Former Head of Para Athletics Paula Dunn is predicting a battle of the generations when the stars of ParalympicsGB descend on Paris for the Paralympic Games next summer.
Dunn, a five-time Commonwealth Games medallist, is backing the new names to give the more established stars a close run for the medals and the column inches in the French capital.
Dunn was appointed to her former role ahead of London 2012, a landmark Games for the growth of para-sport in the UK and sees no reason why Paris 2024 cannot leave a similar legacy.
“We got some household names out of London 2012 and then at Rio 2016 we came out with people like Aled Davies,” said Dunn, who was joined by the Head of Parasport at Loughborough University, Alasdair Donaldson, to celebrate the work of The National Lottery in supporting and inspiring the next generation of para-athletics.
National Lottery players have transformed athletics in the UK, with more than £214 million invested since National Lottery funding began and Dunn believes the fruits of that funding are being seen in a string of strong performances at the ongoing World Para Athletics Championships.
“We don’t want to ever get to a stage where we dip so far that we must restart.
“There are so many new stars that have come through in a very short period, as well as established guys, such as Jonnie Peacock, Sophie Hahn, and Hannah Cockroft, who are exciting.
“There are a lot of exciting youngsters coming through, I’m looking forward to seeing Zak Skinner win a gold medal in the T14 long jump and to seeing if Sabrina Fortune can come back.
“There’s a new boy in the T20 1500 metres called Ben Sandilands. So, there’s new guys as well as the established guys.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how they compete at the World Championships because that’ll give us a window of opportunity to see how they’re progressing ahead of the big one next year.”
In this cycle alone, over £9 million of National Lottery funding has been invested into para-athletics, helping our athletes become some of the best in the world. The National Lottery funds over 1,000 elite athletes on the World Class Programme and this vital funding allows them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science, and medical support.
And despite this staggering investment; Dunn believes the best is yet to come for para-athletics.
“Para-sport is still developing and in reality, it’s still in its infancy compared to the Olympic programme,” said Dunn.
“The reality is this is still a 40 to 50-year programme. We’ve got to keep working on increasing the profile – we’ll still find people we didn’t know existed.
“We’ve kept the momentum going since 2012, raising the profile of the sport, and National Lottery funding has helped to get the word out.
“There are lots of athletes out there who are not aware of us who may have the ability to compete for their country and win global medals. I don’t think we’re at the pinnacle just yet.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen