Today, on the anniversary of the opening of the London 2012 Games, the British Paralympic Association (BPA) and Help for Heroes welcomed wounded Servicemen, women and veterans to the first major event of their ‘Front Line to Start Line’ (FL2SL) programme. Working with the UK Talent Team from UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport, the two day talent identification event is being held in Tidworth, Wiltshire.
‘Front Line to Start Line’ is a partnership between the BPA and Help for Heroes, created to introduce military personnel and veterans to opportunities in Paralympic sport. The joint ambition of the BPA and Help for Heroes at this event is to find individuals who have the potential to represent ParalympicsGB in Rio 2016 or beyond.
Approximately 60-80 wounded Service personnel and veterans, aspiring athletes with the drive to succeed in elite sport, will participate in the sports talent event over the course of two days. Both newcomers to sport and high performance athletes will be in attendance to try Paralympic sport, receive guidance and advice from coaches and explore their sporting potential. A comprehensive range of Paralympic sports are on offer, including athletics, cycling and rowing. The two new sports for Rio 2016, para-canoe and para-triathlon, will also have representatives present, hoping to discover future Paralympians.
Adidas provided crucial financial support to help kick start the programme with this first FL2SL event through the funds raised by the sale of hats and t-shirts during the summer of 2012. The items were worn by many Paralympic and Olympic stars while Prince Harry also wore the shirt for his visit to watch ParalympicsGB athletes compete in London.
Charlie Walker represented ParalympicsGB at London 2012 in sitting volleyball. He attended the event to share his journey of rehabilitation from injury to the pinnacle of elite sport. He said: “It’s great to see this legacy following the games for Service personnel and veterans. Help for Heroes and BPA have helped me hugely during my journey to London 2012 and I hope this partnership will help many more achieve their personal sporting ambitions.”
Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive of the BPA, said: “This talent day is important, because it demonstrates our commitment to working on the ‘Front Line to Start Line’ initiative with Help for Heroes. Additionally, the number of sports represented here today shows that they also recognise the opportunity to find sporting talent from this pool of individuals.
“While ‘Front Line to Start Line’ has sport as a rehabilitation tool at its core, today’s talent day is about finding injured Servicemen and women who have shown they have the potential to develop and reach the level of elite competition. It’s exciting to think that perhaps some of the faces here today will one day represent ParalympicsGB on the international stage.”
Martin Colclough, Head of Physical Recovery at Help for Heroes said: “The London 2012 Paralympics Games saw six military athletes supported by Help for Heroes which was of incredible inspiration for those beginning their road to recovery. We’re delighted to be in partnership with the British Paralympic Association on the Front Line to Start Line initiative which will enable those who have been inspired to achieve their own sporting dreams.
“Help for Heroes recognises the important part sport and physical activity plays in the recovery process. Sport can transform lives and there are huge benefits to an individual physically, psychologically and socially.
“While talent is the focus of the day, we want everyone to go away having had a positive experience, tried some new sports and know there are many other sporting opportunities available beyond today.”
Wheelchair Tennis is one of the sports that the injured servicemen and women could try at the event. “One of the great things about Tennis is that it can be adapted to suit any age or ability and it is fantastic to see so many people here today trying out Wheelchair Tennis for the first time. As a coach, it’s brilliant to see such enthusiasm for the sport and people eager to pick up a racket and start improving their skills whilst having fun”, said Ash Smith, Talent Development Coach at the Tennis Foundation.
Another element of the day will also provide participants with information surrounding employment opportunities in the sports and leisure sector.
The British Paralympic Association and Help for Heroes would like to thank adidas for their financial contribution to ‘Front Line to Start Line’ which has supported the initial funding of the programme.