Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) and the Carbine Club of New South Wales have confirmed the first five recipients of the Kurt Fearnley scholarships.
The scholarships were announced earlier this week when Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) confirmed AUD$13 million (£7 million/$9 million/€8 million) would be given to sports and athletes to fund preparations for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
It is hoped the scholarships will help talented Para-sport athletes in New South Wales, with the initiative receiving support from the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS).
Paralympics Australia has also endorsed the scholarships.
Recipients will get financial support up to AUD$3,750 (£2,000/$2,600/€2,300) based on their individual requirements, and NSWIS programme support up to AUD$1,000 (£540/$710/€630).
This will include assistance with performance planning and access to NSWIS facilities.
They will also benefit from mentoring from former wheelchair racer Fearnley, a two-time Commonwealth Games and three-time Paralympic gold medallist.
Fearnley won more than 30 marathons during a career spanning more than two decades, which concluded with victory in the T54 event at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
His achievement saw him become the first Para-sport athlete to win Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s ‘The Don’ Award, as the athlete who had most inspired the nation.
Fearnley, New South Wales Australian of the Year for 2019, claimed the scholarships represented a great opportunity for the athletes.
Every athlete has a story to tell, but this one from Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipient Aimee Fisher is particularly powerful. Aimee is a T54 100, 200 & 400m athlete & one of five recipients named today who will receive mentoring from @kurtfearnley as well as financial support. pic.twitter.com/fCpJ7po0wS— Comm Games AUS (@CommGamesAUS) April 5, 2019
“This is a ripper for these young athletes,” he said.
“I remember what it was like when I was a young athlete without much financial support or access to facilities.
“They have been identified as emerging, developing or podium-potential athletes, but that often doesn’t mean they are eligible for any support – until now.
“These scholarships will help this group in a very important way and I’m thrilled to work with them all.”
Among the five recipients is Luke Bailey who, like Fearnley, competes in T54 wheelchair races.
The 21-year-old is ranked second in Australia in the men’s T54 100m, while he competes up to the 1500m distance.
He is the oldest of the recipients.
Aimee Fisher and Alissa Jordaan also take part in athletics events, with the former contesting 100m, 200m and 400m T54 wheelchair races.
Jordaan has competed at the World Para-Junior Championships and tops the world rankings in the 400m, while she won gold in the long jump in 2017.
Swimmers Jasmine Greenwood and Ricky Betar have also been awarded scholarships.
Greenwood, the youngest recipient at the age of 14, finished fifth in both of her competitions at last year’s Commonwealth Games.
Betar secured seven gold medals at the 2018 Australian Age Championships.
.@kurtfearnley accepts a big cheque from @carbinensw on behalf of @CommGamesAUS and the five future stars who are the inaugural recipients of the Kurt Fearnley Scholarships 🙌🏼 pic.twitter.com/FZIZgVHlvs— Comm Games AUS (@CommGamesAUS) April 5, 2019
Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips claimed the scholarship programme would be a fitting legacy for Fearnley’s achievements.
“When asked to design a programme by the Carbine Club, Commonwealth Games Australia had no hesitation in creating and investing in the Kurt Fearnley Scholarships as part of our $13million funding for Australian athletes and teams ahead of the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games,” Phillips said.
“The Kurt Fearnley Scholarships will support up to five talented NSW Para-athletes per year who receive limited support and show outstanding potential for future success in identified Commonwealth Games Para-sport events – athletics, swimming, cycling, basketball, lawn bowls, triathlon, powerlifting and any newly-identified 2022 Commonwealth sports.”
Scholarship support can include financial assistance, athlete performance planning, training, funding to competitions at domestic or international level, customised sport equipment and where necessary, classification confirmation.
Scholarships will focus on talented junior and youth Para athletes who have their sights sets on the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Pre-elite senior athletes will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Scholarships will be approved through CGA annually based on selection guidelines and will be monitored through NSWIS to maximise performance impact.