The Paralympic World Cup, sponsored by BT until 2012, takes place over the next six days in Manchester, with more than 400 athletes from 40 countries competing in their first elite international test since the Paralympic Games in Beijing.
Triple Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius and respectively, cycling, swimming and wheelchair basketball medallists Jody Cundy, Natalie Jones and Joe Bestwick on Tuesday officially opened the event, with Olympic cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy, competing in a wheelchair, joining coach Murray Treseder’s British team for their final wheelchair basketball training session.
Hoy’s assessment of competing in a wheelchair needed no great explanation as the beads of perspiration fell from him. “That was a seriously tough session, and very, very physical,” he said.
“I’ve been training hard over the past couple of months,” said the South African. “The BT Paralympic World Cup is such a crucial event in my development and I’ve done everything I can to be back to full fitness. I’m really looking forward to Sunday’s competition, where I will race in the 100 metres as well as the 400m.”
Suzi Williams, BT Group marketing and brand director, said: “BT has a long history of supporting disability sport in the UK – in fact BT was the first corporate supporter of the British Paralympic Association 20 years ago. We are so excited to be starting our journey to 2012 as the new title partner of the BT Paralympic World Cup. BT is fully committed to doing everything we can to help make this event the very best it can be.”
Hoy explained: “I’m continually inspired by the skill and talent Paralympic athletes display and it was incredible to see first-hand today the dynamic skills involved in wheelchair basketball.”
GB wheelchair basketball bronze medallist Joe Bestwick said: “We are excited to be playing against some of the best teams in the world – Australia of course set the benchmark when they became Paralympic champions. We have a fantastic rivalry with them and are looking forward to getting stuck into the tournament.”
Manchester will be host to an impressive 174 Paralympic medallists from Beijing.
Simon Morton, senior events consultant at UK Sport, said: “UK Sport is committed to staging world class events on home soil. The World Class Events Programme will invest over £15 million between 2009 to 2012, providing British athletes with the valuable opportunity of competing on home soil ahead of London 2012.”