Fiona_Pickering_Jan_6I cannot wait for the 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships to begin and I believe it will be an excellent springboard for Paralympic sport in New Zealand.

It will showcase what Paralympic sport is all about and will certainly excite New Zealanders.

It will be the last major gathering of international athletes before the London 2012 Paralympic Games with nearly 1,100 athletes from 80 countries set to compete in Christchurch.

There are still some people in this country who do not consider that Paralympic sport is at the same level as Olympic sport. I encourage all these people to attend the event and see for themselves the level at which all these high performance athletes compete.

By hosting the IPC Athletics World Championships this as an opportunity to shift the attitudes and perceptions towards disabled people.

It's exciting that New Zealand is staging this event so close to London 2012.

The athletes will be looking at putting in some incredible performances in Christchurch to prove a point ahead of the 2012 Games and we are very excited about seeing them compete against each other.

A host of big name athletes are set to compete in Christchurch including South African "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius, British double Paralympic champion David Weir and American Paralympic gold medallists Jessica Galli and April Holmes.

There are obviously a lot of other international names to look out for in Christchurch but it is Oscar Pistorius that is clearly the stand-out name as he has gained a lot of media attention over the last two years.

Oscar Pistorius in Beijing

At the World Championships I think there will be a lot of aspirations to beat Oscar and that will make for a really good race whenever he competes.

He will be a real showcase for the event.

But there will definitely be some other great races as well.

In addition to the big international names, there are nine Kiwis to look out for.

We are expecting some great performances from New Zealand athletes and we hope that the public will really get behind them.

We're also hoping the crowds will turn out for this special event and have priced tickets at just $10 each to make it as affordable as possible.

Tickets to see the IPC Athletics World Championships, which runs from January 21-30, are now on sale and can be purchased from

Fiona Pickering is the chief executive of Paralympics New Zealand and chair of the Organising Committee for the Christchurch 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships.