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Starlets aim high with 2020 vision

Meet Jack Agnew and Oisin McClelland...two young sportsmen chasing the Olympic dream and 1972 Pentathlon gold medallist Dame Mary Peters is determined to help Make It Happen for them with special cash awards from her Trust

By Frank Brownlow

Published 02/02/2016

Dreaming big: Oisin McClelland (sailor) Jack Agnew (wheelchair athletics) along with Alyn Spratt from Bluefin and Eilish Rutherford, Chair of the Mary Peters Trust
Dreaming big: Oisin McClelland (sailor) Jack Agnew (wheelchair athletics) along with Alyn Spratt from Bluefin and Eilish Rutherford, Chair of the Mary Peters Trust
Oisin McClelland

Oisin McClelland has outgrown his sport - and that has opened the door to Olympic glory. And now his chances of sailing success have received a further fillip thanks to a Mary Peters Trust 'Make it Happen' award, supported by specialist insurance broker Bluefin Sport and worth £2,000.

Oisin had a successful junior career, but as the Donaghadee lad's height reached 6ft 4in before the age of 18, it actually became a disadvantage to his competitive career.

Now his physical build is a distinct advantage - as he competes in Heavyweight Men's Finn Class (95kg - 105kg). This has seen his career flourish and provides a potential avenue to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Oisin took the brave step of going to Spain and basing himself at the Dinghy Academy Camp in Valencia where he trains and competes with world class sailors on a daily basis. Here, Oisin has been selected to train in a specialist group with four other international Finn athletes.

The Mary Peters Trust 'Make It Happen' award will mean that he can spend three to four months there full-time, which is crucial in the run-up to the European season. Previously, Oisin was at the training camp on a part-time basis and travelled home to work and save so that he could support himself.

Oisin explained: "Last May I decided to move all of my equipment to Spain to train as I know it is how I will achieve my Olympic goal.

"I am now training with a world class international group with some of the best in the world, including multiple Olympic medal winners and sailors who have represented their countries at the highest level for many years.

"I am improving quickly but much more is possible.

"The award will be used to pay for coaching and to train with this group full-time. The chance to train full-time within this specialised environment can only lead to improvement.

"The coaches I am training under have experience at the highest level and are passing on the most up-to-date techniques and skills.

"Lining up every day beside athletes that have won Olympic medals gives me a drive to improve and succeed. I believe this opportunity is invaluable to my development and I am already seeing the results of it.

"Since May I have been funding this coaching myself by working for periods in between training. However I feel I really need the opportunity to make the jump to full-time training and this award provides that.

"The £2,000 will allow me to train full-time for three to four months which would take me right up to the start of my European season when I feel that, after a sustained period of training, I can make a big impact at the major international events."

The Royal Yachting Association Northern Ireland (RYANI) - sailing's governing body - named Oisin as one of their High Performance Athletes.

Alyn Spratt, Head of Sport for Bluefin Northern Ireland, said: "We are thrilled to support these awards and to be associated with the fantastic work of the Mary Peters Trust and Dame Mary herself. It's inspiring to see the impact this can have in helping athletes achieve their sporting goals and ambitions."

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