07 January 2011
The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team arrived in Auckland, New Zealand yesterday (Thursday 6 January) for a 12-day preparation camp ahead of the IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch (21 -30 January).
The event - which will involve more than 1,000 athletes from over 70 countries - is the last global senior Paralympic competition prior to London 2012 and offers a significant competition opportunity with only 600 days to go.
Three-times World Champion Stephen Miller (coach: Ros Miller), a veteran of four Paralympic Games, three World Championships and two European Championships, is one of four defending champions who will compete for the 40-strong Aviva GB & NI team in New Zealand, while 15-year-old Jade Jones (coach: Tanni Grey-Thompson) is one of 15 athletes who will make their senior debuts.
Aviva GB & NI Team Leader and UKA Head Coach (Paralympic) Peter Eriksson said:
"This is the only major senior Paralympic event before 2012 and we’ve selected a team we believe in and one which can be successful over the next two years.
"The World Championships provides another vital opportunity for our senior athletes to compete at the highest level against the best athletes in the world, while for our juniors it’s an important stepping stone towards London, but ultimately to Rio in 2016. Almost half of the guys on the team are new to the set up so it will be a hugely positive learning experience, but we expect to challenge for medals and that’s our main priority.
"I think that everyone is excited to be here in New Zealand. The climate is great, we’re based at an excellent training facility and the mood in the camp is really good. We’ve seen a real shift in the team concept over the past year and we’re growing into one team who work together and will support one another in training and in competition. It’s a long process and it won’t change overnight, but we’re really starting to see some positive changes. The fact that we’re preparing together in Auckland gives us a chance to perform to our best in Christchurch.
"We’ll have no excuses out here - we’re expecting a professional attitude from everyone," he continued. "We all know it can get tough at times but if things don’t work out we’ve got time to make changes for 2012. It’s time for us to give something back to our sponsors and all of those who have shown faith in us.”
The Aviva GB & NI team won 27 medals in the last edition of the IPC Athletics World Championships in Assen, Netherlands, in 2006, with a haul of nine gold, nine silver and nine bronze, but the most important benchmark to build on with London 2012 on the horizon is the 18th place team finish in the Beijing Paralympic Games two years ago.
"The team we have here in New Zealand will kick start a period of success we hope will peak in London," concluded Eriksson. "A top ten finish in the medal table in Christchurch will be a step in the right direction."
For the latest news about the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships, please visit www.ipcathleticsworldchamps.com
Daily session reports will be posted on the UKA website: www.uka.org.uk