London to host 2017 World Para Athletics Championships

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London to host 2017 World Para Athletics Championships

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SportsCafe Desk


Five years on from the 2012 Paralympics, London is set to host yet another mega para sports event - the 2017 IPC World Para Athletics Championships. With record ticket sales, the Championship is set to be one of the biggest ever in the history of international para sports.

For those not familiar with the event, the IPC World Championships is a major international multi-sport event, held every two years, involving athletes with a range of physical challenges, from across the world. The 2017 World Championships for Para Athletics begins July 14 - 23, in London, and it will be the first city to host the World Championships for both able bodied as well as differently-abled competitors in the same year; the able-bodied Championships begin August 4.

From the moment one lands at the Heathrow International Airport in London, major hoardings of the event welcome guests to what lies in store over the next 10 days. The city has left no stone unturned in promotion of their event, with banners of the World Championships also spread across the city roads and railways, including both overground and underground train stations. A glance at the Tube (London’s metro) map instantly gives names of tube stops which are wheelchair friendly all the way from the station to the street. The city is proud of its differently-abled population and is one of the best when it comes to accessibility.

Following a hugely successful 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, India has sent its biggest ever contingent of 28 athletes to a Para Athletics World Championships; more than double the number (15) that represented India at the 2015 edition in Doha.

Despite the large numbers there is an air of calmness inside the official hotel of the Indian contingent, located right next to the Tower Bridge of London and by the river Thames - the view from the rooms is picturesque and the organisers and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Govt. of India have gone to great lengths to ensure the utmost comfort of the athletes.

The feeling this time is different; the athletes are settled in comfortably, and remarkably exhibit very little sign of fear or pressure ahead of such an important competition in their sporting careers. Granted, some of the Indian para athletes here are experienced campaigners, but even the relatively inexperienced ones are displaying an aura of quiet confidence around them - “I’ve already played against most of my main competitors at the IPC Para Athletics Grand Prix in China, earlier this year. I will be up against the same athletes here as well. I know what to expect and have kept fear far aside, ahead of the competition.”, confident words from 23-year-old Indian Shot Putter (F-46) Md. Yasser, competing only in his second international competition.

There is a change in the thought process as well, the Indians are not happy to just be here, they feel like they belong here. This may be an after-effect of the 4 medals won in Rio - India’s best performance at a Paralympic Games. “We won 4 medals in Rio, it may double at this World Championships,” says Javelin Thrower Sandeep, who finished 4th and had narrowly missed out on a medal in Rio.

This contingent abounds in confidence and is targeting medals. Not a major surprise, given that almost all India para athletes here in London are in the top 10 in the world, in their respective events. “I hope I do well, and not just me; the whole team, because everybody is in a good preparation and we hope for a good performance from the whole contingent.”, says Indian High Jumper Sharad Kumar who represented India at Rio 2016. Javelin thrower Rinku, the youngest member of the Paralympics team aged 17 then, echoes this sentiment and states, “Rio was great for the team, but I think we will bring back at least 6-7 medals. For me, Rio was great as my first Paralympics, and I am now looking forward to applying everything I learned in London to bring better results this time!”.

Something interesting is happening in Indian para sports. Rio 2016 ignited the fire, with greater prominence for para sports in the country. It is now taking a unique shape, where the differently-abled athletes of India are trumping their able-bodied counterparts when it comes to international performances. Para sports have also seen a recent spike in India, with larger numbers of differently-abled individuals taking up the sport as a medium of self-sufficiency and empowerment. The time is right for the athletes to repay the faith shown in them and lead the way to a new change, starting tonight. Indians will no more line up in the mere hope of competing and giving their best, but to fight for medals for their country.

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