Seven up-and-coming sporting stars have received a share of more than £4,000 to help them reach their full potential – thanks to a project celebrating Stoke-on-Trent European City of Sport 2016.
They have received awards from Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Talented Athlete Support fund to help with the costs of training and competing in their chosen sports, from water polo to taekwondo.
The youngsters, who are aged between nine and 18, received grants ranging from £400 to £800, as well as £100 to £300 in credits which can be used to access
specialist sports science services at Staffordshire University.
Sisters Madeleine and Martha Warrilow, from Penkhull, are among the first to receive support from the scheme.
Nine-year-old Madeleine, who is ranked as one of the fastest swimmers in the West Midlands for her age, trains four times a week with Newcastle Amateur Swimming Club (ASC) and won eight medals from nine races at a recent competition. Madeleine, who goes to The Willows Primary School, said: “Because of my age there are some competitions I am not allowed to go in just yet but I really enjoy the ones I can.
“As I get older I will be able to take part in more races and galas and become a better swimmer with all the help I get from my coaches and my family.”
Martha, aged 14, is a talented water polo athlete, who currently holds the title of the youngest player to ever compete in the British water polo league. She has taken part in competitions across the country and the under 17s team she plays for, Manchester Water Polo Club, are the current national champions. Martha, who goes to Clayton Hall Academy, said: “I like playing water polo because it’s a team sport and I prefer that to competing on my own like you have to do in swimming.
“I have played water polo in lots of places across the country like Northampton and Plymouth and train for up to 14 hours a week but it’s not cheap for my parents because there is a lot of travelling to competitions, equipment to buy and sometimes I have to stay in hotels. Thanks to this scheme, I can hopefully continue to achieve my dreams and one day represent my country in the sport.”
The scheme offers support to people taking part in 46 sports, from athletics and angling to cycling, gymnastics, swimming and wheelchair basketball. The funding is available over a three-year period to people who live in Stoke-on-Trent and have represented their sport at county level or above in the last 12 months. The money is designed to help with the cost of travelling to events or specialist training, personal equipment and kits and development.
All applications received are be assessed by a seven-strong panel of local representatives who meet up to four times a year. Up to a quarter of the annual budget of £15,000 will be given out each time the panel meets, with any money left rolled over to the next meeting. The next panel meeting will be in July, with the deadline for submissions on June 30.
Councillor Terry Follows, cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, said: “We want to use our year as the UK’s European City of Sport to create a lasting legacy and provide real opportunities and benefits for our residents, and this scheme is a great way of doing just that.
“We have some very talented aspiring sportspeople in the city but the cost of training and taking part in competitions does not come cheap, especially when you start to add up things like equipment, travel and accommodation.
“It’s very inspiring to hear the stories of these seven young sportspeople who are already achieving great things, and I hope the support from this scheme will help them continue with their journeys and fulfil their potential.”
The five other athletes to receive funding from the scheme are:
- Mikael Cacia, aged 14, from Blurton, a taekwondo athlete competing across the European stage having gained his black belt when he was just 13. Mikael started taekwondo at the age of four and will be representing his country at an international competition in the Netherlands next month.
- Aaron Bedson, aged 18, from Sandford Hill, is a member of the City of Stoke Athletics club holding three world records in certain age groups at hammer decathlon, hammer pentathlon and hammer weight pentathlon. He has regularly represented Staffordshire over the last three years and has overcome a broken leg.
- Lucy Dutton, aged 11, from Smallthorne, represents Birchwell Harriers at athletics. She has just completed her first year in the sport but is showing great potential with ambitions to compete at national and international level.
- Olivia Hopwood, aged 12, from Dresden, is a keen athlete specialising in long jump and 60-metre sprint. While new to the sport, she is very keen to quickly progress and be recognised at regional and national level.
- Jack Pickin, aged 17, from Birches Head, competes in taekwondo and is based at Stoke UTA club. Jack has received a place on Team GB’s junior development squad at Sports City in Manchester.
For more information and application forms visit: stoke.gov.uk/cityofsport