Robin Williams (right)

College student selected for London 2012 Paralympics

Mathematics postgraduate Robin Williams has been named as part of the GB 5-a-side blind football squad for London 2012.

Robin has been selected along with 9 other players in the 5-a-side squad.

One of two forms of football on the Paralympic programme, 5-a-side football is played by visually impaired athletes using a ball with a noise-making device inside. The game follows a similar set of rules to futsal, a variant of football played on the continent. The four outfield players must be classified B1 (which means either no, or minimal vision). However the goalkeeper may be fully sighted.

Robin has been a keen sportsman from an early age, swimming at international level until he was 15. In 2008 he started playing football competitively, and was selected for the world cup in 2010. Robin receives top quality support through the University’s High Performance Programme and by virtue of his FA backed Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) award. As such, he trains several times a week at the university with two other members of the squad who are also based in Exeter. The TASS award ensures Robin receives strength & conditioning, physiotherapy and sports medicine services whenever required.

Alongside his football commitments, Robin is also currently studying for a PhD in Statistics, investigating probabilistic weather forecasts with a focus on extreme events. Balancing his academic and sporting commitments proves challenging at times, but he is grateful for the support of supervisor Dr Chris Ferro and the opportunity to use campus sports facilities for training.

Robin is looking forward to the challenge that is ahead of him: ‘Between now and London the focus is on putting the finishing touches to my football game’, he says. ‘I firmly believe that with a bit of work on our composure in front of goal, we can make a real impression in London and come away with a medal, which would be quite an achievement as we're one of only two teams competing who aren't funded to be full-time.’

The 5-a-side team were recently joined in training by David Beckham, as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the Paralympic games and encourage children's participation in sport. The midfielder was coached through a set of drills blindfold, by Paralympics GB Beijing 5-a-side football captain Dave Clarke. Robin is aware of the potential the event has to inspire others.

‘My parents were very supportive and encouraged me to participate in a variety of sports’, Robin explains. ‘Unfortunately, these opportunities are not available to many visually impaired children. Hopefully the London Paralympics will go some way towards changing this.’

Date: 19 April 2012

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