Social enterprise GLL has awarded 116 gifted young athletes from Belfast with sporting bursaries, at an awards ceremony in Belfast City Hall.
GLL runs all of Belfast’s leisure centres (Better Belfast) and is to distribute a £69,800 fund amongst some of NI’s most talented young sport stars, three quarters of who 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 will 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 Michael McKillop explained more about the Foundation:
“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.
“Starting out as a young athlete isn’t easy and I know the huge challenges that people face when they need access to the right training facilities, the best equipment and the money needed to allow them to travel to competitions.
“Supporting these young athletes early on is crucial and means that we are building a sporting legacy of athletes that will inspire other young people here to follow in their footsteps. Access to training memberships in GLL’s 13 Better Leisure Centres in Belfast means that local athletes are supported in the best possible environment to dream big and fulfil their potential.”
Ronan McKenna, Regional Sport and Community Manager at GLL, paid tribute to the athletes:
“I am so thrilled for all of the athletes receiving awards from us tonight. We know first-hand the commitment, effort and sacrifices they are making to be the best in their field.
“The Foundation is going from strength to strength and supporting greater numbers of athletes in a wider variety of sports than ever before.
“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.”
Rachel McCune, aged 16, is the only female from NI to have ever qualified for the European Taekwondo Championships (Special Techniques category):
“I took up Taekwondo as it looked like an interesting sport and I also wanted to learn how to defend myself properly. My future aspirations are to continue developing and to qualify for the Olympic Games.
“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.
“The potential to access Sport Science and physiotherapy assistance would also allow me to recover well, avoid injury, monitor my training phases and overall become a better athlete.”
Since launching in Belfast in 2015, the GSF has provided over 250 athlete awards at a total support value of over £160,000 across the city.