Para-athletics equipment registry on the radar of Athletics Australia to set up

Prosthetic running blades cost up to $25,000 each and there is no official equipment register to help athletes recycle old ones. Picture: Jay Cronan
Prosthetic running blades cost up to $25,000 each and there is no official equipment register to help athletes recycle old ones. Picture: Jay Cronan

A formal equipment program in athletics to allow para-athletes to pass down their old running blades and wheelchairs to the next generation does not exist but it is on the radar of Athletics Australia.

Canberra athletes Vanessa Low and Scott Reardon brought up the issue after the Tokyo Paralympics and told The Canberra Times the thousands it cost to participate in athletics at any level hindered the sport, when compared to other sports such as swimming.

Paralympics Australia and Sport Australia do have a Para-sport Equipment Fund to allow athletes across 24 disciplines to apply for funding for equipment to increase participation in para-sport, however, it is not as simple as a registry to list used equipment to allow imminent participation.

An Athletics Australia spokesperson confirmed they did not have a formal equipment program in place yet.

"Para-athletics, and in fact, many para-sports face this challenge, whereby athletes with disabilities aren't always able to afford the costs associated with obtaining equipment," they said.

"While AA does not currently have a formal equipment program in place, we work with many partners to help athletes on the pathway receive equipment, including Paralympics Australia and Wheelchair Sports NSW to name two."

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Running blades can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000 each, adding an extra barrier for amputees to get involved in athletics, alongside the thousands of dollars required to purchase racing wheelchairs to participate or scouting a running guide for vision-impaired athletes.

An example of the effect this has, on not only participation in the sport, but also at the elite level was on display in Tokyo.

Only three of Australia's Paralympic athletics team in Tokyo competed on blades - Low, Reardon and Sarah Walsh. Similarly, only several wheelchair athletes competed for Australia including dual gold medallist Madison de Rozario, Angie Ballard, Christie Dawes and Eliza Ault-Connell.

There are hopes of setting a formal program up to bridge the gap athletics poses at community levels for para-athletes. The AA spokesperson said they would like to set one up in future.

"It is something that has been discussed with the launch of The Athletics Foundation just a few months ago," they said.

"Donors and benefactors can donate to The Athletics Foundation, and specify where they would like the money to go. We understand the need for athletes to access better equipment, and The Foundation will work to ensure no athlete is left behind due to monetary barriers."

Another barrier to setting up such a system is the two separate organisations in the sport.

Little Athletics Australia looks after junior athletes from five to 15, whereas Athletics Australia focuses on high-performance athletes and pathways.

The AA representative confirmed it focused on a national level, while state and territory associations and other sporting bodies had participation programs in place.

The two organisations were set to merge in early December with 75 per cent of Athletics Australia's members in support of the unification.

However, Little Athletics Australia's members did not support the merger, subsequently leaving the two as separate organisations.

Little Athletics Australia did not respond to requests for comment.

This story Para-athletics equipment registry on the radar of Athletics Australia first appeared on The Canberra Times.