Merkle spent more than fifteen years in various roles with the International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS). She was recruited to help the sport as director of the Paralympic regatta in Atlanta prior to the 1996 Paralympic Games and went on to serve as technical chair of IFDS and later President until stepping down in Noveber 2012.
The medal was presented by Vice-President Gary Jobson during the opening ceremony of the High Liner Foods IFDS Worlds in Halifax, Canada. Racing in the three Paralympic classes, 2.4mR (One Person Keelboat), SKUD18 (Two Person Keelboat) and Sonar (Three Person Keelboat) starts on Tuesday 19 August and runs until Sunday 24 August.
Jobson spoke directly to the competitors, remembering adversity he faced with his own health. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2003 and went through several years of intense treatment to return to good health. He said that sailing memories provided him inspiration to get better. And he told the athletes they are all providing the same type of help: "In your own way, you are all inspiring to someone else," he said.
Many competitors have severe disabilities but are able to participate fully in the sport of sailing through adaptations in the equipment. IFDS rules help level the playing field to create fair competition.
Athletes from 24 countries will be competing for World Championship glory and the opportunity to claim the first national places for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition. Eight 2.4mR spots, five SKUD18 places and seven Sonar slots are up for grabs.
Halifax Yacht Club has spent $250,000 CDN provided by corporate sponsors, government partners and club members to upgrade facilities for the World Championships, making the club facilities accessible to all. One unique project came to fruition at the Opening Ceremony. A new race committee boat that accommodates people who use wheelchairs was christened the "J McG." named for James MacGregor Stewart. He was a lawyer in Halifax who achieved great business and professional success with the creation of the law firm Stewart, MacKelvie in spite of disabilities caused by polio. The Squadron's newly accessible race committee vessel was christened by the Speaker of the Nova Scotia Legislature, Kevin Murphy, the first parapelegic to hold that office.
Follow the action
Twitter feeds from the race courses will be available @IFDSWorlds2014.
Daily results will be published on the event website: www.ifdsworlds2014.ca
Daily video reports on Facebook: "Disabled Sailing World Championships".