Paralympic teams praise Wales for pre-Games training

Paralympians from Australian and New Zealand say they chose Cardiff and Swansea to train for London 2012 because of their sporting facilities and infrastructure.

China is also holding a camp in Cardiff, while Mexico chose Swansea.

Australia's chef de mission praised Cardiff's infrastructure. New Zealand's chief said Swansea provided the "ideal environment".

Athletes from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa, are among those in Wales.

Jason Hellwig, chef de mission of the Australian Paralympic Committee, said it was the first time they had established a staging camp ahead of the Games.

"We selected Cardiff as our pre-games training camp due to the excellent sports facilities, infrastructure and friendliness of staff here in the city," he said.

Australian world championship long jump silver medallist Carlee Beattie also called the decision to hold the camp in Cardiff "spot on".

"The weather is very similar to London which is helping us acclimatise and the support and friendliness we've experienced from the Welsh people has been incredible."

Australian Paralympic cycling team section manager Murray Lydeamore said they were enjoying their time at Newport Velodrome.

"Since we've been here we've had so much local interest, from local cyclists riding alongside our guys out on the road, to the public and disability organisations keen to watch our track sessions. It's a great atmosphere," he said.

New Zealand's athletics and shooting teams are based in Swansea, with swimmers using the city's Wales National Pool.

Mike Johnson, bronze medalist in shooting at Beijing, trained at Swansea Rifle Club for five days.

Fiona Allan, chief executive of Paralympics New Zealand, said: "With a combination of world class training facilities, proximity and quality of accommodation, and access to state of the art support services we feel Swansea will provide the ideal environment for our athletes to prepare for the Games".

Altogether about 530 Paralympic athletes and support staff from 15 nations are based in Wales.

Training venues include the International Pool, the Sport Wales National Centre and the International White Water Centre in Cardiff, Swansea's University, Wales National Pool, and Newport Velodrome.

Fitzalan High School in Cardiff will also be used for some training.

Huw Thomas, Cardiff council's cabinet member for sport, said they extended a warm welcome to the hundreds of athletes who will be in the city.

"Having so many outstanding athletes here is sure to inspire Paralympians of the future."

Image caption Indian discus thrower Jaideep Deswal works on his action at the Cardiff School of Sport, Cyncoed

Competitors from several Pacific Island nations are also in pre-Games training in Cardiff, using Cardiff Metropolitan University's Cyncoed base.

Solomon Islands Paralympic coach Fa'amoana Topue said: "Back home we don't have facilities. Sometimes we have to travel to look for equipment."

The Mexicans will form one of the biggest parties in Swansea, with 70 athletes and support staff at the university.

Prof Sergio Durand Alcantara, secretary general of the Mexican Paralympic Committee, said the city "was the best place for our necessities".

Jon Morgan, executive director of Disability Sport Wales, said: "Pre-games training camps are critical to helping overseas athletes make their final preparations before heading into the Games.

"The opportunity to host camps here in Wales will enable us to forge lasting relationships with countries like New Zealand and Australia, enabling us to share best practice and innovation for many years to come."

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