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If you’re driving around the Opotiki region in the Bay of Plenty and get overtaken on the road by a guy in a wheelchair, don’t be too surprised.
It’s the training ground for New Zealand athlete Matt Lack who has limited facilities to train to maintain an international standard.
Having already represented New Zealand at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and missing out on a medal by six-hundredths of a second in theT54 1500m (wheelchair). The 19-year-old is putting every effort into the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Athletics World Championships, 21-30 January in Christchurch.
And seriously the roads around Opotiki are his training grounds.
“I go through a few tires on the wheelchair. They’re not really made for the roads around here. But I’ve found some tires which are pretty good for these sorts of roads,” says Lack.
Recently the winner of the Junior Sportsman and the Supreme Sportsman of the year at the BOP Sports Awards, Lack is hoping his recognition will flow on to other regions to recognize the achievements of disabled athletes.
“I’m really the only competitive wheelchair athlete in the country, which obviously makes racing hard. I’m basically racing by myself.”
In January it will be anything but a training run on the roads and self training as the IPC Athletics World Championships, with 1055 athletes from 79 countries are set to gather in Christchurch
for what will be the last major gathering of international athletes before the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
“It will be great to have international athletes coming round here instead of us travelling. It’s going to be a huge event with lots of top athletes from around the world,” he says. “I’d like to win a medal or two, but it will be tough. I’m looking forward to it,” says Lack who will be competing in the 400m, 800m, 1500 wheelchair races.
Some of the stars set to appear at the IPC Athletics World Champs are South African `Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius, Irish Sprinter and ‘Fastest Paralympian’ on Earth Jason Smyth and American Paralympic gold medalists Jessica Galli and April Holmes.
Tickets to see the IPC Athletics World Championships which take place January 21-30, 2011 are now on-sale and can be purchased from www.ticketdirect.co.nz
Adult tickets cost just $10 per day. Purchase before 30 December and receive a 20 per cent discount.
For the latest news about the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships, visit www.ipcathleticsworldchamps.