Paralympics bring Azerbaijan to town

Ilham Zakiyev
Ilham Zakiyev
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WITH London 2012 just 93 days away preparations for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games are well and truly under way.

Nowhere more so than Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the spiritual home of the Paralympics, which this week announced that the Azerbaijan Paralympic squad will be based there ahead of the hotly-anticipated event.

The Azeri’s Paralympics Committee is taking advantage of the fantastic facilities at the stadium by flying its athletes over in May and June to prepare for the Games.

The squad will be joined at the Stadium by the Saudi powerlifting team, Finish athletics and wheelchair rugby squads and the Icelandic athletics and swimming teams ahead of London. The country’s 23 athletes and 10 officials will be staying in the Olympic Lodge as they bid for glory when the Games start on August 29.

Ian Seabrook, business development manager at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, said: “We are really looking forward to the arrival of the Azerbaijan team and are confident they will enjoy training with us due to the fact we have some of the best facilities in the UK.”

Ramin Kasamanski, of the Azerbaijan committee, said: “We are so pleased that our athletes are able to train at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, given the high level of equipment and quality service.

“I think they will find this time extremely beneficial to their Paralympics preparations.”

Azerbaijan made its Paralympics Games debut at the Atlanta 1996 Games and has won a total of 15 Paralympic medals to date.

Blind judokan Ilham Zakiyev (pictured competing at the 2008 Beijing Games, left) is the most successful Paralympic athlete to come out of the country, having won gold in the men’s 100kg+ judo competition at both the Athens 2004 and Beijing.