Countdown to 2012 Paralympics

This Bank Holiday Monday marks a year until the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

This Bank Holiday Monday marks a year until the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

To celebrate the final countdown to the Paralympics, on 8 September London's Trafalgar Square will host International Paralympic Day, a series of activities showcasing some of the sports that will feature at next year's Games.

Highlights will include the chance to see triple world record holder and Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius and to witness a Guinness World Record attempt in Sitting Volleyball.

The International Paralympic Committee will also issue an official invitation to athletes and National Paralympic Committees around the world to participate in the Games next year.

The Youth Sport Trust believes passionately in the power of sport to motivate and inspire young people and the Paralympics will provide a fantastic opportunity to encourage more young people to particulate, compete, lead and volunteer in sport.

These times can be tough and are important lessons our most promising young sports stars have to learn early on in their careers if they do want to go on to be the best.  They may have the raw talent, but do they have the mental strength it can take to make it to the top?  It can be the difference between winning gold in an Olympic or Paralympic final, and going out in the first round.

A key focus of the Youth Sport Trust is to help nurture young talent and make sure they know how to balance all aspects of their lives when they're training and competing in sport.  This can be simple things like planning holidays that won't interfere with a training schedule, through to ensuring they manage exam pressures at the times when they need to be competing in major championships.

It is by no means easy and takes a lot of commitment from friends, family, schools and coaches.  This is why it is so important for athletes, especially those who are still teenagers, have the support team around them.  To have the right people to help guide you when the tough decisions have to be made and when your commitment may start to waver is critical.  It is often individuals who win gold medals at major championships, but their success would not have been possible without the team behind them - supporting them every step of the way to make it happen.

I was lucky in my career to have that support.  There were times when the team changed and when the goalposts moved depending on the challenges and competitions ahead - but I always had a solid base to work from.  While it is tough, the rewards of competing and winning at the very top in sport and the buzz of excitement you get from it are worth everything that has to be sacrificed along the way.

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