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Bursaries boost for future sport stars

By Jim Gracey

Over 100 promising young Belfast athletes collected bursaries worth £69,800 at an awards ceremony in Belfast City Hall last night.

Social enterprise organisation GLL, which runs all of Belfast's leisure centres under the Better Belfast banner, distribute the funds amongst 116 rising stars, three quarters of whom receive no other sports funding and who rely on these bursaries to help them compete at national and international levels.

GLL's Sports Foundation (GSF) is the largest independent athlete support programme in the UK. The annual awards cover Olympic, Paralympic, Deaflympic, Special Olympic and Commonwealth sporting disciplines.

Athletes supported by GSF receive award packages that include financial grants of up to £1,250, free training memberships with access to 300 GLL and partner operated sporting venues, along with access to sports science, medical support and employment opportunities.

GSF Ambassador and gold medal paralympian Michael McKillop performed the handover, saying: "The role played by GSF is a lifeline to athletes like me, who dream of competing in their chosen sport at national and international championships and tournaments."

Ronan McKenna, Regional Sport and Community Manager at GLL, said: "I would like to thank all our partners and sponsors for their support for the programme. Belfast City Council, Mary Peters Trust and Rebound Physio provide the direct links to Sport Governing Body talent pathways, whilst our corporate sponsors headlined by GLL and Technogym, numerous local authorities, university and physiotherapy partners directly contribute to support these sporting dreams so that they can become a reality."

Recipient Rachel McCune (16) is the only female from NI to have ever qualified for the European Taekwondo Championships and said: "The support this award will give me will be invaluable in helping me achieve my dreams. Access to better leisure centres will allow me to train for my sport in the gym and pool in first class facilities."

Since launching in Belfast in 2015, the GSF has provided over 250 athlete awards worth over £160,000 across the city.

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