When Demi’s coach died, her country athletics team started training themselves

When Demi’s coach died, her country athletics team started training themselves

Demi Burns is the fastest 15-year-old girl over 400 metres in Western Australia, but she has been training herself since her coach died six months ago.

The death is just one of the many hurdles the teenager has had to face as a regional athlete.

Demi Burns is looking forward to having more resources and support.(
ABC News: Briana Fiore

But things may soon change for the Albany teen, with the opening of the Great Southern Sports Academy. 

The not-for-profit group will provide elite athletes aged between 12 and 19 with mentors, coaching, dieticians and counsellors to help them excel at the top level. 

Raw talent 

Demi said she started athletics after a parent encouraged her to join following a school sports carnival.

She instantly fell in love with it. 

“It’s the people … a lot of people think running is an individual sport but there’s a lot of people involved … my team mates, my coach and just the whole club, I love the atmosphere of it,” Demi said.

Demi has competed in state and national competitions and hopes to one day compete at the Olympic Games. 

But her coach Basil Worner died less than a week after he and Demi returned from a national championship in Brisbane in April.

Demi Burns says her coach Basil Worner instilled lots of wisdom in her before he died.(Supplied)

Now Demi and the other country athletes train themselves.

“The knowledge that he presented onto us is so big that we managed to train by ourselves … he’s had a big impact on all of our lives,” she said. 

“We were the Mountaineers, he would say to climb a mountain, you can’t climb around it so you have to climb up it … so you have to face all your fears.”

“He was a very wise man and he’ll always be in my heart.”

Demi said there were barriers that came with living in a regional area.

Demi Burns has been training herself since losing her coach.(
ABC News: Briana Fiore

“Opportunities, there’s not a lot of high-end athletes here and I need people to push me and sometimes that’s not possible and I’m always having to travel to Perth to get those coaches,” she said.

She was excited to be part of the new program.

“I think it will help us progress into that higher level because when you’re by yourself it can be hard to know that you can do it,” she said.

Riding waves 

Denmark surfer Isi Campbell will also take part in the academy. 

She has already represented Australia internationally, winning a silver medal in El Salvador. 

“I think dad was getting me on the board at 18-months-old, I was always at the beach,” Isi said. 

“It’s nice being out in nature and in the water.”

Isi Campbell has represented Australia in surfing.(ABC News: Briana Fiore)

The 16-year-old said she never had any formal training, and just learnt from her father and sister. 

“Down here we’re so isolated so it’s good that we can get more opportunities,” she said. 

“It opens up a few more pathways.”

Supporting young people

The academy’s executive officer, Rob Perisic, said regional athletes often felt alone in their journey.

Rob Perisic says regional athletes will be given more support.(
ABC News: Briana Fiore

The former state volleyballer said applications were open to junior athletes from any code who were competing at the top of their game.

“The aim of the academy is to provide a lot of support services and funding opportunities,” Mr Perisic said.

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