By Stephanie Smart, Strategic Communications, Australian Sports Commission
Living in the countryside three hours from a major city would normally be a limiting factor to being competitive in sport at the national level.
This is not slowing down 13 year old Emma Courtney-Bennett from Yallingup in south-west Western Australia, thanks to dedicated family and coaches, as well as assistance from the Australian Government.
Emma has been riding horses since she was three years old and has dreamt of competing at an Olympic Games ever since cheering on the Australian Olympic Equestrian team on their way to winning a silver medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
‘I think I have what it takes to reach the elite level when I am older,’ Emma said. ‘My dream is to represent Australia at the Olympics in years to come just like my coach Sharon Jarvis.‘
Equestrian competitions involve many hours of training, not only for the rider but also the horse.
Emma gets up early every morning to feed her pony; she cleans out stables, cleans her gear, exercises and trains herself and her pony as well as spending hours in the car most weekends to participate in competitions state wide. This process takes a significant commitment to the sport and Emma has thrived on the challenge.
In October last year she competed in showman and novice dressage at the National Interschool Equestrian Competition held in Werribee, Victoria, where Western Australia achieved their best result ever coming fourth overall.
‘Competing in Werribee and being able to represent Western Australia with my fellow team members was an experience of a life time, as well as building my confidence and exposing me to the world I wish to pursue as I get older,’ Emma said.
Emma’s mum Anne Courtney-Bennett said Emma enjoyed the event immensely and developed some great friendships.
‘Horse riding is usually an individual sport, so to part of a team was a wonderful experience for her and really made the trip memorable and very worthwhile,’ Anne said.
‘A significant and unexpected bonus from her experience was a huge boost in her self esteem. Two of her school teachers called me up to inform me that since returning from the National completion, her school work and self confidence had improved significantly.
To assist with the cost of travel for the event, Emma and her family received a $500 Local Sporting Champions grant from the Australian Government.
Anne said there are high costs associated with supporting Emma to compete given the amount of travel and training required, and grants such as this help her to continue participating at a high level.
‘As you can imagine the cost to each family is significant,’ Anne said. ‘Without such financial support it would be restrictive as to what events Emma could participate in.’
‘Emma plans to attend the 2013 National Pony Club Championships as well as the National Interschool Championships which are to be held in Perth. This will be fantastic as she will finally be riding her own pony at the highest level in the country in her home state!’
Emma is well on her way to meeting her goal of competing in Equestrian at the state, national and international level and one day being part of the Australian Olympic team. She also dreams of becoming a pre-primary teacher, as well as a riding instructor for Riding for the Disabled Association.
‘Being so committed to this lifestyle has produced a very mature, community minded and responsible 13-year-old girl,’ Anne said.
The Local Sporting Champions grants support young athletes and officials aged 12-18 travelling to attend sporting events and pursue their sporting dreams. The grants program is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Sports Commission and administered by local Members of Parliament.
Grants of $500 per individual and $3000 per team are available for young people across Australia participating in a nominated national sporting organisation-endorsed state or national championships, or School Sport Australia national school sports championships.
For further information, including application forms and eligibility criteria, visit www.ausport.gov.au/champions