We don’t need to look far into the history books this month to bring you this month’s athlete – Erin Cleaver. Erin is a young Paralympic hopeful who is currently competing with the Hunter Academy athletics squad. Photo Credit: Ryan Osland
A year eleven student from Whitebridge High School, Erin is currently on the Road to Rio and hopes to secure her seat on the plane this winter with a strong performance in June at a team relay camp and meeting on the Gold Coast.
Diagnosed at the age of one with right sided hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, Erin is challenged with a right arm and leg that fatigue more quickly than her left side. Erin has what she would consider a “very mild disability,” which has not stopped her from pursuing a career in the elite world of track and field.
Erin first competed in the T38 division at the NSW CHS titles in 2013 where she cleaned up five gold medals (100m, 200m, long jump and javelin for athletes with a disability) and garnered the attention of Newcastle jump and sprint coach Shaun Fletcher.
Shaun (also a Hunter Academy coach) has worked with Erin for the past three years to fast-track (pun intended) her development to become the fierce competitor she is today.
Erin made her international track and field debut in Doha, Qatar at the IPC Athletics World Championships last October where she leaped to a personal best of 4.45m, earning a fourth place finish in the T38 long jump; an outstanding accomplishment given she’s never competed seriously on an athletics track until three years ago.
Erin credits the Hunter Academy on assisting with her nerves when being selected to national teams for the NSW State Team and Australian National Team.
“The skills I have learned while being part of The Academy have made me less anxious when selected on the teams for the Australian Junior Championships and IPC World Championships.”
Being a regional elite athlete has been challenging for the Charlestown based athlete in her pathway to the Paralympics.
“Newcastle has some great facilities and I have a great local physiotherapist and fantastic coach who has experience with cerebral palsy athletes. I was selected as a NSW Institute of Sport athlete and the only challenge I face now is that I am unable to use the NSWIS facilities as often as I would like to, due to the distance.“
In addition to squad sessions with the Hunter Academy, Erin trains regularly with her local squad Torque Athletics Newcastle where she trains five to six days per week at the Hunter Sports Centre in Glendale as well as at Planet Fitness in Lambton.
In April, Erin competed at the Australian National Championships where she took home bronze in the women’s 200m ambulant final and placed fifth in the long jump with 4.47m. The Olympic qualifying distance is 4.69m.
To make it to Rio Erin will need to peak. The big question now is how will preparing for her qualifying competition next month differ from her prep for the Australian National Championships and to that her answer is simple, “My coach Shaun has everything mapped out so I will just do what I am told. I suppose being in Year 11 will also add some complications, but I will deal with those as they happen.”
Spoken like a true young Olympian.
You can follow Erin’s journey to Rio by keeping up with the Hunter Academy Facebook page (www.facebook.com/hunteracademy/) and Athletics Australia.