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Backing the Best

Netballers Halimat Adio and Shelby Harris (pictured) joined fellow young talented athletes supported by the ground-breaking Backing The Best programme at a workshop last month (4 May), focusing on equipping them with new skills for their future careers in sport.

They received expert insight and guidance from double OIympic champion Rebecca Adlington, Rugby World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi and Team GB canoe slalom legend Richard Hounslow on performance lifestyle management, nutritional intake and dealing with the media. Parents also had their own specially adapted sessions as well as the opportunity to hear from Kay Adlington – Rebecca’s mum.

Managed by SportsAid for Sport England and backed by £5.5 million of National Lottery funding over a four-year period, Backing The Best presents annual awards of £5,000 per athlete to help with essential costs such as travel, accommodation, kit, nutrition and medical bills, as well as extra support from coaches.

70 athletes were supported during the first year in 2016, producing world, European and national age-group level champions, with 95 up-and-coming stars now benefiting from the scheme’s second term. Many of the first set of awardees have now progressed on to Athlete Performance Award funding with UK Sport.

Commenting on her award, 15 year old Shelby from Worthing said: “I’m really happy.

This scheme is going to help me a lot with training and going to and from training, it is hard to get to training because it can be quite expensive travelling round the country but Backing The Best will give me that chance to travel to every training session and help improve my performance so much. I can train a lot more and learn a lot more and that will help me play against people from higher levels. I was so thrilled when I found out.”

Phil Smith, Sport England’s Director of Sport, highlighted the difference Backing The Best is making with the costs young athletes are facing: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we’ve been able to help another 94 young athletes through Backing The Best so we can take some of those financial barriers away. We want these potential stars of the future to be able to concentrate on what matters most, their sport.”


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