Belfast Telegraph

Lady Mary Peters helping three rising stars to go for gold

On track: Lady Mary Peters with Power NI sporting ambassadors (from, left) Ryan Devine, Conn Nagle and Erin McConnell
On track: Lady Mary Peters with Power NI sporting ambassadors (from, left) Ryan Devine, Conn Nagle and Erin McConnell

By Robert Jones

Three inspirational young athletes are aiming to fulfil their European, Commonwealth and Olympic ambitions with support from a new Mary Peters Trust and Power NI funding partnership.

Triathlete Erin McConnell from Newtownards, West Belfast gymnast Ryan Devine and Conn Nagle, a wheelchair basketball player from North Belfast, have each been selected to receive a £2,000 bursary to help them expand and improve their respective training and development programmes.

In addition to helping the upcoming sporting heroes get on track to achieve their ambitions, Power NI has appointed all three as 'Power NI community sporting ambassadors' with the aim of encouraging other young athletes to push forward and achieve their own sporting goals.

Power NI's bursary is helping 18-year-old student Erin to target this year's European Triathlon Championships in Russia.

Ranked No2 in Ireland, Erin is currently the BMW Super Series female Irish champion, Triathlon Ireland's Junior Athlete of the Year and a Junior Aquathon national champion.

Outlining her future plans and dreams Erin said: "I'm already proud of what I have achieved, but my goal is to compete in the International Triathlon ITU circuit around the world, the 2022 Commonwealth Games and ultimately an Olympic Games.

"It means so much for the Mary Peters Trust and Power NI to have recognised my potential as their support will help me to reach my goals through training, wellbeing and competing.

"The Mary Peters Trust is such an invaluable charity for up and coming athletes who need help and recognition to achieve for the future."

A Level student Conn (18) is using his funding to help him reach the 2020 U22 European Wheelchair Basketball Championships which is a 2021 World Championship qualifier.

Post A levels, Conn hopes to study at Sheffield University where the GB wheelchair basketball squad is based. Selected for the GB U23 squad at the age of 17, Conn achieved third place in the UK Schools Games and fourth in this year's IWBF U22 European Championship.

He said: "Watching the GB Men's Wheelchair Basketball team win gold at last year's World Championships was exceptional and my ultimate dream is to achieve international status at senior level.

"This funding will help with accommodation, travelling, equipment, sports clothing and membership fees, allowing me to focus on excelling on the basketball court and reaching my sporting potential," he added.

Seventeen-year-old gymnast Ryan specialises in the discipline of trampoline and double mat trampoline.

The year 11 De La Salle College student has a wide range of sporting achievements under his belt, including top honours in NI senior men's trampoline and double mini trampoline, senior men's synchronised trampoline and senior trampoline team champion.

With the World Championships in Tokyo firmly in his target range, Ryan said: "What inspires me every day is the five Olympic rings. I push myself as much as I can in training to reach my dream of becoming an Olympian.

"Mary Peters Trust and Power NI have helped me so much. With their support I am attending a competition that will place me one step closer to achieving that Olympic dream."

Power NI managing director Stephen McCully said: "At Power NI we want to play our part in helping these three young people realise their sporting ambitions as well as supporting Lady Mary in all the work that she does for her Trust.

"Sport plays such an important role in any society whether at provincial or Olympic champion level."

Lady Mary, whose star-studded 80th birthday celebration takes place at Titanic Belfast tomorrow night, added: "We're very pleased to partner with Power NI for this new community initiative to help our young people further develop and improve their training and preparations for competitions and races in their various sporting disciplines.

"Funding support to help talented and hard-working athletes reach their potential has never been more important and I'm immensely grateful to Power NI."

Since its inception after Mary's Olympic gold medal win at the 1972 Munich games, her Trust has impacted hugely on the sporting lives of thousands of young sports men and women, both able-bodied and disabled.

Belfast Telegraph


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