Commonwealth Games Australia and the Carbine Club of New South Wales welcome the next class of Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients who are targeting the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Four young Para-sport athletes have been selected as the recipients of the 2021/22 Kurt Fearnley Scholarship, named in honour of one of Australia’s greatest Para-sport athletes who will provide mentorship to the next generation of champions.
The scholarship program is a joint venture between Commonwealth Games Australia and the Carbine Club of NSW established in 2019 to target talented individual Para-sport athletes in NSW who received minimal funding from existing programs.
The initiative also receives program support from the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) and is fully endorsed by Paralympics Australia.
Kurt Fearnley Scholarship holders receive financial support up to $3750 based on their individual requirements, NSWIS program support up to $1000 including assistance with performance planning and access to NSWIS facilities, and most importantly, mentorship from Kurt Fearnley AO himself.
There have been 10 former recipients of the scholarship over the 2019 and 2020/21 classes, with five alumni recently competing for Australia at the Tokyo Paralympics, with Para-swimmers Jasmine Greenwood and Ricky Betar each winning silver medals at the Tokyo Games.
The scholarships recipients were due to be announced at the Carbine Club of NSW autumn racing lunch, which was cancelled, so instead they joined Fearnley for a special online induction where they heard from the three-time Paralympic and dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
Fearnley, who bowed out of international competition with an emotional marathon win at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games told the scholarship recipients via an induction teleconference that he was looking forward to working with the third group of scholarship holders to help them to pursue their sporting dreams and is continually in awe of the impact the scholarship is having on the Para-sport movement.
“The growth of Para-sport has been remarkable,” Fearnley said.
“I remember watching one of the first events in the Commonwealth Games for Para-athletes in 1994.
“It was when I was relatively new to the sporting movement and seeing people with disabilities held in the Commonwealth Games as a united family was something that I was really enthralled with… for the Australians, we had Paul Wiggins racing in the marathon and winning the gold medal.
“With this scholarship, you are supporting my community and a group I have constantly said over the last few weeks of Paralympics coverage [with Channel 7], that this is my extended family in the way that it is supported and the way that you have grabbed hold of them.
“I am just extremely grateful, often I think we come from a place where people with disabilities in sport have felt like we as the ‘other’, but we and I definitely don’t see it that way now.
“I see this embracing of my family and my community by Commonwealth Games Australia and the Carbine Club of NSW but also by the greater community, which it is really heart-warming.”
Before imparting a message to the four incoming recipients and congratulated them on making it this far, but encouraged them for the future.
“My involvement with the scholarship is twofold. I get to see the organisations that supported me, the organisations that I feel grateful to be a part of, to support the next group of New South Wales Para-athletes, but also I get to be a part of their journey as well,” Fearnley said.
“Congratulations on everything that you’ve done to get yourself here.
“It is a bit strange to think of now that there is a history of Paralympic performance in this squad [already] and there will be a very strong future of Commonwealth Games performance in the squad as well.
“I look forward to, not just seeing the five who qualified for this year’s Paralympics, but I am sure that this number of Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients representing Australia will grow in Birmingham and beyond.
“We’re only months away now from naming a team to Birmingham and I do hope I get to celebrate with people, not only from this squad right now, but also the extended squad already and thank you for doing what you do as well.
“We often think, we often praise or we often celebrate the moment but I’d like to take this moment to thank you for all the hard work that you’ve done.
“To get yourself to this point, you’re recognized as a future not only competitor for Australia, but hopefully a future leader for the Australian Sports movement.”
