Empowering People, Launching lives
Author: Dr Nic Robinson and Para LaserRun athlete Sam
7th February 2024 | 4 mins read
My name is Dr Nic Robinson and I am a researcher at Liverpool John Moores University leading this absolutely amazing project co-creating a para inclusive version of the sport of Modern Pentathlon. I want to share with you an amazing autistic athlete called Sam to help tell my Para Pentathlon Project story and why I think you should get involved with this brand-new inclusive sport called LaserRun – a fast-paced sport made up of two disciplines, running and laser shooting!
Just over one year ago in January 2023 I started a project to develop a more inclusive pathway into the sport of Modern Pentathlon with a fantastic team of people from disability backgrounds, pentathlon GB and researchers. The project started to look at the 2-dicsipline event of LaserRun where there was an opportunity for classification to compete on an international stage for both physical and intellectual impairments, but at that time the para sport was unknown in the UK and no para athletes competed.
This amazing multi-sport has many benefits, increasing physical activity levels as well as promoting essential life skills of concentration and focus. Research into autism and sport shows how physical activity and being part of a sports community can lead to improved motor performance, reduce anxiety levels as well as developed social skills, interactions and self-control.
The project team have also worked with athletes to develop a sport in parallel which has been termed Para LaserSport. This consists of laser shooting and another form of exercise challenge which may be on a bike or rower for example. This sporting challenge had no classification, and was athlete led with the idea of the athlete trying to beat their own individual time. As well as performance, the sport focuses on inclusivity ensuring anyone can compete and everyone gets a medal.
Sam competed in last summer’s World Para LaserRun Championships in Bath representing GBR in Para LaserRun. The race requires both good aerobic fitness to complete the run laps totalling 900m and focus and concentration when on the range to get the bulls eye black. I first met Sam at a taster training event back in Liverpool last May where there was a range of athletes trialling the sport for the first time from ages 12 to 50 years plus and with a range of impairments from partial sightedness to cerebral palsy. Then again in June Sam came to a classification event with his mum, which is where athletes chat to the classification team about their goals and present any medical records, and of course we do some more fun training. We made sure Sam had a good supportive coaching network in his hometown with Target Sprint Burntwood and started to prepare him for the summers races.
With Sam being a part of the community within Pentathlon GB he has really grown in confidence, felt included and developed his skills at his own pace. The training leading into the competition and the race day itself really pushed Sam out of his comfort zone but in a safe and supportive environment. Due to Sam’s autism, he sometimes finds it difficult to process and understand language, however this did not hold him back in a post-race interview with the main commentating team! Sam can also struggle with changes in routine and adapting to different situations. We practiced on the worlds race venue a few months beforehand so we got used to the course and environment, but on the actual day there were hundreds of people watching and it was televised which presented more change. With the help of his support crew and teammates he was able to race hard, with a sprint finish and produce an amazing GOLD medal! Sam said after the race ‘’ I love the laser run and love meeting new people doing the sport like me. It taught me to be calm under pressure too’’.
Sam competed in the ‘LR6’ category. This classification includes athletes with an intellectual impairment which could include athletes with autism and downs syndrome. This is a brand-new classification that was trialled for the first time this year and will now continue in future competitions.
Pentathlon is not a very well-known sport irrespective of the two gold medals in the Tokyo Olympic games from GBR athletes, but this vision of a wider more inclusive look at this amazing multi-sport will help educate and raise awareness for more young people across the UK with a passion for competing in lots of sports, in one competition. An integrated approach to training and competitions has been implemented in the National federation of Pentathlon GB, with more CPD coaching opportunities now available to support the sport in becoming more inclusive and creative.
Pentathlon GB, who are the National federation of Modern Pentathlon sports, have a range of training taster opportunities to come and test out this new para sport. There are a range of competitions to try which include para LaserRun (shooting and running), para LaserSport (shooting and cardio options like rowing and cycling) paraPent Triathlon (LaserRun and Swimming) and Para Biathle (a continuous run swim run race).
Sam and I would love to invite you to spread the word and get more autistic people trying the sport in future training and competitions. If you would like any more information on how to get involved, please email: Nicola.Robinson@pentathlonGB.org.
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