First ever APC Athletes’ Forum held virtually
The first ever Asian Paralympic Committee (APC) Athletes’ Forum was held virtually on December 2 and 3, 2020, with over 130 athlete representatives from National Paralympic Committee (NPCs) across Asia meeting to share dialogue and ideas towards the future of the Paralympic Movement.
The Forum was planned to take place on the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities and was co-hosted and supported by the Korea Paralympic Committee (KPC) under the theme ‘Together We Are Stronger’. At the largest ever gathering of its kind in the region, a wide range of topics were covered all aimed at educating, encouraging and helping Para athletes to be the best that they can be and to help prepare them for a life beyond competing.
In his welcome remarks, APC President Mr. Majid Rashed said: “As para-athletes you have a very important role – it is your performances on and off the field of play that make people think differently about disability. And in this way, you can help change societies for the better and support the APC’s vision of making Asia more inclusive.
“You athletes are the heart of the Paralympic Movement and we at the APC are committed to supporting you in every way that we can. This forum is a great initiative to help us to do just that.”
IPC President Andrew Parsons sent a message to the athletes: “This hasn’t been an easy year for anyone of us. So, congratulations to all attending the conference remotely to discuss the future of Paralympic Movement. This shows resilience; this shows the Asian Paralympic Movement and the NPCs stand by the values of the Paralympic Movement.”
Paralympian Mr. Jinowan Jung, who is currently the Head of the KPC’s Icheon Training Center, opened the Forum with the keynote address on “The role of the para-athlete as a driver for social change”. He reflected on how the Seoul Paralympic Games in 1988 had started his journey, claiming that the passion, courage and happiness of the competitors had changed the way disabled people had been viewed in Korea and had inspired him to take up para sport. He urged the athletes to continue the drive towards a more inclusive society, saying ‘raise your voice together to create one single voice. The beginning of change is coming from you in Asia’.
Topics covered on the first day included an overview of APC Strategic Plan for 2019 – 2023, the role of the APC’s Athletes’ Committee, a presentation on the psychology of Paralympians and training management during COVID 19 by Professor Dr. Jeffrey Martin of Wayne State University, updates from future Games organisers, and women’s participation in para sport.
The second day covered classification and anti-doping and a session on athlete career management that featured presentations from Adecco, Airbnb and the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation. The closing session looked at the effects of hosting major events and how these can be used to promote athletes as role models.
NPC India athlete representative Ekta Bhyan, an Asian Para Games gold medallist, said it was a great learning experience to attend first ever APC Athletes’ Forum virtually.
“Many prominent names of IPC, APC and Para Sports fraternity made the 2 days session very interesting covering every aspect of Paralympic Movement in Asia. We came to know how we para Athletes, specially being a female para athlete, can be change makers in society. Strategies and updates are shared by Games organisers.
“Topics like classification, career management, anti-doping etc. were discussed in depth. And the best part was that Athletes could ask any question from experts. Such initiatives really have great impact for athletes and for Paralympic movement too.”
Commenting on the Forum, APC CEO Tarek Souei said: “We are delighted that so many athletes registered and actively participated in the forum. There was a lot of interesting and valuable information for them to take away. We have learnt a lot too and this will help us as we plan for the future. I’d like to thank all the presenters, speakers and guests who joined us from all over the world to make the Forum a success.”