2021/22 Kurt Fearnley Scholarship Recipients
|Sarah Clifton-Bligh||17||Narellan, NSW||Para-athletics||Coached by Paralympic legend Louise Savage, Sarah Clifton-Bligh is a wheelchair racer in the T33 classification. The teenager is a talented all-rounder having competed in both track racing and field events such as seated throws, but has become one to watch in the wheelchair racing world. She began racing after being lent the famous "blue chair", which has been shared among wheelchair racing icons such as Kurt Fearnley and Angie Ballard. Sarah is a bright prospect as a T33/F32 athlete. Athletics Australia believes she has strong potential to make the team in the T33/34 100m event in Birmingham.|
|Junjian "Jessy" Chen||21||Ermington, NSW||Para-table tennis||Jessy Chen competes in the wheelchair (Class 3-5) event. He narrowly missed out on qualifying for Tokyo 2020 (no international ranking) so he now has his sights set on Birmingham. He won the Oceania Regional Class 3-5 Men’s singles in 2019. Jessy is categorised within the National Table Tennis Para Squad as a Developing athlete. While the Para-table tennis program financially supports Jessy to attend national camps and provides subsidies towards any international competitions, he must pay for private coaching sessions, sport science and sport medicine needs. The Kurt Fearnley Scholarship will provide significant support towards his preparation for Birmingham.|
|Indiana "Indi" Cooper||15||Gundagai, NSW||Para-athletics||Indiana "Indi" Cooper competes in the T38 100m event and continues to improve. Based on the World rankings as of 29th June 2021, Indi is well placed to qualify for Birmingham. She is currently not nationally categorised within the high-performance system so the additional support received through a Kurt Fearnley Scholarship will assist her progression and maximise her chances to qualify for Birmingham.|
|Alex Tuckfield||16||Bonnet Bay, NSW||Para-swimming||Alex Tuckfield competes in the 100 backstroke S9 event. He placed 4th in this event at the 2021 Australian Swimming Trials. Alex had one of the swims of his life to win bronze in the men's 400m freestyle S9 at the recent Tokyo Paralympics. Due to COVID restrictions in the lead-up to the Tokyo Games, Alex had to do swimming practice at the beach, beginning training at 4am. He is currently not nationally categorised within the high-performance system so the additional support received through a Kurt Fearnley Scholarship will assist in his progress and maximise his chances to qualify for Birmingham.|
Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive officer Craig Phillips AM said the scholarship program was an important part of developing the next Para-sport representatives at the Commonwealth Games.
“The Birmingham 2022 Games with eight Para-sports, will have more Para-sport events on the programme than ever before, and we want to provide our young athletes with the opportunity to fulfil their sporting aspirations,’’ Phillips said.
Caroline Searcy, chair of the Carbine Club of New South Wales said the Club was proud to continue its support of the scholarships.
“The Carbine Club are proud to continue to partner with one of Australia’s greatest sportsmen to assist junior Para-sport athletes to achieve their sporting dreams,” Searcy said.
“We have a tradition of supporting junior sport in New South Wales and the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship furthers that commitment.”
New South Wales Institute of Sport program manager Tom Dickson believes the scholarship can make a significant impact in the sport journeys of these young Para-sport stars of the future.
“The results from the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients demonstrate how important this support can be for young Para-sport athletes so we are pleased to continue our partnership with the program and look forward to welcoming the 2021/22 Kurt Fearnley Scholarship holders to NSWIS,” Dickson said.
The latest four additions to the program follow on from the 2020 Kurt Fearnley Scholarship class where six recipients were supported through a difficult year due to COVID restrictions.
Wheelchair basketball players Maryanne Latu and Jessica Cronje were selected for the Australian Gliders women’s team for the Tokyo Paralympics, with Jessica making the final Gliders team to compete at her first Paralympics.
Two-time Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipient Aimee Fisher narrowly missed out on selection to her first Paralympics, but will now be targeting the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, while fellow Para-athletics young star Kailyn Joseph won bronze in her long jump class at the 2021 Athletics Australia Championships
Para-cyclist Benjamin Said won multiple gold medals at the Australian Championships in early 2021, and Para-swimmer Oscar Stubbs won the men’s 50m backstroke S13 event at the Swimming Australia Virtual Short Course event in December 2020.
We look forward to supporting the next class of Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients.
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