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Meet the next generation of young British athletes

TALENT: Shannon Hylton

THE VOICE Of Sport has partnered with SportsAid, a national charity providing financial support and recognition to young British athletes, to profile the country’s best up-and-coming sporting talent from the black community.

Reece Prescod and Shannon Hylton are two names you may not have been too familiar with when tuning in to watch the British Athletics Team Trials on the BBC recently.

Yet it was the sprint duo’s barnstorming performances that stole the show in Birmingham as they won gold and guaranteed their places on the start line at next month’s IAAF World Championships in London.

Reece came first in the men’s 100m, edging out James Dasaolu and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, while Shannon took the women’s 200m title, finishing ahead of Bianca Williams and Desiree Henry.

Having the opportunity to compete against the world’s best in their home city is a huge personal achievement but there was also a wider impact as they both helped to shine a light on the next generation of British track athletes coming through.

Londoners Reece, 21, from Walthamstow, and Shannon, 20, from Mottingham, will have encountered many of the same challenges faced by young athletes pursuing their sporting ambitions.


HERO: Holmes got a financial boost from SportsAid

Balancing their time and the various commitments they have, especially when it comes to managing their education alongside training and competitions, is one of the biggest. Accessing funding to meet the costs involved with their sport is another.

National Lottery money allows the country’s elite athletes to focus on their sport full-time but what type of support does the best up-and-coming talent receive as they progress through the talent pathway?

This role is filled by SportsAid, a charity established in 1976, which initially acted as the major funding source for Britain’s top senior athletes before UK Sport’s arrival in 1997. Since then, SportsAid has backed the country’s young sports stars.

Parents spend, on average, £6,417 annually to help their child pursue their sporting ambitions according to SportsAid’s latest survey.

Each year, the charity supports over 1,000 athletes – the vast majority aged 12 to 18 - across more than 60 sports.

Shannon and her twin sister Cheriece, who came fourth in the women’s 400m at the Team Trials, have received SportsAid awards in 2017 while Reece had help from the charity last year.


EXAMPLE: World Champion Degale

Over the last four decades, SportsAid has acted as a constant thread running throughout Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic success.

Daley Thompson, Tessa Sanderson, Denise Lewis and Kelly Holmes are a few of the country’s sporting heroes who had a financial boost from the charity while Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah, James Degale, Kare Adenegan, Lutalo Muhammad, Alistair Patrick-Heselton and Ellie Downie are recent examples.

SportsAid support came for Ennis-Hill when she was just 15-years-old in 2001. She stated in her application form that her long-term ambition was to ‘compete in major championships’ while her list of recent track performances saw her finishing second place on four occasions at Under-17s level and in third and ninth position at Under-20s.

Farah had not long turned 16 when he was given a SportsAid award in 1999 to help him push forward in his sport.

"As an athlete or ex-athlete, to see that help that SportsAid offers is invaluable,” said Farah at SportsAid’s 40th anniversary SportsBall in 2016.

“I remember my first time ever getting support from SportsAid, how big it was and how far it went so it's important we see that.

“We have to recognise the hard work SportsAid does. They're very good at supporting and finding the next generation of athletes, like myself in the past.”

To put SportsAid’s impressive track record into context, Ennis- Hill and Farah were just two of 418 athletes (from a total of 630) to pull on the Great Britain vest at the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games last summer having previously been a recipient of the charity’s support.


APPLICATION: Jessica Ennis

SportsAid alumni ended up bringing back an outstanding haul of 150 medals - 64 gold, 43 silver, 43 bronze - combined across both Games in Brazil.

“I remember when I received my first SportsAid grant when I was around 14 or 15,” recalled Olympic bronze medallist Dina Asher-Smith.

“Everybody jokes about the bank of mum and dad but that’s what we run off when we are younger athletes and I remember there were times where my mum was thinking, ‘do I pay this bill or do I go to this competition?’ SportsAid helped my mum and dad immensely and also boosted my confidence.”

SportsAid has existing commercial partnerships which help produce money for financial awards with fundraising another of the charity’s major income streams.

Athletes mainly use their SportsAid support to cover travel costs, whether it be regularly filling up the car with petrol or paying for a flight to an international competition, while accommodation, training fees, equipment, kit and nutrition are also major forms of expenditure.

“When I got my first SportsAid award it was an incredible feeling,” said Great Britain wheelchair basketball legend Ade Adepitan.

“I was trying to make it into the team and you get hints that there is the potential to progress.

“The money went towards my second basketball chair so it was incredibly important. Without a quality chair and proper equipment, it’s really difficult to make it to that next level so for me it was absolutely vital.

“SportsAid will always be relevant because people will always need that help, they will always need that boost.

“To have a charity like SportsAid that is there and able to provide financial backing for equipment, for coaches, all of those really important needs when an athlete is at a crucial stage of their career, where they’re just on the cusp of making it to the Great Britain team, but they haven’t quite got the support, it’s invaluable.

You can find out more about SportsAid by visiting www.sportsaid.org.uk and continuing to read The Voice where the story of a young talented athlete will be featured every month.

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