Family of Charlotte Cox believe athletes with Down Syndrome face a significant disadvantage without their own classification.
Charlotte Cox’s family are backing calls for sportspeople with Down Syndrome to have a stand-alone category at the Paralympics.
Cox holds world records for athletes with Down Syndrome in 100m, 200m, 400m, long jump and athletic triathlon (100m, long jump and shot put) and has won numerous Special Olympics gold medals.
Although the 25-year-old Toft athlete is not barred from taking part in the Paralympics, she could only compete in the limited number of learning disability events on offer to female participants – 1,500m, long jump and shot put.
But Cox’s mother Sonia argues that the physiological differences separating those with Down Syndrome with what could be essentially able-bodied sportspeople with learning difficulties meant it was not a fair playing field.
She said: “To be fair and equitable, you have to consider both elements of the disability and have a separate classification.
“To give examples, an Olympic sprinter might do the 100m in 10 seconds, an LD athlete would do it in 12 or 13,
Charlotte holds the world record for a Down Syndrome athlete in 15 seconds.
“The 400m might be 40 seconds for an Olympic athlete, 45 to 50 for an LD athlete, Charlotte does it in 70 seconds.
“Our understanding of the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) position is that a separate classification would make the Games too long.
“It’s like inviting a group of people to a party at a hall and then saying to some of them we’d love you to come, but we don’t have the room because the hall isn’t big enough.
“The Sports Union for Down Syndrome have been having conversations and it does seem the door is quite firmly closed.”
Sonia Cox said her daughter, who competes for Cambridge & Coleridge, had benefitted greatly from athletics both in terms of health and self-esteem.
But she said Charlotte could not understand why she was unable to take part in the Paralympics.
“Sprinters go on until they’re about 30, so she could probably have two more (Paralympics) at a push if she wants to keep going as much as she does,” said Sonia Cox.
“If it could be recognised by a big sports organisation, that would be great, but this might highlight to people that they’re not included and focus the question of why they’re not included and then that might make the change.
“We are immensely proud of Team GB and what they achieved in Rio and we want our athletes to have the same opportunity.”
A petition has been established addressed to IPC president Sir Philip Craven, which Sonia Cox hopes will help the fight for a Down Syndrome classification.