GAINING a Kurt Fearnley Scholarship will enable Wingham wheelchair racer Luke Bailey to move fulltime to Newcastle for training and competition.
Bailey, 21, hopes this will help him qualify for the world championships to be held next November in Dubai and ultimately the Paralympics.
His scholarship win was announced last Friday in Newcastle, with Fearnley on hand to make a presentation to Bailey.
"I didn't know too much about it,'' Bailey admitted.
"My coach (Andrew Dawes) nominate me.''
Bailey said it was great to catch up with Fearnley. The champion wheelchair racer encouraged Bailey to get into sport from a young age and Bailey said Fearnley is his mentor and inspiration.
He hopes to be living in Newcastle early next month. This will enable him to fine tune his preparation before he heads to a world championship qualifying event in Switzerland towards the end of May. This will be the second year he has competed in Switzerland.
Bailey said the scholarship and resulting move to Newcastle will make 'a huge difference' to his athletic ambitions.
"At the moment I can only get down to Newcastle for training once a week,'' he explained.
He completes the rest of his program in Taree.
"When I'm living in Newcastle I'll be able to train every day of the week,'' Bailey added.
He trains at the Fearnley Dawes Athletic Centre in Newcastle West and hopes to find accommodation near there.
Bailey returned from Switzerland last year rated 10th in the world in the 100 metre sprint. However, he admits he has some work to do yet if he's going to be racing at Dubai in November.
"My PB is 14.54 for the 100 metres,'' he explained.
"And the qualifying mark is 14.30.''
Bailey said Switzerland is likely to be his only shot at making the world championships. The cost and amount of travel involved to compete elsewhere would be prohibitive.
"I'd have to go overseas chasing times,'' he said.
"And that's probably not going to happen.''
Switzerland is a happy hunting ground for him. When he headed there last year with an Australian team to contest the Swiss championships and an IPC Grand Prix he didn't have a world ranking. He completed an exhausting program of nine races and gained an overall fifth placing as well as gaining his ranking.
Bailey's ultimate ambition will be to represent Australia at the Paralympics in Tokyo next year. He is confident his shift to Newcastle, closer to his coach and training base, will held him achieve this goal.