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Group of para athletes in sports hall
Participants in the GAPS camp hosted by the University of Birmingham

Over 120 para athletes, coaches and experts gathered at the University of Birmingham as part of a unique global programme designed to speed their personal development.

The GAPS camp, hosted by the University with the support of staff and over 40 student volunteers, focussed on preparations, classifications and qualification for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Athletes were challenged to try new training methods, push their boundaries to create a belief and a mindset that they can face whatever challenges are put in front of them.

A sport for social purpose initiative developed by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and Griffith University, Australia, GAPS supports development of emerging para athletes and coaches from the Commonwealth.

The programme provides opportunities that empower coaches to support their athletes and the development of sport pathways across the Commonwealth.

The GAPS camp in Birmingham saw 61 athletes and 40 coaches from 21 Commonwealth nations arrive at the University for a week of wide-ranging practical and classroom-based activity linked to the Commonwealth sports of para athletics, powerlifting and para table tennis.

It has been an absolute privilege to be able to help organise the GAPS camp. Having the opportunity to support the developmental journeys of so many athletes and coaches from around the Commonwealth is amazing. The chance for both the staff and student volunteers to support this has also provided valuable real-world experience and learning for everyone. I have no doubt that this is not just changing the lives of individuals who are participating on the camp but also impacting the way that we here at the university think about the barriers to participation and how they can be removed.”

Barry Drust, Director of the Graduate School of Sport and Professional Practice at the University of Birmingham

Since launching in the lead up to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, GAPS has built multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaborations with universities, sport organisations and government agencies.

In addition to the University of Birmingham and Griffith University, it also includes Western University in Canada and Stellenbosch University in South Africa, which have expanded the reach of GAPS across the Commonwealth. It is supported by the Commonwealth Sport Foundation, UK Sport, the high-performance sport agency and PacificAus Sports, the Australian Government funded sporting opportunities programme.

Woman playing table tennis
Para table tennis athlete takes part in training session at GAPS camp

I am delighted that the GAPS programme is back for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The GAPS programme ensures that the athletes and coaches participating have an opportunity to get to the upcoming Commonwealth Games successfully, are able to enjoy themselves and go back to their nations to showcase what they were able to achieve at a Games to inspire others to do the same. As the attendees enjoy the world-class facilities and experience, I would like to thank our new-and-returning partners to the GAPS programme who make the camps possible. I look forward to seeing some of the 130 attendees in Birmingham this week returning to shine at the Games in the summer.”

Dame Louise Martin, Commonwealth Games Federation President

CGF Vice President Chris Jenkins, who is Chair of the CGF Development Committee, said: “The goal of GAPS is to offer emerging athletes and coaches from the Commonwealth access to additional skills, knowledge, and resources so they can make a real difference in their own communities. Through our expanding partnerships, we can really shift mindsets and reinforce the fundamental human right for women, girls, and people with a disability to be included in their sport pathways.

 

“As GAPS continues to grow and strengthen across the Commonwealth, I would like to thank all our partners who help us to stage these amazing camps and ultimately create tangible opportunities for people to grow and develop through sport.With less than 100 days to go to the start of Birmingham 2022, is very special to be in the host city and to harness the inspiration impact of the Commonwealth Games to drive positive change across our nations and territories.”

Woman shot putting being watched by fellow athletes
Athletes were challenged to push their sporting boundaries

Griffith University Associate Professor Clare Minahan said: “Some of the best athletes in the world may reside in developing nations of the Commonwealth. As people with a deep love of sport, we have a responsibility to discover and nurture talent by offering programs that provided athletes from developing nations opportunities to reach their potential and represent their country on the world stage. This is GAPS.”

UK Sport Head of External Affairs and International Relations Clare Barrell said: “We are delighted to partner with the CGF to support the delivery of GAPS – Gather, Adjust, Prepare, Sustain, and fully believe in its’ mission to increase the participation of para-athletes from underrepresented countries at B2022 and future Commonwealth Games.

 

“Collaboration and inspiring positive change are at the heart of UK Sport’s new mission and camps like these are so important for para-athletes from less resourced countries in Oceania, Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean and – in particular for us at UK Sport – Africa, where our support is primarily being placed.

 

“We hope GAPS will prove invaluable not just ahead of the Games this summer but also for future Games and we look forwarding to continuing to work with everyone involved to achieve that.”