Cornwall AC inspires future wheelchair athletes!
Cornwall Athletic Club held an 'Introduction to Wheelchair Racing' evening at Carn Brea last Tuesday and attracted attendees from the width and breadth of the county.
The club's sprint coach Neil Tunstall, is already supporting Porthleven wheelchair athlete Lily Veal with her ambitions to progress further in the sport, and he's being working hard with the assistance of his club, England Athletics and the Cornwall Sports Partnership, to start a coaching and training programme for wheelchair racing in the county, which since the Paralympics has seen jump in demand.
Ben Mogie from Carnon Downs, who is on a Sports Coaching foundation degree course at Truro College, and already playing basketball and powerchair football to a high level in the county, commented:
"It's really exciting to have the chance to have a go at this sport after seeing the amazing achievements of David Weir the 'Wolf Man' at the Paralympics, and it's been great to be able to come along tonight to have a go in the lightweight chairs and train on the track at Carn Brea".
Aimee Cheeseman a secondary school student from Bodmin, a dedicated and competitive swimmer who regularly competes out of county was really up for the challenge of trying a new sport, very pleased to have the chance to try something different, and Lily Veal who at 14 who has already competed in the 100m and 4x400m relay at the DSE Nationals at Warwick, thought it was "really cool" that efforts were being made in the county to assist the young and old to take up wheel chair athletics for the first time.
Neil Tunstall was very pleased to have secured the support of Job King the England Athletics Disability Athletics Support Officer, who has introduced many people to wheelchair athletics across the country.
Job brought along a selection of training equipment and chairs for the attendees to try out and he demonstrated racing and pushing techniques, transfers, warm-ups, starts and bends to the attendees before they ventured onto the track.
Neil was also supported by Steve Hillman the Cornwall Sports Partnership 'Inclusion Officer' a well known and popular coach in the county, who has done a lot to provide a variety of sporting opportunities for disabled people in Cornwall. Steve has been assisting CAC to establish a pool of racing chairs in the County so that new athletes can try the sport.
Job King (pictured right, in red) pointed out that once an athlete becomes committed to the sport, such as Lily they will need their own custom made chair - usually over £2000. Most athletes do this through a combination of their own fundraising, sponsorship and support from local charitable groups. Secondhand racing chairs often provide a good stop-gap for individuals, and increasing the range of chairs available at a club.
Neil Tunstall also commented, "We've already got a waiting list of people wishing to be trained at the club, but at present - with just one borrowed wheelchair to share - we're focusing on looking after four athletes initially. As soon as we've got more coaches involved and enough wheelchairs, we'll be able to take on more athletes. With the assistance of a local volunteer already, it will also be great if the mums, dads, guardians and other local volunteers can come along on training nights to help set up training equipment and wheelchairs, and to support the coaching team".
Anneliese Heard, the England Athletics regional Club and Coach Support Officer and Rob Cockings the Duchy Athletics Network club and coach coordinator also went along to give their support to the event and Rob commented "What a great evening it's been, the excitement of the attendees and their enthusiasm to get out on the track was infectious, and to think with the heritage and standards of a club like CAC making every effort to provide a fantastic new pathway into wheelchair athletics for local people, offering them the chance to have fun taking part in a new sport and even providing the country with future Paralympians, is very exciting indeed".
For more information on training opportunities for wheelchair athletes at CAC, or if you would like to help with training, or you, or your company or organisation, would like to assist with the funding of wheelchairs, please go to: www.cornwall.org.uk or contact Rob Cockings the Duchy Athletics Network club and coordinator at email@example.com / 07973 813550