Three major UK sports bodies have launched one final search for disabled potential medal-winners, with just 1 000 days to go until the start of the London 2012 Paralympics.
Talent2012: Paralympic Potential is a nationwide talent drive being run by ParalympicsGB, UK Sport and The English Institute of Sport.
Their message, as they launched the scheme on 3 December – the International Day of Disabled People – was that there was still time for athletes currently outside the elite training programmes to win medals in 2012.
They said such a campaign – less than three years from the start of the Games – was “unprecedented”.
And they said that, although it can take athletes up to eight years to reach an Olympics, research has shown that potential participants for a Paralympic Games can reach elite level far quicker.
At the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, a third of British medallists had been part of an elite sporting programme for less than two years, with 15 of the 42 British gold medals won by first-time Paralympians.
Phil Lane, ParalympicsGB’s chief executive, said: “Whilst we have come second in the medal table at the past four Games, there are many events that we simply haven’t been able to field an athlete in.
“With the competition getting tougher all the time it is vital that we have explored all avenues to recruit new athletes.”
Dave Smith, who only began training 12 months ago after switching from the GB bobsleigh team, has already become a world champion in adaptive rowing.
He joined a ParalympicsGB initiative on the advice of a coach and was spotted by rowing coaches.
He now hopes to compete for Britain in London in 2012, and said: “I think my story demonstrates that with the right coaching and determination anything is possible.
“I hope other athletes in a similar position to me will grab their 2012 opportunity.”
The campaign is open to athletes aged between 15 and 35. To register your interest, visit www.uksport.gov.uk/talent before 11 January 2010.
3 December 2009