Bursary awards a helping hand to young NI stars
Leisure centre operator GLL has announced that 129 young athletes from across Northern Ireland will receive bursaries to aid with their development and help them compete at the highest level across the world.
The bursaries were handed out at an awards gala at Belfast City Hall last night, with the total amount given out close to around £80,000.
The awards are given to young sports stars who tend not to have any funding from other sources in order to help them compete both at a national and international level.
The bursaries are awarded by GLL's Sport Foundation (GSF), which is the UK's largest independent athlete support programme and covers all disciplines across the Olympics, Paralympics, Deaflympics, Special Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
The purpose of the awards is to ensure that as many athletes as possible, across many different levels, abilities and sports, can have support on their sporting journeys.
As well as the money, athletes will receive free training memberships to over 300 GLL-associated gyms, while they will also be granted access to sports science, medical support and employment opportunities.
Since launching, GSF has handed out over £230,000 to over 375 athletes, to recognisable names such as boxer Anthony Joshua, Paralympian sprinter Michael McKillop and Irish hockey international Shirley McCay.
Lady Mary Peters, whose Trust is one of the sponsors of the GSF Awards, said: "It's crucial that talented young athletes are supported early on.
"The passion that drives athletes to compete at the highest level is instilled in us when we're young.
"Nurturing that talent and passion can create a legacy in Belfast of sporting excellence to inspire future generations.
"The GSF is a lifeline to young athletes who dream of competing in their chosen sports at national level and representing their country at international Championships and tournaments.
"Young athletes starting out face serious challenges, especially when it comes to accessing training facilities and equipment and paying to travel to competitions. For many, the costs of competing are too high and can put them off getting involved.
"The incredible training facilities in GLL's Better Leisure Centres are perfect for young athletes to drive themselves on and fulfil their potential."
Ronan McKenna, the regional community sports manager for GLL, added: "Every one of the athletes honoured this year has shown unbelievable commitment, drive and willingness to sacrifice to reach their potential.
"GSF provides a fantastic support for some of our most promising young athletes and it's an honour to be able to help them as they compete at the highest levels in their chosen sport."