Organisers of the Brisbane 2019 International Federation for Intellectual Disability Sport (Inas) Global Games have held a basketball training project in Shenzhen in an attempt to grow inclusive sport in China.
The week-long project was delivered by Sport Inclusion Australia, working closely with the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs through its Asian Sports Partnership (ASP) and the Brisbane City Council.
More than a year in the making, it came to fruition when Australian basketball representative Kelly Bowen provided training to young students and teachers at Shenzhen’s Yuanping Special Education School.
Bowen, a member of the Australia’s 3x3 women’s basketball team, is due to deliver more sessions in the future.
Inas describes China as a "huge untapped potential", pointing out that none of the country’s athletes who competed at last year's Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro had an intellectual impairment and that the number who currently participate in Inas events is low.
Sport Inclusion Australia chief executive Robyn Smith visited the nation in March to meet with the education hierarchy of the Shenzhen Foreign Affairs office as well as key staff members at the Yuanping Special Education School and the National Paralympic Committee of China.
Smith was said to be surprised by the facilities, the numbers of students and the willingness of the Chinese authorities to participate in the programme.
"Australian schools and sporting organisations would be amazed at the facilities available here at a special school for over 1,500 students with a disability," she stated.
"There are over 1,000 special schools across China with millions of students with an intellectual disability."
Further opportunities have been discovered for Inas and the Global Games, which gathers hundreds of athletes to compete in nine sports.
"It is clear that China is very supportive of students with an intellectual disability, but their participation in the Paralympics and Inas events has been restricted due to lack of accessible eligibility processes," Smith added.
"If we want to expand into non-English speaking countries, we need to be open to change and ensure that the process is open and translated in multiple languages."
With the coaching and education programme underway, Smith now intends to focus on ensuring that the eligibility process is made available to the Chinese in her role as vice-president of Inas.
"One of highlights of the ASP project has been Sport Inclusion Australia’s ability to bring together a number of stakeholders to maximise the effectiveness and mutual benefit to all involved," an Inas statement reads.
"The Brisbane City Council, in particular the Lord Mayor’s Office, has played a large role through engaging the Foreign Affairs Office and Mayor of Shenzhen, which ensured the project had credibility.
"Sport Inclusion Australia plans to develop a relationship and inclusive opportunities in China, in particular the city of Shenzhen, a sister city to Brisbane.
"The project will work with the Yuanping Special School and the Shenzhen Leopards national basketball club to enhance the skills of the children with an impairment in the sport.
"It also aims to build the capacity of local coaches and clubs to be fully inclusive and ensure these initiatives are sustainable.
"Once a successful model is developed it will be expanded to include other sports and has the potential to reach 1,000 special schools across China.
"Sport Inclusion Australia will also work with the Chinese Paralympic Committee to discuss the possibility of starting a high-performance programme for those more talented athletes, to ensure there is a pathway through to Inas events and the 2019 Global Games."
The 2019 Inas Global Games are scheduled to take place from October 9 to 20.
The fifth edition of the event will be held a year after Australia hosts the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.