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Inclusion in Athletics: Event in Focus – Future Stars

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January 9th and 10th saw the launch of the inaugural para-athletics festival alongside the Diversity Games as part of a new competition concept known as Future Stars. 

The Indoor Diversity Games were established in 2017 by Offaly Sports Partnership, the objective being to increase participation of children from an ethnic minority background in the sport of athletics through hosting an indoor event in a world class arena.

The Games are an inter school indoor athletics event, with primary school pupils participating on Wednesday and secondary school pupils competing on Thursday. Events range from sprints, endurance races, Long Jump, Shot Put and relays. All individual points are then added to determine the best overall schools.

“The Diversity Games would never have happened without the financial support of the Communities Integration Fund back in 2017 and 2018,” said Eamonn Henry, coordinator of Offaly Sports Partnership.

Henry paid tribute to Pat Ryan in Athletics Ireland for ensuring that Dormant Accounts funds were secured to continue the event after that and releasing staff members to assist. Regional Development Officer Bashir Hussain who is based in the Technological University of the Shannon in Athlone was also commended for his constant support at athletic events organised by Offaly Sports Partnership.

Now in its seventh year the Indoor Diversity Games have gone from strength to strength over the years with an increase in participants, support from teachers and schools, the desire to win the overall school’s title and the emergence of some very talented athletes. In fact, a handful of athletes who came through the event went on to represent Ireland and medal at international school’s competitions.

When Eamonn was approached by Paralympics Ireland to include a para-athletics element to the programme this year he was very open to the idea and was very pleased with how the programme went.

“We were delighted to add para-athletics to the programme this year.60 students took part in the events over the two days and four also ran and medalled in mainstream races,” he said.

Eamonn thanked James Nolan, Alison O’Riordan and Dermot McDermott in Paralympics Ireland for all their help with planning, promoting and delivering the para-athletic events. 

Alison O’ Riordan from Paralympics Ireland commended Eamonn and his team in Offaly Sports Partnership for a fabulous two days of indoor competition for primary and secondary pupils which saw the inclusion of para-athletes for the very first time.  

“A collaboration between Offaly Sports Partnership, Paralympics Ireland and Athletics Ireland showcased how easy it is to include para events and athletes within a regular athletics competition. The atmosphere at the competition was fabulous and the feedback we have received from schools and parents has been very positive,” she said.

“We hope to build on this great start and expand the competition in future years to include more events for more para-athletes giving them improved and equal access to athletics opportunities alongside their peers.”

Sport Ireland were also thanked for all their support over the years and for their strong presence at this inclusive athletic event.

The next inter schools’ athletics event that will be hosted by Offaly Sports Partnership will be its annual Africa Day Athletics event for primary schools. This will be held on Friday 24th May in the Tullamore Harriers stadium, subject to funding being secured.  For more information on inclusive athletic events hosted by Offaly Sports Partnership contact Eamonn Henry on 086 794 8054 or email ehenry@offalycoco.ie

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