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Dame Sarah Storey says merging disability with non-disability World Championships would increase spectator numbers and grassroots participation

Dame Sarah Storey has called for World Championships to merge with para-cycling World Championships in a bid to boost spectator numbers and encourage greater participation in disability sports at grassroots level.

Britain’s most decorated female Paralympian said the changes would allow spectators to watch both disability and non-disability events in a single day, rather than few people seeing para events, as she says is currently the case.

Although there are 242,500 more people participating in disability sport now than in 2005, Sport England reports numbers fell by 19,800 in the last 12 months, with a disabled person now half as likely to play sport as a non-disabled person.

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Storey says increasing the profile of para events could help buck this trend. “The inspiration to increase participation at grassroots comes from the people competing at the top of the sport,” she told the Evening Standard.

“You see it with Wimbledon and television — everyone has tennis rackets for the first half of July. We want para-sport to get more coverage so people with impairments can identify with sporting stars more frequently, not just during the Paralympics every four years.”

“The more household names you can get in the para-sport disciplines, the more people can see someone who is similar to them and say, well if they can do it, maybe I can do something similar, even if it’s not on that level.”

Storey, who won her 12th, 13th and 14th Paralympic Gold medals in Rio in September, is calling on the UCI to follow the lead of rowing and triathlon, in which disabled and non-disabled world championships are integrated.

“I would like to see it happen in as many sports as possible. I want us to get to a point in the future where a world championship can just be about sport and we won’t have to talk about para-sport, or disabled sport and keep them separate,” she said.

According to Sport England, just 17.2 per cent of those over 16 with a long-term limiting illness or disability play sport once a week. The organisation is investing £170m in encouraging more disabled people to get into sport. 

3 comments

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FatBoyW [248 posts] 1 year ago
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Sounds like a great idea to me - where practicable it would be good to see the approach Triathlon takes and roll in the age group championships into the celebration of thw worlds for a sport as well...

All good for adding the para-sport, might be complicated for some disciplines of cycling to add age group - the track time for Masters for instance might be tricky.  But such things as the road races and time trials - why not? Wouldn't it be great to see the same course being used for multiple events - much more interesting for the spectator to see a number of races in a day instead of 1.

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Grizzerly [369 posts] 1 year ago
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Whilst it is great that disabled people can think "If they can do it, maybe I can.",there is a major downside.   The gutter press and their moronic audience now think "If they can do it, obviously all disabled people can do it.   They are all just scroungers and malingerers.".

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Colin Peyresourde [1830 posts] 1 year ago
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Of course! If it's financially viable. After all these things don't come without a cost.