Celebration event marks major Paralympic sport boom in Leeds

Caption: Wheelchair racer Georgina Oliver of Leeds City Athletics Club at the John Charles Centre for Sport with her IPC World Championships class T54 bronze medal

A celebration of Paralympic sport will take place in Leeds this weekend as the city marks a dramatic rise in popularity in disability sport in the 12 months since the finale of London 2012.

Officially one year on from the finish of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the John Charles Centre for Sport will host a ‘Leeds 2 Rio’ celebration open day showcasing a range of Paralympic and disability sport from 10am on Sunday 8 September.

The free event hosted by Leeds City Council, Leeds Disability Sport and Leeds Disability Sport Youth Panel will offer demonstrations of a range of disability and Paralympic sports and taster sessions for people of all ages and abilities to try.

The sports on offer include visually-impaired tennis, golf, blind football, wheelchair basketball, adapted bikes, boccia, powerchair football, wheelchair tennis, athletics and kurling.

Appearing at the event will be wheelchair racer Georgina Oliver from Huddersfield, who trains at the centre as part of Leeds City Athletics Club and claimed a bronze medal at the recent IPC World Championships.

Also attending will be the England and Ireland wheelchair rugby league teams, who will be among those competing in an indoor rugby festival as part of the build-up to the Rugby League World Cup 2013 later this year which features two matches to be played in Leeds.

As well as looking back on the success of the last 12 months, the event will be looking to unearth potential stars of the next Paralympics in Rio in 2016, which starts exactly three years on from Saturday’s National Paralympic Day.

It will also celebrate the surge in popularity of Paralympic and disability sport in Leeds over the last 12 months since the unprecedented success of London 2012.

Inspired by athletics superstar Hannah Cockroft MBE’s stunning performances, the Leeds wheelchair racing programme has seen its numbers treble in the last year with new participants of all abilities from beginners to competitive athletes with ages ranging from seven to fifty-plus.

Having seen former City of Leeds swimmer Claire Cashmore claim two silvers and a bronze medal at London 2012, the numbers of disability swimmers attending winter swimming sessions across Leeds rose from 900 in June 2012 to 1555 in June 2013 with those taking lessons also more than trebling.

Gold and silver medallist David Stone MBE also clearly made his mark, with the numbers taking part in adapted cycling more than doubling in the last 12 months.

Such dramatic increases have been repeated in other sports, with those taking part in disability racket sports such as visually-impaired tennis in Leeds City Council-managed leisure centres rising five-fold from 22 in 2012 to 111 in 2013, while the numbers taking part in gym sessions have almost doubled.

This surge has also been seen in disability sports clubs in Leeds, with Leeds Spiders wheelchair basketball, West Yorkshire Goalball, Leeds VI Tennis and Leeds Powerchair Football Club all reporting big increases in the number of members and participants in the last year.

The general level of interest in disability sport in Leeds has dramatically increased, with a major rise in followers on Facebook and Twitter of people keen to find out more about disability sport.

Leeds City Council executive member for leisure and skills Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, who has recently taken up cycling on an adapted tricycle said:

“The figures for how much participation and interest in disability sport have gone up since London 2012 is absolutely amazing and it is fantastic to see. Possibly even more than the incredible success of the Olympics, the Paralympics were a real watershed moment as wonderful athletes like Hannah Cockroft got the chance to perform with the nation and the world watching and became new sporting heroes almost overnight as a result.

“Even now a year on people talk about how blown away they were by the Paralympics so it is great it has led to such a rise in interest in disability sport across the board. The key now is to harness and develop that interest to Rio and beyond.”

For more information on disability sport in Leeds visit www.leeds.gov.uk/disabilitysport or call Leeds City Council’s disability sports officer Ross Bibby on 0113 395 0159 or email ross.bibby@leeds.gov.uk.


For media enquiries please contact:

Roger Boyde,

Leeds City Council press office,

Tel 0113 247 5472

Email: roger.boyde@leeds.gov.uk