Liam_Harbison_smallAs we turn the page on 2010 and enter the penultimate chapter of the 14th edition of the Summer Paralympic Games at London 2012, the progress of Ireland's athletes begs the question – will the Irish Paralympic Team outshine all others in Irish sport in 2012?

Following another outstanding year by Paralympic athletes in Ireland, the list of achievements is impressive and includes:

Orla Barry's European record in the F57 discus

Michael McKillop's T37 1500 metres world record

Padraic Moran's Boccia World Championship gold medal in the BC1 class

The Irish BC1/BC2 team's fourth place finish at the Boccia World Championships

Mark Rohan's UCI ParaCycling Road World Championships gold medal

Ireland's football seven-a-side team's bronze medal at the CP-ISRA European Championships, representing their first major championship medal in 15 years.

Ireland's mixed coxed four's fifth place at the FISA Rowing World Championships

James Scully's fourth place and Jonathan McGrath's fifth at the IPC Swimming World Championships.

This list is only a snapshot of performances put in by an increasing number of elite Irish Paralympic athletes in a range of sports.

In addition, Jason Smyth broke barriers at the European Athletics Championships finishing fourth in his semi-final behind the three eventual medallists in the men's 100m.

With 20 months to go to London 2012 Paralympic Games, the preparation of Ireland's team continues to follow the plan laid out following the Beijing Games.

The work being carried out by the athletes, their coaches, team managers, sports science and medical personnel, the National Governing Bodies of sport and PCI is directed at each athlete achieving "career best performances" at the London 2012 Games.

The performances of the athletes have been underpinned by the growth of the Paralympic Council of Ireland in 2010, led by President James Gradwell and the board of individuals passionate about their sport - Paralympic sport.

The organisation has grown significantly in 2010. The introduction of high achieving staff in key roles has greatly added to the ability of the organisation to achieve success.

Sinead Naughton (programmes coordinator), James Nolan (head of paralympic athletics) and Patrick Haslett (community partnership manager courtesy of Vodafone Ireland Foundation World of Difference programme) have stepped seamlessly into a dynamic high performing organisation determined to achieve success.

Despite the difficult financial environment which the whole of Irish society is grappling with at present, the Irish Sports Council have continued their immense support for Paralympic sport and remain committed to assisting the Irish Paralympic family in achieving its goals at London 2012 and beyond.

That support is vital as the delivery of world-class medal-winning performance requires substantial investment.

To further underpin our preparations, many other organisations have joined the Irish Paralympic family and invested in the nation's Paralympic hopefuls.

The addition of Renault Ireland, One Complete Solution, Sport Northern Ireland, Waterford Institute of Technology to the existing support from O'Neills Sportswear is demonstrating the increasing strength of Paralympic sport in Ireland and the movement worldwide.

The outlook for 2011 is one of promise. The qualification for London 2012 is the key priority with athletes across all sports targeting major championships.

First into action is the athletics team at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, from January 21-30.

Michael_McKillop_celebrating_in_Beijing_2008A team of eight, including defending champion, Michael McKillop (pictured) will depart these shores on January 13. The team will contain three debutants to major championships - Ailish Dunne, Nadine Lattimore and Ray O'Dwyer.

A special treat for Paralympic sports fans is the opportunity to attend the CPISRA World Boccia Cup in late August when the University of Ulster, Jordanstown, host the final qualifying event for teams looking to London 2012 qualification.

By year's end we hope to be well on our way to achieving our team size target of 50 athletes and to adding significantly to the roll of honour in Irish Paralympic sport.

From an organisation perspective, the year will be off to a quick start with a major announcement concerning the future of the Paralympic Council of Ireland due on January 26.

We also look forward to announcing a range of corporate supporters in various brand sectors in early 2011 along with other investment generating initiatives in which individual Paralympic supporters can play their part.

Other significant developments pending include the launching of an Irish Paralympians Club, the rolling out of an education programme in Irish schools, the launch of ParaLions2 and the holding of a full road test of Ireland's Holding Camp base in Coimbra, Portugal.

The foundation for success in London has been built, but as Mohammed Ali said "the road to success is always under construction". The journey to London 2012 continues.

One thing is clear however, the 2012 Irish Paralympic team has the ability to be Ireland's most successful sporting team in the year of 2012!

Wishing the entire Irish Paralympic family a happy and highly successful 2011.

Liam Harbison is the chief executive of the Paralympic Council of Ireland