Dubai: Majid Rashid Al Usaimi, the President of the Asian Paralympic Committee (APC), has hailed the role played by para-athletes in taking the movement in the right direction.
“As para-athletes you have a very important role and it is your performances on and off the field of play that make people think differently about disability. It is in this way that you can help change societies for the better while supporting the APC’s vision of making Asia more inclusive,” Al Usaimi told para-athletes in his opening remarks at the first ever APC Athletes’ Forum that was held virtually on December 2-3.
“You athletes are the heart of the Paralympic Movement and we at the APC are committed to supporting you in every way that we can. This forum is a great initiative to help us to do just that,” he added.
The first-ever APC Athletes’ Forum was held over the weekend with more than 130 athlete representatives from National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) from across Asia meeting virtually to dialogue and share ideas towards the future of the Paralympic Movement.
The forum was planned to coincide with the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities and was co-hosted and supported by the Korea Paralympic Committee (KPC) under the theme ‘Together We Are Stronger’.
This was the largest-ever gathering of its kind in the region, where a wide range of topics were covered all aimed at educating, encouraging and helping para-athletes to be the best that they can be and to help prepare them for a life beyond competing.
IPC President Andrew Parsons also urged the athletes to rise to challenges ahead. “This hasn’t been an easy year for anyone of us. So, congratulations to all attending the conference remotely to discuss the future of Paralympic Movement. This shows resilience; this shows the Asian Paralympic Movement and the NPCs stand by the values of the Paralympic Movement,” Parsons said.
Paralympian Jinowan Jung, who is currently the Head of the KPC’s Icheon Training Centre, opened the forum with a keynote address on ‘The role of the para-athlete as a driver for social change’. He reflected on how the 1988 Seoul Paralympic Games had started his journey, claiming that the passion, courage and happiness of the competitors had changed the way disabled people had been viewed in Korea and had inspired him to take up para-sport.
He urged the athletes to continue the drive towards a more inclusive society. “Raise your voices together to create one single voice. The beginning of change is coming from you in Asia,” Jinowan urged.
The opening day of the forum dealt with an overview of the APC’s Strategic Plan for 2019 to 2023, the role of the APC’s Athletes’ Committee and a presentation on the psychology of Paralympians and training management during COVID-19 by Professor Dr. Jeffrey Martin of Wayne State University.
On the second day, topics covered were regarding classification and anti-doping while a separate session was held on athlete career management that featured presentations from Adecco, Airbnb and the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation.