PARALYMPICS hopeful Piers Gilliver has Rio 2016 firmly in his sights since a disability charity stepped in to fund qualification heats.
The 19-year-old wheelchair fencer from Drybrook, in the Forest of Dean, feared his hopes of performing at the 2016 Games were dashed due to a lack of resources to keep his training on track.
A £4,000 grant from the Gloucester Association for Disability will go some way in helping him become one of the top 12 wheelchair fencers on the planet.
Piers said: “Each competition costs £1,000 and it will cost between £15,000 to £18,000 for qualification events and training to get to Rio.
“So this is a huge help and will pay for a few competitions, but not all. But if I can get better results and rankings, hopefully that will get more people interested in me.
“But, if I can win the European championships in 2016, then I will automatically qualify for the Paralympics.”
If he fails to win the bi-annual European or World Championships during the qualification period from September, 2015, until May, 2016, but can still secure a top 12 world ranking, he will still qualify for the 2016 Games.
Despite being ranked number 10 in epee and 15 in foil, two fencing types, he said he will not rest on his laurels.
He is set to compete at this year’s European competition in Strasbourg, France, which takes place next week, and although success here will not be counted towards his Rio campaign, it is hoped to lead to more sponsorship.
Despite Piers suffering from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which results in loose joints and fragile body tissues, he entered the sport in 2007 and has enjoyed great success since then.
His mother, Jo, said: “This is good news from the association as they also have concerns as some people don’t know they are out there either.
“This grant is not going to cover everything by a long shot, but he should be able to get four or five competitions out of it.”
At the British Disabled Fencing Association’s 2013 National Championships, Piers became the Men’s category A double national champion winning gold medals in both epee and sabre, and he also took the silver medal in the men’s category A foil.
Piers has been in the Great Britain squad and competing internationally for just over a year.
He is now the current men’s cat A epee unders-23s world champion, a title he took at only 18 years old.
He has also won two bronze medals in the senior World Cup series competing against the world’s top fencers.