Duo in Paralympic team

First Games: Sailor Stephen Churm, 57, will compete at the 2012 Paralympics.
First Games: Sailor Stephen Churm, 57, will compete at the 2012 Paralympics.

SUTHERLAND Shire sailors Stephen Churm and Jonathan Harris have been named in the 2012 Australian Paralympic team after the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) officially announced the sailing team that will head to London.

Churm of Como joins Cronulla crewmate Harris and Western Australia's Colin Harrison in the Australian Sonar three-person boat set to take on the world in London in August.

At 57, it will be the first Games for lifetime sailor Churm, who took up the sport as a 12-year-old on Port Hacking.

Having only just missed qualification to the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, the Australian crew went on to win Australia's first Paralympic gold medal. Churm is thrilled to finally realise his Paralympic dream.

"It's been an ambition of mine since 1998 and I'm excited. It's my passion, I'm excited to represent my country, excited by the team that's together and I think we've got great medal prospects," Churm said.

Churm, who suffers from klumpky palsy which affects his left side, only joined Harris and dual Paralympian Harrison late last year.

At their first ever event together, the trio finished fourth at the 2012 IFDS Sailing World Championships — one point off a podium finish. So they hold real hopes of medalling in London.

"I think we have definite medal prospects. I'd like that yellowy-coloured one," Churm said of the gold. "We're all there to do a job and we're committed to getting that job done."

Sailing out of Cronulla Sailing Club since his youth, Jonathan Harris, now 56, never anticipated he would be heading to his first Paralympic Games — in London.

Harris took up the sport as a 10-year-old in Cronulla. Having raced in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and making his international debut competing back in 2002, Harris is thrilled to not have his Paralympic dream pass him by.

"I just love the strategic and tactical side of yacht racing and when you're sailing against the world's best, it heightens the satisfaction of doing well," Harris said.

"The international competition is very high. We're sailing against the best teams in the world who have been together many years. But my feeling is that there is enough talent on this boat, we are realistic medal contenders."

Australia has won three medals in sailing at the Paralympic Games - one gold, one silver and one bronze - since it was introduced as a Paralympic sport in 2000.

The London 2012 Paralympic Games

will be held August 29-September 9.