For wheelchair racer Luke Bailey competing at the Tokyo Paralympics will see the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipient achieve one of his sporting dreams and see the youngster begin to emulate the feats of one of his heroes, Kurt Fearnley.
It is fitting that wheelchair racer Luke Bailey has secured selection to his debut Australian Paralympic team for the Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan, given the then teenager was competing in a marathon in the Japanese capital when the Games were announced.
“I was in Japan in 2014, I went over there to race in a marathon,” Luke said.
“So, I was over there in Japan when the Tokyo 2020 Games were announced… so I can’t wait to get back over there.”
The 23-year-old former marathoner now wheelchair sprinter will now make the trip back to the land of the rising sun hoping to win his first Paralympics medal in the T54 100m sprint.
Ranked seventh in the world in his event, Luke has worked hard to make his one of his sporting dreams into a reality.
Leading into the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, Luke hoped to qualify for the Australian team and line-up at the Games alongside his idol Kurt Fearnley AO, the NSW Central Coast lad even started emulating his hero by training with Kurt’s long-time coach Andrew Dawes.
Sadly, Luke sustained an elbow injury which saw him miss the Commonwealth Games selection trials and had to watch Fearnley from the sidelines, the setback saw the youngster fall into a self-described “training slump”, but at Dawes’ invite, Luke went overseas to rekindle his drive.
“He called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to Switzerland to race,” Luke said.
“It was incredible to be able to travel to compete again.
“I came out of those races with some great times, and we took it from there.”
Upon returning to Australia, Luke continued investing more and more into racing, even making a significant decision to move two hours south to Newcastle to continue his training with Dawes.
A move which Luke admits he could not have done without the financial support from the scholarship named in honour of his hero.
Luke Bailey meeting his hero Kurt Fearnley when being named as a recipient of the scholarship named in his honour. (CGA Archive)
“In 2019, I received the Kurt Fearnley scholarship, and I moved to Newcastle to train full-time,”
“I moved in with Andrew and his wife Christie Dawes, for about a month, and it helped me a lot with paying for equipment and paying for competitions.
“I think if it wasn’t for the scholarship, I don’t think I would have gone this far in my sport.
“It has helped out so much… I am grateful [for the scholarship] and to have met Kurt.”
The Kurt Fearnley Scholarship is a partnership between Commonwealth Games Australia and the Carbine Club of NSW. The scholarship is named in honour of para-sport legend Kurt Fearnley AO and provides financial support to talented individual para-sport athletes based in NSW.
For the young wheelchair racer, the hard work has paid off and he has now set his new target for a solid showing in Tokyo for the Australian Paralympic team, a feat that still feels foreign to him.
“Getting the uniform in our hands, means a lot more than just seeing pictures and trying on the sample kits in our house, actually seeing our whole uniform and bags,” Luke said.
“I think that means a lot… it makes it more real.
“It still doesn’t feel real to me, until I get the uniform.”
After he receives the green and gold, then Luke’s focus turns to September 1st when he lines up on the start line in Tokyo.
No matter the result, Luke will be prepared and knows he will have given it his best, crediting his coach for his mindset.
“My coach has always said for all of my championships… to go out there and do your best, if you don’t win a medal as long as you’ve given it your best, that’s what matters,” Luke said.
“He has been unreal, he has helped me out a lot in the past year, and he is an unreal coach and if he was to retire then I think I would probably retire too (laughingly).
“He has always said I would make the Paralympics, and I always doubted myself with all my injuries, but he has got me there so I am happy.”