ISAF vice president Gary Jobson has presented former IFDS president Linda Merkle of Atlanta, Georgia with a silver medal for service to disabled sailing. Merkle spent more than fifteen years in various roles with the International Association for Disabled Sailing. She was recruited to help the sport as director of the Paralympic regatta in Atlanta prior to the 1996 Games and went on to serve as technical chair of IFDS and later president.
The presentation was part of the opening ceremonies for the High Liner Foods IFDS Worlds 2014 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Racing in the combined world championships in three Paralympic classes starts on Tuesday and runs until Sunday, August 24th.
Linda Merkle - Kathy Large
Jobson spoke directly to the competitors, remembering adversity he faced with his own health. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2003 and went through several years of intense treatment to return to good health. He said that sailing memories provided him inspiration to get better. And he told the athletes they are all providing the same type of help: 'In your own way, you are all inspiring to someone else,' he said.
Athletes from 24 countries will be competing in three classes when racing starts on Tues., August 19th. Many competitors have severe disabilities but yet are able to participate fully in the operation of sailboats through adaptations in the equipment. IFDS rules help level the playing field to create fair competition.
The Halifax yacht club where the championship is being held has spent $250,000 CDN provided by corporate sponsors, government partners and club members to upgrade facilities for the world championships, making the club facilities accessible to all. One unique project came to fruition at the Opening Ceremonies. A new race committee boat that accommodates people who use wheelchairs was christened the 'J McG.' named for James MacGregor Stewart. He was a lawyer in Halifax who achieved great business and professional success with the creation of the law firm Stewart, MacKelvie in spite of disabilities caused by polio. The Squadron's newly accessible race committee vessel was christened by the Speaker of the Nova Scotia Legislature, Kevin Murphy, the first parapelegic to hold that office. IFDS Worlds website