Coach says evolution of the sport means the classification system must continue to change

Coach Keith Antoine believes that ongoing development of the para athletics classification system is essential as the sport continues to evolve.

Last year the governing body, World Para Athletics (formerly IPC Athletics), announced that a revision of its classification rules and regulations would be coming into force for the 2018 season, with a number of “major changes” to be made.

As a result of the changes, a new T61-64 sport classes group was introduced, while all athletes with a confirmed or fixed date review in sport classes T/F 20, T/F 31-34 and T/F35-38 were placed back to a review status for the next year.

There has been mixed reaction to the changes, but Antoine says they can be viewed positively, as recognition of the evolution of the elite side of the sport.

“I’m quite encouraged by the fact that we’re looking at the classification system and going ‘it needs to change’,” the Paralympic and Olympic coach says in a recent interview with the SportSpiel podcast. “If the sport had not evolved at all then the classification system we had 10 to 15 years ago would still be perfect.

“The fact that it needs to be looked at for me is a good thing because it shows that sport is growing, it’s developing, it’s getting stronger.”

Antoine, who in the past has worked with athletes including Denise Lewis and Darren Campbell, currently coaches two-time Paralympic 200m champion Richard Whitehead, who has moved from the T42 to T61 category for athletes with double leg above the knee amputation who compete in running or jumping using prostheses.

Antoine’s focus is on the elite side of the sport, and he believes World Para Athletics also needs to decide what its own concentration is.

“Classification has been hitting the headlines recently but there’s also areas of governance which need to be looked at,” he says. “There’s a whole area of how the IPC are making decisions.

“I think that we’re almost falling between two stools,” he adds. “Paralympic sport, and I can only really speak for athletics, it’s evolving. When it started off, it was all about participation and that was great. Where it’s evolving to is around being an elite sport.

“A lot of the athletes that are involved have aspirations to be elite. The decisions that the IPC make need to have a focus – is the movement around participation or is the movement around elite sport? It’s getting to the stage where it cannot be driven fundamentally by both – one has to lead.

“There is a real danger that the sport is getting ahead of them and either they don’t know how to handle it or they are not even recognising that it’s happening and that for me is the bigger concern.”

» SportSpiel’s full interview with Keith Antoine can be found at sportspielonline.com