Young aspiring athletes with disabilities from across the Central West have been given an introduction to the world of para-athletics during a Multi-Class Carnival in Dubbo.
Organised by a partnership between Athletics NSW and Little Athletics NSW, supervisor and coach Mick Gardiner was on hand at Barden Park during the carnival to help guide the kids in sports like long-jump, shot-put, discus and track and field events.
"We're working together between Athletics NSW and Little Athletics NSW to put together this Multi-class Carnival and at the moment we've got ninety young athletes that have come from all over the region so right now, we've got kids from Orange, Dubbo, Wellington, Narromine and Mumbil here," Gardiner said.
The carnival is a rare opportunity for young athletes who otherwise might have to travel long distances to participate in para-athletics or other sporting events that cater to them to experience and get involved with athletics and sport.
"We wanted to give the kids an opportunity to participate in a carnival, and that's kind of what it's all about for these kids today," Gardiner said.
We're not timing them, we're not measuring what they do, we're just giving them an opportunity to participate and experience a carnival right now.Mick Gardiner
"It's good to give them the chance, there's quite a bit of work that goes into it, but if you have a look around and see the looks on these kids faces, it's just a brilliant day for them, they're all having fun, enjoying it and getting an opportunity that doesn't come around for them that often."
Gardiner acknowledged there aren't currently many opportunities in regional towns for athletes with disabilities so giving them an opportunity to do it on a fully featured sporting ground is key.
"There aren't many opportunities for kids from around the region to participate in a carnival like this, and even fewer to get to come to a facility like Barden Park, we've got one of the best facilities in NSW, so giving the kids an opportunity to run, jump and throw somewhere like this, is really something."
The park's track is even able to accommodate the modified bikes necessary for athletes with Cerebral Palsy to race against one another.
Gardiner is particularly hopeful that the introduction will allow them to grow and expand and provide an introduction point and opportunity for future para-athletic stars.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to do two carnivals a year in the first instance and then from there we can expand to a bigger, more frequent event, we want to get to the point where we're holding classification days for athletes with disabilities so they can then participate further and compete further."
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The organisations will even be looking to draw on talent and participants from further afield than just Dubbo to Orange and the surrounding areas, noting that there are a lot of children with disabilities out there who aren't currently being given the chance to develop as athletes.
"There's definitely a lot of opportunity out there, we could draw from as far as Bathurst or Lithgow to get those kids involved, or even head out further west to places like Cobar or Bourke or Bree, so there's definitely a lot of potential to involve more young athletes and give them the opportunity, it's just a matter of getting the word out there."