Gold Medal Hero earns another chance

Graeme Martin was one of six sailors named in the Australian team today, and joins fellow Perth sailors Russell Boaden and Colin Harrison in the Sonar boat that will be vying for gold at the Paralympic Games sailing venue in Qingdao.

A leg-amputee, Martin was part of the Australia team that powered to a famous victory in the Sonar class at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games - still the only medal ever won by Australian sailors at the Games.

Eight years later and motivated by a less than perfect Athens campaign in 2004, 59-year-old Martin, from the Perth-suburb of Kardinya, is hoping to taste Paralympic glory once again.

'I'm feeling really good, very excited ... As a team we know we have to try and do our best and we're training to be able to do that,' Martin said. 'I want to repeat my gold medal in Sydney.'

Martin's crew joins Melbourne's Aaron Hill (2.4mR Class) and Brisbane pair Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox (Skud 18 class) in the six-strong Australian Team - a team Australian Paralympic Sailing head coach Greg Omay believes can cause some real surprises in September.

And having recently returned from the Paralympic venue, Martin admits he and his Australian team-mates are already feeling the buzz that comes with competing on the ultimate stage.

Martin's crew finished fourth in their class at the Paralympic warm-up event last month in Qingdao, situated south-east of Beijing.

'We've just got back from China, we've found the problems we can fix and they should be all done by the time we get to the Games,' Martin said.

'The venue is absolutely incredible, the Paralympic Games are going to be big.'

APC CEO Darren Peters is confident Martin and the rest of the Australian team will excel at the Games.

'The 2008 Australian Paralympic Team will be the largest team we have ever sent overseas,' Mr Peters said.

'And although we know the competition will be tougher than ever before, I'm sure every one of our athletes will do their country proud.'

Australian Paralympic Sailing Team coach Greg Omay shares Mr Peters' confidence.

'The Skud and Sonar teams demonstrated they are medal prospects after the recent event in Qingdao with a third and fourth respectively,' Omay said.

'Both crews learned valuable lessons from the event and with the enormous potential to improve, they will better their recent results.'

by Tim Manion

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