POSTED: August 22nd 2017

Paralympics: Zhang lauds growth of para sport and promises to further expansion and popularity

(L) Haidi Zhang during the recent Beijing 2022 and IOC Coordination Commission meeting / Getty Images
(L) Haidi Zhang during the recent Beijing 2022 and IOC Coordination Commission meeting / Getty Images

LAURA WALDEN / Sports Features Communications 

(SFC)  The recent London 2017 World Junior Para athletics attracted large crowds and the mere success of the event shows the fact that para sport is booming. International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Presidential candidate Haidi Zhang calls for "strong IPC leadership to take growth and popularity to the next level". 

As we move into the final phases of the presidential campaign to replace Sir Philip Craven at the helm of the IPC, Zhang is running against three men Andrew Parsons (BRA), Patrick Jarvis (CAN), and John Petersson (DEN). 

With para sport in the strongest position it has been in since the launch of the Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960, the organization will need a proven leader to maintain the impetus and take things to the next level.

As President of China's National Paralympic Committee and the Chair of China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF), Zhang has been a central figure in its recent development, expansion and deepening legacy building up the Chinese Paralympic Movement taking the country to the top of the medal charts.

The former Paralympic shooter was deeply involved in the surge of popularity of Para sports at Beijing 2008, and said, "The last month has seen record-breaking attendances at the London 2017 Para Athletics Championships, and a successful World Junior Para Athletics Championships in Switzerland. 

"Over recent years, we have seen inspiring Paralympic Games at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, which have broken down further barriers for those with disabilities."

Zhang has based her campaign on the continued development and legacy of the Paralympics around the world. She has pledged, "We must continue to increase participation, and build an independent IPC that can open up sporting opportunities for the next generation." 

UN International Youth Day 

August 12th marked the United Nations' (UN) International Youth Day, and Zhang strongly believes that the power of sport can help the younger generation, with their ability to inspire courage in others for change, to transform the world for the better.

"Nearly 20% of those people living with disabilities are young people, and I want them to see the IPC Movement as their home. Many of the billion people who experience disability suffer from poorer health and educational achievements. My goal as President of the IPC would be to use increased participation in sport to counter these disadvantages," she said.

New ParaVolley Center in Hangzhou 

The IPC Presidential candidate recently oversaw the inauguration of a new World ParaVolley Development Centre in Hangzhou, China, together with World ParaVolley President Barry Couzner, at the opening. The new center will benefit numerous athletes and help to grow the sport in China and for visitors from abroad.

"China is committed to continue investment into centers like this fantastic facility for training in the run up to Tokyo 2020 and beyond," said Zhang "It is a great legacy for our athletes, but we need to do more in this area, and create a lasting legacy for para athletes around the world." 

The IPC will elect their next leadership at the general assembly in Abu Dhabi September 5-8 with the last day the vote for the Presidential, Vice-Presidential and Governing Board elections.

**LAURA WALDEN has over twenty-six years of experience in the Olympic Movement, formerly at the European Olympic Committees with SportEurope under former IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge and IOC Member Mario Pescante. She worked with the Rome 2004 and Turin 2006 Olympic bids and also managed PR & media for Dr. Jacques Rogge during his campaign for the presidency.

Keywords · Paralympics · IPC · Haidi Zhang

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