As well as celebrating the inclusion of three Fife athletes in the Great Britain team for Rio and taking a trip down memory lane to remember great Fife Paralympians of the past, Disability Sport Fife is keen to showcase the Fife athletes to watch for the future.
18 year old Sam Fernando from Gateside and Fife Athletic Club Club was classified T20 with support from Scottish Disability Sport (SDS) and Disability Sport Fife (DSF) shortly after his 16th birthday and still a pupil at Bell Baxter High School. As a Fife AC member, Sam initially came under the wing of Dave Francis but then progressed to Ron Morrison’s squad at St Andrews in 2015 and he has not looked back since.
Sam has the advantage and challenge of training along with a very successful performance squad that includes 2016 Great Britain Paralympian Derek Rae from Kirkcaldy. Derek not surprisingly is a huge influence on Sam, as is T20 international athlete Owen Miller from Dunfermline and Fife AC who is coached by Steve Doig. Sam was awarded the Gilbert Trophy at the 2015 DSF Track and Field Championships as the leading Fife junior and the Ben Mills Trophy at the 2016 DSF Track and Field Championships as the overall best performer.
1500 metres is the Paralympic distance available to T20 athletes and from 2013 to the present Sam lowered his personal best time from 5:21.70 to 4:24.51. In the UK rankings for T20 1500 metres, Sam is ranked 8 and he will return to Bedford in August to defend the T20 under 20 1500 metres title. Sam is currently ranked 1 under 20 for 3000 metres, ranked 2 for all T20 age groups over 5000 metres and ranked 4 for all age groups over 10,000 metres.
From the moment Bell Baxter HS staff member Fiona Stewart introduced Sam to the DSF and SDS cross country and track and field programme he has made exceptional progress. Over the past two years the Ron Morrison coaching influence has been considerable and there are many who believe this young Fife athlete has a very bright future. Not surprisingly Scottish Athletics staff support and expertise have been invaluable.
Behind every successful performance athlete there is a supportive family and Sam’s parents have provided all the necessary resources from day one. Sam’s father played a key role when he was selected for the Kingdom Athletics Team that finished third in the Premier Division Youth Development League. Sam recorded personal best times for 1500 metres, 3000 metres and 2000 metres steeplechase. A remarkable series of quality performances for the young Fife athlete.
Sam Fernando was born to run. As a first year Bell Baxter HS pupil his cross country times were impressive and his present UK rankings confirm this early promise. On a recent family holiday to Sri Lanka, Sam seized every opportunity to run in the tropical heat on local beaches, village roads, cricket grounds and even on Independence Square in the centre of Colombo. Sam impressed local observers as he has school staff, DSF and Fife AC personnel since day one. Sam Fernando is definitely one to watch and well done to the support team who have played such an important part in his development.
Richard Brickley MBE
President Disability Sport Fife