Opportunities for inclusion
BIRKEBEINER Nordic Ski Club president Ronice Gobel hopes to raise awareness around para Nordic skiing as an option for young people with disabilities in the Ovens and Kiewa valleys.
Gobel recently returned from Chuncheon in South Korea where she attended a workshop targeting coaches from para biathlon and para cross-country skiing.
The event was organised by the Agitos Foundation, the developing arm of the International Paralympic Committee in partnership with the Organising Committee for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
The aim of the project is to build capacity in Paralympic sport around the world.
“My interest in going to the course came from knowing that Disabled Wintersports Australia run programs in Alpine skiing at Falls Creek, and in thinking into the future, we have the potential and capacity to create opportunities for young people with disabilities to learn cross country skiing and/ or athletes to transition from another sport,” Gobel said.
“The workshop was an eye opener to the world of Nordic para skiing and included sessions on technicalities of categories and classification, equipment, training and talent identification, perfor- mance and competition and how to get started.
Gobel said a visit to the Pyeongchang Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games venue for cross country, biathlon, and ski jumping was a highlight.
“The workshop opened my mind to a world of possibilities,” she said.
“Internationally, there is a network of passionate and supportive people with expertise out there, and the Australian Olympic Committee is definitely encouraging development at the grass roots and beyond.
“Our initial challenge is to let our communities know that we can work with families, schools and athletes to create opportunities and support for those with an impairment to be involved in cross country skiing.”
“Having said that, conversations with Tim Matthews, the development officer at the AOC, the preferred model is for disabled athlete participation is to be integrated within the structures provided by and for ‘able bodied’ sport.
“Of course, there are some limits to what a volunteer club such as Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club can do, but it is a start to consider potential options and how the door can be opened for people with disabilities.”