Golden couple backing para-sports to be big part of Games

An Olympic gold-winning couple have backed para-sports to make a big impact during the Commonwealth Games.

The festival helped people from across the community to have a go at hocket. Photo: Alison Paul Photography
The festival helped people from across the community to have a go at hocket. Photo: Alison Paul Photography

British Olympic Gold medal hockey couple Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh have hailed the biggest ever para-sports programme at the Commonwealth Games as a huge opportunity to open up hockey and sport to more people from wider backgrounds across the West Midlands.

The pair were speaking after the West Midlands Flyerz Festival on Sunday, an inclusive hockey event in Birmingham run by charity Access Sport, alongside England Hockey and Midland Mencap, to encourage people from disabled and non-disabled backgrounds to play the sport together.

More than 100 disabled and non-disabled people took part in the festival and hockey sessions together.

Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh are both keen to see para-sports make an impact on the Commonwealth Games

Helen and Kate, who won gold in Rio in 2016 and have competed in seven Commonwealth Games between them, are both Ambassadors for the Flyerz programme after first getting involved after London 2012.

Kate said: “The Paralympics in 2012 really changed a lot of things around para sport and made people wake up, and we wanted to know how we could use our profile to help.

"We need to break down some of those barriers for people and that’s why got involved.

"We just want to use our platform to get people interested in Flyerz and make hockey more inclusive.

Helen said: “It’s so good that the para sports run along the main programme in the Commonwealth Games.

"It just makes it inclusive and it’s a huge opportunity to say, ‘look this is just people playing sport’ and people giving their best performance.

"It’s a great opportunity for people in the city, especially young people to go and see so many different sports."

Organisers are hopeful that clubs across the West Midlands will be inspired by the event and the Commonwealth Games.

Adam Bone, Changing Sports Manager, Access Sport, said: “It was fantastic to celebrate and showcase Flyerz hockey in the lead up to Commonwealth Games.

"We’re keen to support any hockey club to deliver Flyerz and provide more inclusive opportunities for all.”

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