Sport England’s Backing the Best initiative will help our national teams become more representative, according to the organisation’s director of sport.
The programme is backed by £5.5 million of new National Lottery funding which aims to level the playing field in top-level sport. The awards are worth up to £5,000 per year.
Jessica Hunter, a 100m hurdler with a personal best less than one second behind Jessica Ennis-Hill, is among the first batch of around 60 recipients that will benefit from a Backing the Best bursary.
The 19-year-old has previously been unable to afford physiotherapy and specialist coaching and has even been forced to miss out on competitions due to a shortage of funds.Sport England launch Backing the Best scheme to help talented young athletes
Sport England director of sport, Phil Smith, said: “Backing the Best has been designed to give a helping hand to those who need it – so that ability and attitude are the only criteria for success, and not money. Ultimately, we want our national teams to be truly representative of our country, rather than just those that can afford to reach the top. We are incredibly proud of our first group of athletes; they are an inspiring group of young people that deserve to be recognised for their talent and dedication.”
The four-year Backing the Best scheme was launched after a study, carried out by Leeds Beckett University, showed the rising cost of becoming a sports star has led to some of England’s best up-and-coming talent dropping out.
Charity SportsAid – who have supported emerging British athletes for the last 40 years – are helping deliver the Backing the Best scheme.