WESTRUTHER sailor Callum Airlie’s bid to follow in the footsteps of triple Olympic champion Ben Ainslie has become more realistic after he was chosen as a Bank of Scotland Local Hero.
The 15-year-old Earlston High School pupil is one of 82 up-and-coming athletes from across the country that have been selected for the initiative, which will provide him with a £1,000 cash-injection of £1,000.
Airlie drew parallels with Ainslie back in 2009 when, aged 14, he won the national optimist title – the same feat achieved by the four-time Olympic medallist when he was 15 in 1992.
And having seen his potential further realised this week Airle, who now sails in the 420 class with brother Drew, is dreaming of succeeding on the Olympic stage just like Ainslie.
“Ben is definitely an inspiration for me and my career,” said Airlie. “I know he doesn’t sail the 470, the boat above the 420, but he started off in the optimist like me. “And I have actually done better than him, he was national champion as well but when I won it I was a year younger and it would be great to get to an Olympics.
“It feels great to be on the scheme, I have had a bit of support in the past but I think this scheme has the potential to really help me and hopefully I can go a lot further with the sport.
“The money will go towards accommodation and travelling but I think I might put some towards a new suit of sails because the ones I have got right now are fairly old.”
Airlie attended the launch of the scheme at Glasgow’s Scotstoun Leisure Centre, where he received media training from Olympic triple jump champion and world record holder Jonathan Edwards.
The Westruther teenager was also given expert tuition from three-time Olympic silver-medal winning rower Katherine Grainger – who has backed Airlie to deliver on his potential. “The concept of the scheme is fantastic because it’s helping people out at a really crucial stage of their career when there is not a lot of funding or support,” said five-time world champion Grainger.
“You get the financial help which is crucial but there is also the practical side and hearing about the reality of what a lifetime in sport can be like.
“Being at the workshop was incredible, the guys were really exciting to meet and passionate about what they do and you do just think that people like Callum are the talented future without doubt.”
Bank of Scotland Local Heroes, in partnership with SportsAid, provides support and funding to 82 emerging Scottish athletes on their journey to London 2012 and beyond. Follow Scotland’s future stars of TeamGB and ParalympicsGB at www.bankofscotland.co.uk/localheroes