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29 March 2012, 10:03 am
Paralympians And World Champs Primed For Macquarie Access Worlds
Stephen Churm in the 2.4mR at Sail Sydney
Stephen Churm in the 2.4mR at Sail Sydney

Access Worlds
Sydney, Australia

In nine days' time, 95 boats and 126 sailors representing nine nations will take to Sydney Harbour for the 2012 Macquarie Group Access World Championships, to be hosted by Middle Harbour Yacht Club from 7-13 April.
Among the entries from Australia, Malaysia, Hungary, France, USA, Japan, New Zealand, Netherlands and Great Britain, are Beijing 2008 Paralympic silver medallist Dan Fitzgibbon in the SKUD 18, along with his treble Paralympic medal winning crew, Liesl Tesch.

The Australians are the ones to beat in the SKUD 18, having picked up the gold medal at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami in January, overcoming the reigning world champions, who have had a stranglehold on the class for some time.

Fitzgibbon and Tesch only joined forces for a Paralympic sailing campaign in 2010. Their gold medal effort came on the back of winning Bronze at the 2012 IFDS Worlds earlier in January in the USA, Silver at Sail Melbourne in December and Bronze at Sail for Gold, held at Britain's Olympic and Paralympic sailing venue.

While it's yet to be announced, Fitzgibbon and Tesch, results indicate they will represent Australia at the London Games where, Tesch says, "Dan and I want to add a gold medal to his silver and my two silver and a bronze medal," she declared.

The pair is primed and ready to face the international competition at Middle Harbour Yacht Club.

"We're really looking forward to competing at the Worlds. Dan and I have been training at shifty Pittwater (northern Sydney) since our gold medal win, and trying out different techniques, so we'll quietly put some of them into practice at the Access World's," Tesch confirmed today.

"We're excited that the New Zealand and Malaysian teams who are training towards the Paralympics will be competing too, along with Ame Barnbrook and Lindsay Mason, our strongest Australian competition," she said.

"This is a perfect opportunity for us; we don't traditionally start out regattas at our best, but by the time we finish the Access Worlds, we can go to France confident of giving the world champions (Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell who will represent at the Paralympics on their home waters) a good run."

Tesch, a high school teacher at Woy Woy on the NSW Central Coast, has represented Australia at an incredible five Paralympic Games in Wheelchair Basketball, winning Silver at Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, and bringing home Bronze from the Beijing Games.

The vivacious and competitive 42 year old came to sailing late after being selected from a large pool to join Sailors with DisAbilities for the offshore season in 2009, after showing a natural flare and confidence. "My involvement with them, and doing the Hobart race with them, led me to pursue campaigning for the London Games," she said.

Australia's Stephen Churm is also hopeful of being selected for the London Paralympic Games, after joining Beijing bronze medallist Colin Harrison and new crew Jonathan Harris to campaign in the Sonar class recently. The new trio finished an excellent fourth against a quality Paralympic medal-yielding fleet at the IFDS Worlds in January.

At the Macquarie Access Worlds, Churm will hone his skills in the Access 303 Single-Person class. His main competition is likely to be reigning world champion and Beijing Paralympian, Zoltan Pegan from Hungary, and fellow Aussie Rod Angwin, who's most recent best result is an eighth in the 2011 Sonar at Skandia Sail for Gold as former crew of Colin Harrison.

Canberra resident, Peter Thompson, represented Australia at the 2000 and 2004 Paralympics in the 2.4mR class. At these Worlds, Thompson will sail the Access Liberty single-person class, where he will face multiple challengers with world titles and scores to settle.

Lachlan Gilbert, who has coached Thompson and others at Paralympic Games level, will be on hand to provide coaching support during the regatta too

A spectacular Opening Ceremony will be held on the evening of Sunday April 8 at Middle Harbour Yacht Club, and will be attended by the Hon. Graham Annesley MP, the NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation.

Australia is the theme, highlighted by indigenous performers, including dancers, singers and a didgeridoo player, while flag bearers from each nation will parade. Sir James Hardy, an Australian yachting icon, will also take part.

At the Ceremony, inspirational Liesl Tesch will share her various Paralympic experiences and her difficult decision to cross over from basketball to sailing for the Paralympics, which will be held from 1-6 September on the waters of Weymouth and Portland, the same venue as the Olympic sailing.

The 2012 Access World Championships are sponsored by Macquarie Group Foundation and the NSW Government. Support has also been announced from Telstra, Sailability and Yachting NSW, joining Estate Master, the Freemasons and Roads & Maritime Services.

To follow the Macquarie 2012 Access Worlds, go to the official website: www.2012accessworlds.mhyc.com.au
Di Pearson MHYC Media
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