Nicole Mawhinney's fantastic gymnastic boost
The first Irish gymnast to ever make it to the floor final at the gymnastics Hungary Grand Prix is the latest recipient of a keenly sought Rainbow Communications Sports Award in partnership with the Mary Peters Trust.
Nicole Mawhinney from Portavogie in County Down was presented with the funding from Northern Ireland's largest independent business telecoms company to help her prepare for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.#
Nicole claimed sixth place at the acclaimed Hungarian Grand Prix in September – a remarkable feat for a gymnast who has just come back to training after suffering two compressed discs and being out of full competition for a year.
"I have been involved in gymnastics since I was just seven years old and it was extremely difficult and frustrating for me not being able to compete due to my back injury," said the 17-year-old Regent House student.
"But I'm back to training four hours a day, six days a week, 52 weeks a year, in Lisburn, which is a 70 mile round trip most days.
"It's a big commitment but my family have been really supportive, and my mum is used to the journey now after 10 years!
"I have just competed in my first World Championships at the start of October and have been selected onto the National 2016 Olympic Training Squad as a member of the Gymnastics Ireland National Performance Programme.
"This funding will be great in helping me to prepare for all these major competitions which will allow me to gain invaluable experience and progress my scores and rankings. I'm extremely grateful to the Mary Peters Trust and Rainbow Communications for their help."
An athlete is chosen each month by the Mary Peters Trust to receive the Rainbow Communications grant, which is open to all recognised sports.
Stuart Carson, Sales and Marketing Director at Rainbow Communications, said: "Nicole's passion for the sport is simply extraordinary. I couldn't believe it when I heard that she trains 24 hours a week with 18 extra hours travelling, but it certainly shows in her performances."
Patron Dame Mary Peters added: "Nicole is an extremely talented all round gymnast and is particularly strong on the Vault and Floor.
"She is showing great potential for the next Commonwealth Games in the apparatus finals and we are all watching her progress carefully.
"The Rainbow Communications sports funding is a fantastic opportunity for young people to receive financial support."
To find about how you can apply for the award visit www.marypeterstrust.org.