation for London 2012 in terms of timing and venue.

Xavier_Gonzalez

Upon my arrival, I knew that such questions needed to be asked and I decided that few are better positioned to provide answers than IPC chief executive Xavier Gonzalez (pictured).

"We chose New Zealand on their merits," Gonzalez told me as we sat in the vicinity of the impressive QE II stadium, which will host the World Championships, having originally been built for the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

"It was a very thorough process and we took into consideration the fact that the event would take place in January which is obviously summer in New Zealand.

"We factored that in along with all the other elements and, in the end, the Paralympics New Zealand bid was the strongest of the three we had.

"Having been here on several occasions in the build-up to the event and being here now, I am certain that this is going to be a fantastic Championships.

"I understand that there are certain issues with the early time of the season that this event is taking place, but if you are from the Southern Hemisphere you would look at that situation differently and perhaps prefer it to be taking place in January.

"At the end of the day though, all the athletes are competing at the same time and they have no advantage over each other. The World Championships are about who is the best on the day and everybody has the same chance.

"With New Zealand, it is important for us to take Paralympic sport - particularly the World Championships - to new places. Athletics is our biggest sport and the IPC World Athletics Championships has always been held in Europe, so it was important to take it outside of Europe. We are confident that New Zealand will do a fantastic job."

A fair point, and this coupled with the fact that event manager Neil Blanchield informed me that the Christchurch economy will make around $12 million (£6 million) from hosting the event.

The competition will also leave a permanent legacy of a brand new, 400-metre, eight-lane warm-up track just outside the main stadium.

But this aside, there is perhaps another equally important reason that New Zealand should host the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships and that is to help advance Paralympic sport in the country.

New Zealand can sometimes be overlooked by the majority of the rest of the world as it lies in the vast shadow of Australia but nobody in these parts forgets the significant impact the Sydney 2000 Paralympics had on increasing awareness of disability sport in Australia.

New Zealand simply want their piece of the pie and they do deserve that.

"Hosting the IPC Athletics World Championships provides an opportunity to shift the attitudes and perceptions towards disabled people," Fiona Pickering, the chief executive of Paralympics New Zealand and chair of the Organising Committee for Christchurch 2011, informed me.

"This event will help get Paralympic sport in this country right up to the same level as Olympic sport and show New Zealanders the level at which all these high performance athletes compete."

So in my brief stay so far, I have established that Christchurch is a beautiful city with great facilities in place for hosting an IPC Athletics World Championships and seemingly as good a reason as anyone to be doing so.

We will only know for certain how great a decision it was by the IPC to take the event to Christchurch after the competition has officially wrapped up on January.

But as things are shaping up, it appears to me to be an increasingly good one.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insideworldparasport and is currently in Christchurch covering the IPC Athletics World Championships