HOPES AFLOAT: Sam McPherson, of Swan Bay, has received a $500 sporting champions grant to help him with his sailing pursuits.
HOPES AFLOAT: Sam McPherson, of Swan Bay, has received a $500 sporting champions grant to help him with his sailing pursuits. David Nielsen

Setting sail on a fresh course

A 15-YEAR-OLD Northern Rivers boy has been recognised as a local sporting champion after quickly getting off the mark in the sailing world.

Sam McPherson, of Swan Bay, who has cerebral palsy, was presented with a $500 grant from Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin last week to help him on his way to the Australian Youth Sailing Championships in South Australia in January.

“I was inspired by Sam's success in what was a relatively new sport for him, and by all the other junior athletes from the region who are using local sporting champions grants to enhance their careers at major competitions,” Ms Saffin said.

The local sporting champions grant is part of a Federal Government program to financially assist competing junior athletes.

In April, Sam sailed solo at the Australian National and International Dinghy Championships on the Gold Coast to finish sixth, after only six months of sailing.

In the same month, Sam finished second at the Port Stephens Regatta behind mentor and world champion runner-up Chris Cooke.

Since joining the non-for-profit Lennox Head sailing club Sailability last year, Sam has made a great impression.

“We have seen so much potential in Sam,” Sailability president Chris Cooke said.

“Before joining he had only been sailing once or twice casually with his dad, but he took to it like a duck to water.”

The Evans River K12 student also has severe dyspraxia, a communication disorder that has presented many social challenges, Sam's mother, Hilary McPherson, said.

“He has had a real aversion to sports. We tried team sports, but nobody will pass the ball to you if you can't run with it,” she said.

“Until now Sam's social life has been fairly restricted.

“That is the only part of his life which I wish was different, where he is included more.”

But all that has changed since joining Sailability and Sam has found a comfortable social environment where he volunteers, as well as competes.

Sam is training every fortnight in preparation for the Youth Championships in January, which could see him qualify for the Australian Special Olympics in April.



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