It is less than a year since Great Britain was declared a ‘sporting superpower’ following the performances of ParalympicsGB and Team GB at Rio 2016. The national celebrations that followed were substantial and strongly felt – it was incredible to witness the genuine outpouring of excitement at both at the Manchester and London parades for our collective success in finishing second in the medal table in both the Olympics and Paralympics.
Internationally too our reputation soared. The respect for and envy of the British system was palpable – something I felt again last weekend when with my European Paralympic colleagues at a meeting in Poland. We knew what it took to win and they recognised that, not least through attempts to replicate our system in their own.
In the past week, the validity of that success has been significantly tested. As someone who has been involved in and served Paralympic sport for over three decades in a variety of roles, most recently taking over as chairman of the British Paralympic Association at the start of this year, it has been a concerning time.
The release of the Cycling Independent Review has laid bare some significant failed practices in one of our sports and rightly fuelled a discussion on how and why that was allowed to happen. It has been upsetting to read some of the personal elements to this for individuals who will feel rightly let down by the system there to support them.
And challenging to recognise that the scrutiny our sports currently are under has provoked evidence elsewhere of wrongful practice, with questions asked as to whether a ‘win at all costs’ approach has taken priority over athlete welfare.
Featured image: Sarah Storey CREDIT: PA