Paralympian teams up with local college to put disability sport on track

Stephen, who is a sports’ ambassador for Gateshead College, and his wife and business partner Rachel attended Gateshead College Sports’ Ability Group to provide expert advice and training to encourage and inspire members to see the benefits of sport and what can be achieved by taking part in games and activities.

SMILE Though Sport aims to create increased awareness, opportunity and enjoyment in disability and is the first initiative of its type in the region providing one-to-one mentoring, coaching, training and inspirational speeches for people of all ages and levels of disability and learning - from Key Stage 1 to degree level and beyond.

The Sports’ Ability Group, which is based at college’s Academy for Sport at the Gateshead International Stadium, is a support and training group which is ran for both college and non-college students with physical and learning disabilities.

Stephen, who is from Cramlington, said: “The aim of SMILE Through Sport is to raise awareness and the profile of disability sport, as well as creating opportunities and to inspire people who maybe thought they couldn’t get into sport to get out there.

“Gateshead College’s Academy for Sport is a perfect organisation to partner with as they are the leading sports college in the North East and provide an excellent environment to practise a range of sports, develop confidence and skills, and make new friends.”

Stephen, who has cerebral palsy, began his career in sport after being inspired by watching Linford Christie win gold in the 100 meters in 1992, when he was just 12 years old.

Since then, he has dedicated his life to not only his own personal development through sport, but inspiring others through motivational talks and workshops and has won three gold medals for Great Britain after competing in five Paralympics alongside  a haul of medals from World and European championships.

Lewis Pendleton, head of sport at Gateshead College sport academy, said: “We’re working with Stephen and the Smile Through Sport initiative to improve the Sports’ Ability Group for people with disabilities, creating a pathway of opportunities for those who either wish to develop sport as a hobby or aspire to achieve sporting excellence.

“We welcome both college and non-college students, and we aim to increase participation in sport for disabled people.

“We also want to be recognised as a regional centre for disability sport. We’re working with SMILE Through Sport to create a participation and development programme that will open up more sporting opportunities for people with both mental and physical disabilities.”

For more information on SMILE Through Sport please contact Stephen or Rachel Miller on 0191 477 4553.