Sara’s Olympic reign

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page - By ROSANNA CANDLER

EQUES­TRIAN cham­pion Sara Cann will don green and gold to rep­re­sent Australia at the Spe­cial Olympics World Games in Los An­ge­les next month.

The Church­lands res­i­dent said she felt Clare­mont Ther­a­peu­tic Rid­ing Cen­tre was like “a sec­ond home” from the mo­ment she rode her first horse there more than 37 years ago.

“When I’m on the back of a horse I’m free; I’m free in the fresh air and it’s just beau­ti­ful,” she said.

Sara trav­elled to Syd­ney ear­lier this month to sym­bol­i­cally ac­cept the Aus­tralian uni­form from Gover­nor Gen­eral Peter Cos­grave and make a thank you speech on be­half of the 10 West Aus­tralian ath­letes com­pet­ing at the sum­mer games.

NEVER in her wildest dreams did Pam Cann imag­ine her daugh­ter Sara would one day rep­re­sent Australia in an Olympic arena.

“I knew she had a spe­cial con­nec­tion with horses from the first day I brought her to Clare­mont Ther­a­peu­tic Rid­ing Cen­tre at five years old,” Ms Cann said.

“Her coach M’Liss Henry was there with about four or five ponies and I said: ‘Could my daugh­ter please touch a horse?’

“She said: ‘Let’s just put her on one’. Sara has spent all her life there since then.”

Sara (44), who has phys­i­cal and men­tal dis­abil­i­ties and a skin con­di­tion called Neu­rofi­bro­mato­sis, was awarded Eques­trian WA’s Para Eques­trian Rider of the Year in 2014.

Ms Cann said this July would be the first time Australia sent an eques­trian team to the Spe­cial Olympics World Games.

“Sara has had a long-term am­bi­tion to rep­re­sent Australia and it has fi­nally come true,” she said.

“M’Liss is go­ing to Los An­ge­les in my place be­cause she has been coach­ing Sara for 37 years; she has given thou­sands and thou­sands of hours to her.

“Sara can’t go any higher; she’s at the top of the moun­tain and now she can just fly. I re­ally wanted M’Liss to be there to share that with her.”

As well as vol­un­teer­ing at the not-for-profit rid­ing cen­tre, Sara has de­liv­ered the West­ern Sub­urbs Weekly for the past 10 years.

“I try to ride at least three times a week, but I come ev­ery sin­gle day help­ing with lessons and look­ing af­ter all the horses,” she said.

“I have been rid­ing Choco go­ing on four years and he is just the most pre­cious lit­tle boy in the whole wide world, he is my best friend.”

Ms Cann said she and Sara had to pay $8500 up­front to com­pete at the Spe­cial Olympics World Games.

“Horse rid­ing is the most ex­pen­sive sport in the world and it costs ev­ery­thing, it re­ally does,” she said.

“Fundrais­ing is an oner­ous task, but you just do it. You have to.”

An Aus­tralian Sports Com­mis­sion spokesman said Spe­cial Olympics Australia would re­ceive $545,000 from the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport in 2015-16, com­pared with para-funded sports that were al­lo­cated $12.9 mil­lion.

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Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie­mu­ni­ d439054

Sara Cann (44) with her horse Choco.

Above: Pam Cann in Syd­ney re­cently with daugh­ter Sara. At right: Sara ac­cepts the of­fi­cial Spe­cial Olympics World Games Aus­tralian uni­form from Gover­nor Gen­eral Peter Cos­grove.

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