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Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients make their mark at Tokyo Paralympics

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As the dust settles on a memorable few weeks in Tokyo, we take a look back at the incredible performances of the five Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients who made their Paralympics debuts for Australia.

 

Inaugural Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients and Para-swimmers Ricky Betar and Jasmine Greenwood were among the highlights in the pool for the Australian Dolphins Swim Team, each taking home a silver medal to add to Australia’s overall tally of 80 medals from the Paralympics.

Fellow inaugural scholarship recipients Alissa Jordaan and Luke Bailey showed great promise on the athletics track, with Jordaan setting a new personal best in her final event of the competition.

While 2020 Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipient Jessica Cronje featured in the young Australian Gliders basketball squad that finished ninth overall.

The performances of the five young Para-sport team members is a proud moment for the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship program.

A program that is named in honour of Para-sport legend Kurt Fearnley AO, and a collaboration between the Carbine Club of New South Wales and Commonwealth Games Australia, with training support from the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS), that was introduced in 2019 to support para-sport ‘future talent’ athletes.

The Para-sport athletes receive limited support elsewhere and the scholarship program aims to fast track their development to achieve success at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and beyond.

Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive officer Craig Phillips AM is thrilled the program is already producing results and looks forward to the upcoming Birmingham Games to hopefully welcome scholarship recipients into the Birmingham team.

“Well done to the five Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients who represented Australia at the Tokyo Paralympics with such distinction,” Phillips said.

“Congratulations to Jasmine, Ricky, Alissa, Luke and Jessica for achieving one of their sporting dreams and inspiring fellow young Para-sport athletes across the nation.

“At Commonwealth Games Australia we are very proud of your efforts and feel privileged to have played a part in your journey to Tokyo.

“We and are excited for what the future has in store for all of you.”

Phillips sentiments were echoed by Caroline Searcy, the chair of the Carbine Club of New South Wales, who is delighted for the five young Para-sport athletes on achieving one of their dreams.

“On behalf of the Carbine Club of NSW, I congratulate Alissa, Jessica, Luke, Ricky and Jasmine on their excellent performances at their debut Paralympics for Australia,” Searcy said.

“It is heart-warming for our members to know we have been able to assist five young Para-sport athletes in reaching one of their sporting goals and we are all inspired by their hard work and dedication to their sporting pursuits.

“Their successes are new and exciting chapters to add to the Carbine Club’s proud history of supporting youth sport in New South Wales.

“We are pleased to have them as alumni of the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship program and know their efforts and successes will continue to inspire the next generation of inductees into the program for 2022 and beyond.”

Enjoying great success in the pool was Gold Coast 2018 team member Jasmine Greenwood who won silver in the Women’s 100m Butterfly S10 final, her first Paralympics medal.

The 17-year-old was leading the field for almost the entire race before getting pipped at the wall in a time of 1:07.89, just 0.37 seconds behind the winner.

 

Her silver medal put the icing on a fantastic debut Paralympics campaign for the swimmer who reached the finals in all four of her events, including just missing the medals with a fourth place finish in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S10 final.

Another star on the pool deck was 17-year-old Ricky Betar, who was part of the mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay S14 team that won silver for Australia.

In what is quickly becoming a fan favourite event, the mixed relay sees both male and female competitors share the pool in a race based around tactics.

The tactics for the Australian team resulted in a fantastic effort by the squad who finished just behind the team from Great Britain who won gold in a world record time of 3:46.38.

Betar showed he is one to watch in the future after making it to two individual finals during his time in Tokyo, finishing seventh in the Men’s 200m Freestyle S14 and eighth in the Men’s 100m Butterfly S14.

 

The Australian Para-Athletics team can be excited for the future after the performances of Alissa Jordaan and Luke Bailey.

Jordaan continues to be a rising star on the track and showed why by making the final of the women’s 400m T47 final finishing in seventh against a highly experienced field.

She finished her campaign by running a personal best time of 12.80 seconds in her heat for the women’s 100m T47, just missing qualification for the final but a stellar performance by the teenager.

 

Also showing great promise for the future was wheelchair racer Luke Bailey who narrowly missed out on making the final of the men’s 100m T54.

It had a been a long road to the Paralympics for Bailey, with the young New South Welshman beginning his journey to Tokyo when competing in a marathon in Japan when the Olympics and Paralympics Games were announced in 2014.

The announcement fuelled his desire to compete in Tokyo, and he achieved that dream when he lined up on the track.

Bailey finished his heat in a time of 14.55 seconds, just 0.16 seconds off automatic qualification for the final.

Nevertheless, a brilliant effort on his Paralympic debut and we look forward to seeing Bailey represent the green and gold for many years.

 

Finally, the Paralympics were a learning experience for 2020 Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipient Jessica Cronje.

The young wheelchair basketball player qualified for the Australian Gliders squad in a team that was returning to the Paralympics arena for the first time since the London 2012 Games.

A young and building Gliders squad finished with valuable experience for the future from the campaign, including Cronje who as one of the youngest members in the squad got to experience the team culture and test herself against the world’s best players.

Cronje her most game time in the Gliders final match against Algeria where the Australian were victorious to finish the Paralympics with ninth place.

 

As we celebrate the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients of the past we eagerly look forward to welcoming the next group of young Para-sport athletes to the program and to celebrate the new class that will continue to build on the success as we move towards the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

 

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