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Nik Diaper: 'Every Paralympic Games creates a movement'

30 August 2023

The countdown to the Paralympics is on, with Monday 28 August 2023 having marked one year to go until the Games in Paris. To celebrate the occasion, we spoke to Nik Diaper, Head of Paralympic Performance Support, about the Games, as well as reflections on his first year back at the UK Sports Institute (UKSI).

Nik Diaper

Nik, we have now passed the one year to go milestone until the Paralympic Games in Paris. How excited are you? 

Very excited! Tokyo doesn’t feel long ago, with the Paris cycle being shorter, but the strength in depth we now have in our Paralympic programme and the recent performances we have seen at World Championships and major events fills me with hope that we will have a strong Games.

Given how significant the role the UKSI is playing with all funded Para sports, it’s an exciting time for the Institute to reflect on the work we have done in this space. It’s also exciting knowing the Games are so close to home, so people will be able to attend, watch and fall in love with Para sport.

What impact do you hope the Paralympic Games will have in Paris?

The Paralympic Games is an amazing spectacle, taking place every four years, and each Games creates a Paralympic movement – people still talk about London 2012, for example, and what an amazing Games that was – so as well as the strong performances, I hope the celebration of disability helps to change the conversation around it whilst impacting policy across the world.

You mentioned it earlier on, but do you think the Games being so close to home will have a positive impact on ParalympicsGB?

For us in the UK, Paris is easy to get to and there aren’t huge time zone implications compared to previous Games. I hope the friends and families of athletes competing will have an opportunity to travel out and engage with the Games – something that wasn’t possible in Tokyo due to the pandemic – as this will help the athletes whilst providing memories that last a lifetime for their friends and families. It’s not a home Games, but it’s close enough to feel like one.

What sports should people look out for at the Paralympics?

Boccia is a sport I would encourage people to look out for. It’s unique in the sense that it doesn’t have an Olympic equivalent, but it’s filled with incredible athletes and the level of skill and strategy involved is something to behold.

The cool thing about the Paralympics is that there is such a variety of things to see. When you look at the different spectrum types of disability and impairments that athletes have, there is no single thing that defines a Paralympic athlete.

I hope people engage with it and avoid the temptation to make comparisons with Olympic sport.

David Smith competing at the Tokyo Paralympics

Do you have a message for our UKSI people supporting ParalympicsGB at the Games?

Firstly, thank you for your effort and hard work with Paralympic sport. It’s unique to be able to travel to a Paralympic Games and sadly it’s not an opportunity everyone gets to experience, so make sure you pause and enjoy the moment!

We’re approaching one year since you returned to the Institute [Nik worked at both the British Paralympic Association and Loughborough University during his stint away]. How have you found it so far?

I’ve enjoyed it – coming back in after five years out has been an interesting experience – it’s shone a light on what we’re doing well, but also areas that we should do better. The challenge of what we need to do more of excites me, as I sense that we have a unique opportunity to push forward on the Para side of things.

What will be your key focuses between now and Paris?

We’re in that interesting period where the temptation is to focus on the Paris Games. Of course, we need to do that, but I am confident that we have laid the foundations for what should be a good Games.

This affords us the opportunity of having one eye on LA, which is important in my strategic role. Spending appropriate time thinking about the LA strategy is important, as we will be playing catch up if we don’t get that right. There are opportunities for the next cycle that I’m keen we pursue, so I want to explore this to provide the best support for Para sports and athletes.

The Paralympic Games begin in Paris on Wednesday 28 August 2023.

Find out more about ParalympicsGB.