Posted on Monday 23rd December, 2019

The second edition of the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Athletes’ Forum concluded on a high, where over 70 athlete representatives from around the world convened under one roof to continue to chart out a roadmap for athletes’ growth and involvement in the IPC’s future.  

Stamping its growing relevance among members of the IPC, the 2019 Forum was held over three days in November in Colorado Springs, USA. It witnessed representation from the National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), Regional Offices, International Federations, International Sports Organisation for the Disabled, Organising Committees (Beijing 2022, Paris 2024, LA2028), World Anti-Doping Agency and International Olympic Committee. 

The highlight of the Forum were the qualitative open sessions and break-out meetings to encourage representatives to voice their suggestions and opinions; thus providing tangible outcomes to help drive the future of the athletes’ voices within the Paralympic Movement.   

The Forum deliberated over some crucial topics related to sports development and inclusion, with three of the sessions garnering delegate attention, participation and athlete input into best practices for effective athlete representation, the Governance Review and the future of classification. 

The latter involved an open floor for discussing eligible impairments, research, protests, appeals and reporting of intentional misrepresentation. The Forum looked at ways to engage the Athletes’ Council (AC) and larger athlete community in the future of classification.

The Forum received further impetus when attendees revealed how some of their takeaways from the first IPC Athletes’ Forum in 2017 were instrumental in implementing and encouraging change for better athlete representation within their organisations.

Chelsey Gotell, IPC Athletes’ Council Chair, said: “This was my second Forum as Chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council and it was incredible to see the growth of the athlete representatives since our first Athletes’ Forum in 2017. We’ve made great strides in establishing a network of athlete leaders, developing programmes and resources to support athletes and moving the athletes’ voice forward within the IPC and the Paralympic Movement. 

“Coming out of this Forum, we have a clear view of our objectives for the next few years and how the greater athlete community needs to be involved, not just in our strategy implementation, but in the overall Movement and the decisions that are being made. This Forum has been pinnacle in helping us gain momentum which will propel the athletes’ voice to a whole new level, and as expected, we have homework to do, but with the dedication of the IPC Athletes’ Council, our global network of athlete representatives and the support of the leadership of the IPC, I am confident that we will make change that will benefit all Para athletes and our Movement as a whole.”

IPC President Andrew Parsons and Governing Board member Juan Pablo Salazar discussed the strategic direction of the IPC as well as the human rights movement and the impact Para sport can have on it. 

Mary Fisher (Paralympian and Paralympics New Zealand Board member) said: “The Forum enabled me to develop strong relationships with other Paralympians. Engaging sessions were held on topics that impact the athlete community the most, such as effective athlete representation, athlete mental health, the Governance Review and the future of classification. We also looked to the future of global human rights and how the Paralympic Movement can use its platform there.”

She continued: “Having so many Paralympians representing 40 countries and many sports in one place outside of competition was really special. Generous sharing of knowledge, ideas, best practices, concerns and the ability to ask questions regarding the future of the Paralympic Movement was a great combination. Bringing a New Zealand perspective to discussions and contribute to shaping the future of the athlete’s voice in the Paralympic Movement was a fantastic opportunity to springboard Aotearoa NZ into 2020 and beyond.”

Story from the International Paralympic Committee.