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Fisher flies flag for SA at world champs in Germany

Fisher

A massive adventure awaits Benoni sailor Grant Fisher when he boards an international flight for the first time next week.

The 18-year-old has been selected to represent South Africa at the Para World Sailing Championships from 19-25 June in Kiel, Germany.

Relatively new to sailing – having only taken to a boat for the first time in 2015 – Fisher is aiming to learn as much as possible when he competes in the Hansa 303 class for athletes with minimal disability.

Fisher was born with spina bifida and is paralysed from the knees down. Introduced to the sport at Muriel Brand School in Brakpan, the Benoni teenager took to sailing straight away.

‘I was approached by Carel Schoeman, who asked me if I would be interested in doing sailing as a sport. He invited me to a disabled sailing day, which was a stunning success. I also met Iuan Grey and he guided and assisted me with my sailing skills,’ explained Fisher.

‘I competed in the All Cats Provincials in 2015 and came second. It was at this point I decided that I would like to continue until I reached top level. Sailing is a great sport, especially for someone like me. It gives me the ability to be free and mobile,’ he added. ‘I was very shocked and excited to hear that I’ve been chosen to compete in the World Championships.’

A total of 39 nations will be competing at the 2017 Para World Sailing Championships across five categories.

‘This will be the first for me, I have never competed in a world championships. I would like to finish all races in a reasonable time. It would be great to achieve a good result, as that will in turn give me the opportunity to participate in more,’ said Fisher.

‘I’m very nervous, but also excited at the same time. This is a great opportunity for me, as I have never travelled overseas before.’

Fisher’s ultimate goal is to one day represent South Africa at the Paralympics – something which will hopefully be possible if World Sailing succeeds in getting their sport reinstated in the Games, after it was dropped from the programme for 2020.

Massimo Dighe, Para World Sailing Manager and London 2012 Paralympian told World Sailing: ‘The Para World Sailing Championships is a key step on the road to reinstatement back into the Paralympic Games for sailing, and I’m delighted that the hard work put in by World Sailing and its stakeholders is paying off.

‘The entries feature many new nations and sailors. Competitors from non-traditional Para World Sailing countries such as Chile, Indonesia, Latvia, Macau, Namibia, South Africa, Turkey, Tunisia and Uruguay have got behind the cause and I’m excited to see the competition on the water this coming June.

‘While it is encouraging to see so many new nations competing, it’s important that we don’t lose focus and we continue to move Para World Sailing forward. Hopefully this is just the start of new countries and sailors getting involved and joining us in a sport we love.’

It’s that love of the sport which keeps Fisher motivated. ‘I feel calm, relaxed and free on the water, it melts all my stress away. I would like to be an inspiration to others in my situation, to show people that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it,’ he said.

SA Sailing Chairman Peter Hall wished Fisher well at his first World Championships. ‘SA Sailing is very excited about the opportunity to develop disabled sailing in the country,’ said Hall.

‘The development of a new and affordable disabled sailing class boat, the SV14, by a South African designer is an excellent opportunity to grow this area of sailing. Despite the first boat only being launched at the end of May 2017, there are already other new boats in construction around the world. SA Sailing will be supporting and developing this class,’ he added.


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