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Head coach ‘immensely proud’ ahead of National Championships

A team of 18 athletes will represent Bradford, Keighley and Skipton Disability Athletics club this weekend at the National Junior Para Athletics Championships 2024.

A group of people stand in front of a minibus.

It is just nine years since Val Lightowler and Janet Arkwright started an athletics club. At that point they had four members before gaining charity status in February 2022.

Ahead of this year’s National Championships, Janet shared her excitement at bringing a team to the event once again.

"Personally, as Head Coach, I get to see the athletes progressing in their sport and achieve their potential and their dreams to one day be or compete in the Paralympics" she said.
"The great thing about this event is the atmosphere and the people who you meet along the way who give you the info to help your athletes. For example, last year I met an official who told me about a charity that helped with running frames. So, this year instead of two of our athletes running in their walking frames, thanks to Debbie Beresford, they now have running frames to compete in."

Coventry will play host to a weekend of track and field action across Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 July. Last year saw young athletes from across England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland compete in more than 60 races and 20 field events.

 As Janet explains, it is more than medals that make it a special event to be part of.

"The best thing about this event is the connections you make with other clubs and their athletes. The excitement of competing with other athletes from different clubs and at a Para event, it almost feels like a step closer to becoming a Paralympian” she explained.
"When I first started coaching this team, I had six athletes and we mainly went to Special Olympic Events. As a coach I have strived to get all my athletes affiliated to not only Special Olympics, but England Athletics and worked hard to get as many as possible para classified so that the athletes have more choice for competing.
"I have worked with indoor and outdoor mainstream athletics leagues to let us compete alongside mainstream athletes."

As organisers of the annual event Activity Alliance ensure that there is something for juniors with every impairment to take part in. It can play a pivotal part in helping a young athlete reach their potential.

Seven-time Paralympic gold medallist Hannah Cockcroft, triple Paralympic silver medallist Kare Adenegan and triple Paralympic gold medallist Aled Davies all started their careers at the junior competition.

"The greatest thing about our club is that it is inspiring other young people with disabilities to try sport and giving the athletes a sense of pride and achievement. I am watching athletes grow in confidence, they are going to be good ambassadors for sport. As a coach I am immensely proud of all their achievements."