British Paralympic Association chief Dave Clarke wants sport to create impact on and off the field

  • By Elizabeth Hudson
  • BBC Sport

image source, Paralympics UK

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Two-time Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock was part of the launch of Every Body Moves

The British Paralympic Association’s new chief executive, Dave Clarke, wants sport to have a greater impact on the general lives of people with disabilities.

Clarke, himself a three-time Paralympian in goalball and blind football, took over from Mike Sharrock earlier this month.

“I’ve seen Paralympic sport move from sympathy to empathy to acceptance and enjoyment and now being consumed by the public as a sport.

“What we need to see now is the same level of justice that we have achieved in many parts of the elite sporting arena in broader life,” Clarke told BBC Sport.

“As an association, we have two main goals – one is to continue to put the best prepared team into the Summer and Winter Games.

“But the other is about creating a better world for disabled people and that we not only represent disabled people on the field but also represent them in society at large and make sure there is justice in all walks of life.

“That includes all sorts of areas, from working with partners in sport to working with broader partners to look at things like employment, transport, health and the environment.”

Figures from the BPA, released Monday as part of the launch of its Every Body Moves initiative, which aims to empower all disabled people to be active in ways that are right for them, show that physical activity levels among disabled people are disproportionate severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and cost of living challenges.

They show that disabled people are almost twice as likely as non-disabled people to say they cannot find accessible and inclusive activities in their area, and are more likely to feel lonely and isolated now than they were before the pandemic and cost-of-living challenges.

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Wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft won double Paralympic gold in Tokyo

Clarke represented Great Britain in goalball at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta before becoming a star of blind football. He made 144 appearances for England, scoring a record 128 goals, and took part in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London games.

Britain finished second to China in the medals table at the last two Summer Games, coming away from the postponed Tokyo edition with 124 medals, including 41 golds.

But Clarke knows that as other nations pour more money into the hunt for Paralympic medals, it will become more difficult to maintain their position.

“We are very aware that we have to keep improving because the Paralympic sport is improving at an incredible rate,” he said.

“At the elite level, it’s being pushed in all sorts of ways and that’s why we have a responsibility to continue to produce the best prepared team.

“That means having fantastic relationships with the national governing bodies of all sports to ensure we can get the athletes through to represent Britain at the Paralympic Games and get the medals we need.

“As the organization responsible for selecting, registering and funding the team for the Games, I have been incredibly impressed, but not surprised, by the level of detailed planning that goes into making sure we train our athletes in the best possible way Bring home position with the best possible medal tally and enjoy the experience too.”

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The tandem couples James Ball and Lewis Stewart as well as Matt Rotherham and Neil Fachie celebrate their Tokyo medals

The Paris games come after the postponed Tokyo games, which had no spectators, and the 2016 Rio games, which suffered late budget cuts that threatened the event itself. However, Clarke is confident that Paris can build on the legacy of 2012.

“All my conversations with the guys in Paris were full of excitement and they wanted to put on a great show and make the athletes feel included,” he said.

“I think it’s great that they’re taking that attitude and they’re really positive about that and we’re really positive about the engagement we’re getting and I think it’s going to be absolutely fantastic games.

“There’s pressure when you’re offering any form of live sporting event and let’s face it, the Paralympics are one of the biggest sporting events in the world, but I think with pressure comes excitement and opportunity.”

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