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Kurt Fearnley Scholarship alumni taking the starting blocks in Tokyo pool

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Two of the inaugural Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients, Para-swimmers Jasmine Greenwood and Ricky Betar, have been selected to the Australian Paralympic Team for the Tokyo Games.

The Kurt Fearnley Scholarship is producing the results envisioned when the program was created in 2019 by aiding teenage Para-swimmers Ricky Betar and Jasmine Greenwood to earn selection to the Tokyo Paralympic Team at the 2021 Australian Swimming Trials last week in Adelaide.

Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) and the Carbine Club of NSW joined forces in 2019 to create the scholarship program, named in honour of Kurt Fearnley AM, one of Australia’s greatest athletes, with the goal of providing additional financial support to talented individual Para-sport athletes based in NSW who were not receiving financial support elsewhere.

The initiative received program and training support from the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) and is also fully endorsed by Paralympics Australia.

Despite their young age, Jasmine, 16, and Ricky, 17, have made tremendous waves in the pools around Australia and the world, with both swimmers representing their clubs on the national stage and the green and the gold on the international stage.

The Tokyo Paralympics now sees the duo have the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage and both are thrilled for what is ahead.

“It feels good… it means that I will be able to call myself a Paralympian,” Ricky said.

“And it feels good to be representing my country in a few months times.”

Ricky Betar with teammate Tim Hodge after being announced to the Australian Paralympic Team. (Supplied)

It has been a meteoric start to Jasmine’s swimming career making her international debut as a pre-teen at the 2017 Canadian Open in Toronto, where it took just two days to reach the podium with gold in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB9 event when she was just 12-years-old.

An immense effort, but as it would soon become apparent, she was a rising star of the pool to now making her first Paralympic team.

“Making the team means everything to me, it has been five years of incredibly hard training, early mornings, late nights, juggling school… I am very glad that it all worked out for me,” Jasmine said.

“I finally got what I wanted.”

In 2018, Jasmine competed at her first international multi-sport event, the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where she placed fifth in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB9 and women’s 200m individual medley SM10, a self-described “pretty awesome experience”.

Her potential saw her chosen for the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship in 2019 which has allowed Jasmine to go from strength to strength.

“The scholarship was awesome, it allowed me to buy a lot of equipment and covered some of my accommodation expenses and entry fees,” Jasmine said.

“It has been super helpful in my swimming career.”

Jasmine Greenwood celebrates after being announced to the Australian Paralympic Team. (Supplied)

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After starting swimming when he was 10-years-old, Ricky was classified as a S14 swimmer in 2018 and burst into the Australian team picture almost immediately with his results, but cited the support of the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship in 2019 helping him overcome a number of financial burdens faced by many emerging athletes.

“It meant a lot [being selected in the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship]… having that financial support helped fund equipment and my racing,” Ricky said.

The KFS support allowed both swimmers to make the 2019 World Para-swimming Championships team where Jasmine won bronze in the women’s 100m butterfly (S10) and fourth places in the women’s 100m backstroke (S10) and women’s 200m individual medley (SM10).

With Ricky winning bronze in the 4x100m Freestyle Relay (S14), placing seventh in the Men’s 200m Freestyle (S14) and sixth in the Men’s 100m Backstroke (S14) setting an Oceania record in the process.

Both youngsters are now hungry for more success at the Tokyo Games and beyond with an eye on the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

“I am training really hard back at home and just want to put in my absolute best at the Games in Tokyo,” Ricky said.

“I am looking forward to what is ahead of me in Tokyo and then possibly at Birmingham in the future.”

“My goal is as it is always, to have fun, but with my time at the moment and the times I did at trials and I am in the top five [in the world], so I would like to say maybe a medal which would top everything off,” Jasmine said.

“But I think personal bests are always the highlight, and if I can do some more personal bests and go even better than trials, I think that will be awesome.

“Maybe a medal is in the prospects as well at Tokyo, or in the future… the Birmingham Commonwealth Games are definitely another goal of mine for next year.”

Whatever is in store for these talented youngsters they know that Commonwealth Games Australia and the Carbine Club of NSW will be cheering for them along the way.

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