Thousands of Australian students are corresponding with athletes preparing for the world's premier sporting event for the disabled. Schools were put in touch with the athletes through LEAP - Link Elite Athletes Programme - part of the Sydney 200 Paralympic Games' national education strategy. Youngsters were keen to find out about their lifestyle, training and competition schedules, Debra Pinkerton, manager of the National Education Programme, said. 'The athletes will get a mini- fan club which will cheer them on to the games,' she said. By the end of this month more than 50 sportspeople will be part of LEAP. They can write letters, faxes, postcards, e-mail or visit schools to keep students updated about their preparations. The Paralympics have their origins in the International Wheelchair Games in England held in July 1948 to coincide with the London Olympic Games. They were organised by a neurosurgeon at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, who believed sport was the best form of rehabilitation for injured World Wars II veterans in wheelchairs. From those 1948 beginnings, the first Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960 with 400 athletes from 23 countries, but only for those using a wheelchair. In Sydney in 2000, around 4,000 athletes from five other disability categories - in addition to wheelchairs - will compete in 19 sports. Dr John Grant, president of Sydney Paralympic Organising Committee, will open the games to mark the 50th anniversary of disabled sports. Meanwhile, IBM has re leased its innovative infopoint electronic information service that will provide the latest snippets of information in Australia during the Sydney Games. Infopoints are touch screens with nearly 500 pages of information - including screens in 11 different languages - which will be regularly updated to cater for the Australian public and international visitors. The infopoints will be located at tourist information spots in Sydney and across Australia at interstate airports, city halls, libraries, the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra and the New South Wales Parliament House.