Call for recognition at Halberg Awards

Halberg Disability Sport Foundation co-ordinator Bridget Meyer with some of the adaptive equipment physically disabled youth in Otago and Southland can borrow free. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Halberg Disability Sport Foundation co-ordinator Bridget Meyer with some of the adaptive equipment physically disabled youth in Otago and Southland can borrow free. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A Dunedin woman who works with physically disabled athletes in Otago and Southland wants the Halberg Awards to serve as a reminder that all paths to elite sporting success begin somewhere, just like the foundation she organises.

Halberg Disability Sport Foundation co-ordinator Bridget Meyer said she would be attending the 50th Halberg Awards at Vector Arena in Auckland on Thursday and she wanted the awards to recognise not only the achievements of elite athletes but also those athletes' beginnings.

''All those athletes, whether they are able-bodied or disabled, they all had to start somewhere ... whether you went [to the] Paralympics or the Olympics you had to start somewhere and that's where we come into it.''

''Day-to-day'' work at the foundation included approaching sports clubs to include physically and sensorily disabled youth from Otago and Southland keen on specific sports and recreational pursuits.

''And if they can't see a way to include that young person then we'll bring in equipment, funding for lessons or extra manpower - just whatever it takes.''

The foundation's database included about 300 disabled youth in Otago and Southland, she said.

A corporate restructuring last year meant more funding was available for the foundation and would mean more medals won at the Paralympics, Ms Meyer said.

''We are going to see more Kiwis on the top of that podium because the grass roots [level] is being well resourced.''

The Halberg Awards included the Disabled Sportsperson of the Year category, which was ''controversially'' introduced in 2011, Ms Meyer said.

''At Halberg, we are very much about inclusion, about breaking down barriers in the community so kids can participate alongside their peers.''

Some saw the new award category as going against the focus of the foundation but research found most disabled athletes supported the inclusion of the award, she said.

A finalist in the category this year was paracyclist Phillipa Gray, who studied in Dunedin and was involved with many of the foundation programmes, Ms Meyer said.

- shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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