Paralympian to speak at Coventry conference promoting disability sport

University news

Monday 06 August 2012

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Paralympic wheelchair racer Anne Wafula Strike is amongst a host of disability sport experts set to speak at a three-day conference in Coventry just days before the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games later this month.

The conference, which is organised by Coventry University’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies (CPRS) and the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS), is set to debate ways to use disability sport and the Paralympic Games as a vehicle for promoting social inclusion and tackling stigma towards disability.

It also marks the 60th anniversary of IWAS, and of the Stoke Mandeville Games (the modern Paralympic Games’ predecessor) officially becoming an international event for the first time in 1952.

Ms Strike, who narrowly missed out on a place in Team GB’s wheelchair racing squad for 2012, will deliver a talk entitled ‘My Journey Towards Athletics’ on Saturday 25th August at Coventry University's TechnoCentre – the same day that the Paralympic Flame celebration takes place in Millennium Square in the city centre.

The Kenyan-born athlete contracted polio at the age of two, but battled against the odds to become the first wheelchair racer from East Africa to compete at the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004.

After a successful application for British citizenship in 2006, Anne joined Team GB and in 2007 was officially recognised by the Queen at Buckingham Palace for her work as a disabled athlete and for her involvement in charity work for people with disabilities. In 2010 she had her autobiography, ‘In My Dreams I Dance’ published by Harper Collins.

She will be joined on the roster of speakers by Tony Naar of the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC), and by Dr Ian Brittain of the CPRS, who is one of the world’s leading experts on the Paralympic Games and their history.

On the agenda for discussion at the conference is how disability sport and the Paralympic Games are portrayed in the press; how successful London 2012’s Paralympic legacy will be; and a presentation on the role of sport in overcoming the ‘dilemma of disabled masculinity’.

Dr Brittain, who recently authored the book From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford: A history of the Summer Paralympic Games, said:

This conference is a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness of and help change attitudes towards disability sport around the world, taking place as it does against the backdrop of the Paralympic Games.

It’s fantastic to have an inspirational personality like Anne Wafula Strike speaking during the conference, as her story is a shining example of how sport can change someone’s life for the better. The Games’ tagline is ‘Inspire a Generation’, and it’s our hope that through this conference we can help contribute to the Paralympic legacy and get more people recognising the importance of disability sport as a vehicle for social change.