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New Harry O’Rourke Memorial Scholarship for Para-athletes

A new Harry O’Rourke Memorial Award for an outstanding athlete with a disability has been announced by the Don Oliver Youth Sport Foundation, as one of several initiatives that will take the organisation to a new level in the coming years. In the meantime applications are open and the closing date will be extended from the advertised end of May to the end of June. Youngsters wanting to apply must be aged between 14 and 21, both birthdays inclusive, pre elite, with a strong record of success and a reputation with their coach/club/teacher as being someone likely to succeed. They must live in West Auckland.

Full details are on the application form.

Trustees are busy creating the annual Awards dinner which will be held as usual, at The Trusts Arena, on Wednesday 20 September, and adding to the scholarships on offer, the new Harry O’Rourke Memorial Scholarship.

Harry O’Rourke was a trustee of the DOYSF for several years after he retired from a lifetime of service to Local Government, culminating with a decade as the CEO of Waitakere City Council. A life long Judoka, Harry was both a black belt as a fighter and one of the sport’s top administrators internationally. He was inspired through his careers by the courage and achievements of our para-athletes. After his death early last year his wife, Jackie, advised that, at Harry’s request she wanted to see a Don Oliver Scholarship for an outstanding para-athlete, added to the annual scholarships. The couple felt strongly that this should be created not only as a memorial to Harry, but also because athletes with disabilities should have the same opportunities as those without.

Coincidentally, the Foundation has this year received its first application from an athlete with a disability, wanting to be considered for a scholarship. “We have always been open to applications from para-athletes but hitherto we’ve not been good at highlighting that fact,” said Dai Bindoff, DOYSF chairman. “We did intend to introduce the memorial scholarship this year anyway and therefore, the application we have received is very timely.” Bindoff said that all applicants would be judged according to their achievements and not on their disability or otherwise.

Outstanding para-athletes who would anyway qualify for a scholarship, would become candidates for the Harry O’Rourke Memorial Scholarship. “We don’t intend this to be a soft option whereby you get a scholarship because you have a disability. Our very demanding selectors judge everyone who applies, on whether they have had the results and have the skill and personal x factor, to reach the very top of their chosen sport, with the potential to succeed on the world stage. “This means that para-athlete applicants will be selected first against the same criteria as the athletes without a disability. That will say both to them and the world that they have been chosen strictly on merit, which is what they want and expect and is fair to all,” Bindoff said.

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