February 25, 2016 12:03pm
Sean Thompson, Wentworth Courier
REMEMBER these faces — one day they might be winning Olympic medals or taking on the America’s Cup.
The youngsters from Woollahra Sailing Club have set a course for stardom after taking eight of the top 10 places at the recent Optimist Australian Championships.
And in a first for Australian sailing, the Woollahra sailors have taken every spot on the national Optimist class heading to the world championships in Portugal in June.
Then in the 29er boat class John Cooley has put himself in the lead for a spot on the Australian youth team heading to Oman for the world championships after winning two national titles in January.
General manager Adam South said the club had a long history of producing top sailing talent.
“It goes right back to Dr Peter Blaxland, who was one of Australia’s most notable Olympic representatives, to Olivia Price who won silver at London in 2012,” he said.
“We pride ourselves on being able to nurture sailing talent. We are what epitomises a sailing club and we encourage everyone from the grassroots right to the world championship level and everywhere in between.
“It’s great for us to have every kid from the club in the one national team, but above all else we want them to enjoy their sailing, regardless of what the endpoint is. In saying that, we do have some exciting times ahead.”
IN the early days of his young sailing career, John Cooley admits he very nearly gave it all away. As a 10-year-old he watched other kids who had developed into promising sailors and thought there was no way he could peg them back and reach their level.
But after some encouragement from family and teachers at Scots College John stayed the course and now finds himself eyeing a chance to represent Australia at the 2020 Olympics.
To mark his steady rise John, 16, has been named the Wentworth Courier’s 2015 Junior Sports Star.
He earned the nomination after a series of big performances on the world stage alongside crewmate Simon Hoffman, including second place at the Australian 29er Nationals, second at the European Cup and sixth at the World Youth Championships.
Proving it was no fluke he won the national youth and Australian championships in January, making him a leading candidate for a spot on the team heading to Oman for the world championships later this year.
Although the school played a big factor in his decision to keep sailing, John said he was determined to get better each time he hit the water.
“I just had the attitude of never giving up, which is a good thing now that I look back on how far I’ve come,” he said.
“What I didn’t like about sailing at the time was seeing people already doing well and knowing I had a lot of catching up to do.
“Scots’ sailing program pushed me hard and from that I’ve grown to the sailor I am now.”
He also credits his growing experience to the support of Woollahra Sailing Club.
“The club has been an important part of my development, including hosting the SPLASH Festival and all the regattas we did over the holidays,” he said.
“It was great for my home club to host those events and all the support I get from them, including the South family, who are always looking after me.”
While there are still plenty of races on the 2016 calendar, John said one of his biggest motivators was chasing the Olympic dream.
“I’m keen to try an Olympic campaign, either in 2020 or 2024. It’s something I’m aspiring for. I’m not sure what boat I’ll do it in yet, but at this stage I’m thinking 49er.”
At the award ceremony at Waterview Bicentennial Park last week, John said he was shocked to have his name called after looking around at all the young sporting talent in the room.
“There were so many talented athletes there, and everyone is a winner that night,” he said.
“Being one of the finalists wasn't easy, but to actually win it was amazing.”
Junior Sports Star is sponsored by Rebel.