Disabled people inspired by Paralympic Games in Rio

Disabled people are being urged to try the sport of boccia.
Disabled people are being urged to try the sport of boccia.

The numbers from Erewash joining a sport network for disabled athletes have been boosted by participants taking inspiration from the Paralympic and Olympic Games in Rio last year.

More than 80 people from across the county are now members of Special Olympics (SO) Derbyshire, a programme designed to increase opportunities for disabled people keen to get more active or to play sport.

It follows a record-breaking summer of success for Great Britain’s athletes in Brazil, which included a bronze medal from Derbyshire para-swimmer Lewis White in the 400m freestyle S9 category.

Among those taking advantage of regular training and competition for people with a learning disability, offered by SO Derbyshire, is Alex Forster, from Long Eaton. The 21-year-old Riverside Football Club player said: “It’s not just about playing the football that I enjoy. It’s also about the friends I make at football.”

The SO Derbyshire network has been growing since it started 18 months ago and now has dozens of members, aged 15 to 60, playing sport every week.

Volunteers have played a key part in its success, with more than 30 people from all over the county helping at events, clubs and with behind-the-scenes work.

Jacob Meaton, SO Derbyshire basketball coach and volunteer, said: “It’s great to see people enjoying basketball. They are being provided with access to competitions that many have never experienced before.”

The network is also helping to address the imbalance beetween the inactivity rates of those who are disabled and those who aren’t. A Sport England survey has highlighted that 34 per cent of people with an impairment are inactive

In 2017, SO Derbyshire is aiming to get even more disabled people playing, as well as encouraging existing local sports clubs to register to the network and get involved themselves.

As part of that, the network will be hosting a regional boccia competition at Queen’s Park Sport Centre in Chesterfield on Sunday, March 26. Anyone interested in sport is invited to go along as part of a team, or to have a go for the first time in an inclusive sport that involves throwing balls at a target from a seated position.

A selection of disabled Derbyshire athletes is also competing at the Special Olympics GB National Games this August in Sheffield.