Para-long jumper Ari Gesini is set to be mentored by Australian rugby legend George Gregan ©Paralympics Australia

Para-athlete Ari Gesini will receive a AUD$10,000 (£5,500/$7,000/€6,000) grant and work under the guidance of Australian rugby legend George Gregan as part of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame (SAHOF) scholarship and mentoring programme.

The 17-year-old long jumper, who was born with mild cerebral palsy, is one of 32 young athletes to secure a SAHOF scholarship with six receiving the top five-figure funding boost.

It comes after Gesini became one of the youngest athletes to win a medal at the senior Australian national championships with his performances in long jump.

At 15, Gesini clinched gold in the T38 long jump at the 2017 Junior Para Athletics Championships in Switzerland before competing at the Senior World Para Athletics Championships for the first time last year where he came fourth.

He set five personal bests along the way with his longest jump of 6.16 metres standing as the all-time Oceanic record.

The teenager said he was looking forward to being mentored by former scrum-half Gregan who achieved a record 139 caps for Australia and is also the country’s most-capped captain of all time.

"It came as a big surprise and I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of this programme," said Gesini. 

"The SAHOF scholarship has provided me with a once in lifetime opportunity to talk to a sporting legend, George Gregan, one on one, something I’ll never forget. 

"Over the next 12 months I hope to learn as much as I possibly can from George and to gain new wisdom and skills that will help me for the rest of my life."

Gregan described Gesini as an "impressive young man" who he was looking forward to working with "over the coming years."

"I feel privileged to be able to pass on some of my experiences, that can hopefully help Ari throughout his athletic career," Gregan added.

The other "tier one" recipients of the AUD$10,000 grants are snowboarder Josie Baff, 17, golfer Jed Morgan, 20, boxer Marissa Williamson, 18, BMX rider Oliver Moran, 18, and surfer Molly Picklum, 17.

Swimmer Susie O’Neill, cricketer Ricky Ponting, beach volleyball player Kerri Pottharst, cyclist Brad McGee and water polo player Debbie Watson have joined Gregan in agreeing to help guide the young scholarship winners.

As well as Gesini, SAHOF has awarded fellow para-athletes Col Pearse, Dylan Lillehales, Katja Dedekind and Jamieson Leeson funding.

Para-swimmer Pearse, 17, and 20-year-old Littlehales, who competes in Para-canoeing and kayaking, have secured AUD$5,000 (£2,740/$3,500/€3,000) as part of the "tier two" scholarships.

"It is a tremendous honour for myself to become a part of the SAHOF family and be recognised for my achievement on and off the water. I look forward to taking my performance to the next level with the support of SAHOF," said Littlehales.

Pearse said the funding would help him to make next year’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo in Japan and give him the "opportunity of a lifetime."

"I always feel proud and honoured when I am recognised for my swimming and being notified of my successful application by SAHOF is an honour and I am truly grateful to be given this scholarship," Pearse added.

Fellow Para-swimmer Dedekind, 19, and Para-boccia player Leeson, 17, have been named as "tier three" scholarship winners meaning they will each receive AUD$2,500 (£1,400/$1,800/€1,500).

The programme is supported by the Australian Government with funding from Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and has grown from offering five scholarships when it began in 2006 to issuing 32 this year.