London Aquatics Centre, on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, hosted the first Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park GLL Sport Foundation (GSF) Awards on Wednesday 17 May. The event took place to celebrate the successes of the GSF athletes that live on the Park or are affiliated to a club directly based on the Park and to the clubs who use the Copper Box Arena and London Aquatics Centre who receive support.
Nearly 200 talented young athletes based at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will benefit from a fund worth over £85,000 – thanks to charitable social enterprise GLL through GSF, the largest independent athlete support programme in the UK. There has been a huge increase of talented athletes’ on the Park with only 60 athletes receiving awards last year. Some of the 200 funded athletes and representatives from the 5 partner clubs; London Lion, London Disability Swimming Club, London Titans, London Pulse and London GD Handball Club, attended the event to receive their awards.
The athlete awards cover Olympic, Paralympic, Deaflympic, Special Olympic and Commonwealth sporting disciplines. With a staggering 89% of award recipients receiving no other sport funding and 73% of recipients being aged under 21, the Sport Foundation has highlighted a vital funding gap for young talented athletes currently competing and National and international levels.
Amy Marren, supported Paralympic Bronze medallist based at the London Aquatics Centre, said, “Having been a Paralympic swimmer for a number of years I have seen the impact that GLL has had on their athletes over the years. The support from GLL will go directly to cover the costs of competition and training fees. Without the support I would struggle to continue competing in competitions across the country that will enable qualification for major competitions as I am not funded through my sport directly. In the years that I have been associated with GLL, they have allowed me to feel part of a great movement of both established and emerging athletes and it would be an honour to be a part of that for another year.”
Joe Ikhinmwin, supported captain of the London Lions basketball club who play their home games at the Copper Box Arena, said, “Over the next year, one of my key aspirations is to Captain the London Lions to a Championship game. Furthermore, I would like to continue to build my positive reputation as a professional athlete, while sharing my drive to build children's understanding and knowledge of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
“The award has many benefits to me as an athlete and it predominately supports me with elite level treatment that my team is unable to provide. The award helps with the continued cost of travelling to and from training sessions in various locations across London on a daily basis. This funding is also a great support to my daily life as it allows me to be 100% focused on my development as a professional athlete. Having the funding means I do not have to take on another job during the day, and can therefore spend more time training. It allows me to continue my work with local communities too, raising the profile of basketball in London and it's surrounding areas.”
GSF Patron and former Olympic Champion Sally Gunnell explained the core role the GSF takes in supporting the next generation of athletes and thus ensuring a sporting legacy is in place for future generation: “It is vitally important that we inspire young people to excel in sport and harness their talent towards future success.
From starting out as a young athlete and progressing through my sport, I know that support through your development years is crucial. I am delighted that through this programme I am able to champion such support for future sporting talent”.
Peter Bundey, GSF Chair, paid tribute to the athletes, programme stakeholders and also highlighted the impact the Foundation is making: “Congratulations to all of the athletes receiving awards. We know first hand the commitment, effort and sacrifices they are making to perform at their best.
I would like to thank all our partners and sponsors for their support for the programme. SportsAid, SportsAid Wales and Mary Peters Trust provide the direct links to Sport Governing Body talent pathways, whilst our many corporate sponsors headlined by GLL and Technogym, numerous local authorities, university and physiotherapy partners directly contribute to support these sporting dreams to become a reality”. Edward Fane, Head of Venues at London Legacy Development Corporation, said: “The London Legacy Development Corporation welcomes the support the GLL Foundation provides to talented young athletes at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It is one of our commitments to the legacy of the 2012 Games that as well as giving individuals their first opportunity to try sport at the London Aquatics Centre or Copper Box Arena, we also create sporting opportunities that continue to keep people engaged in sport and physical activity and give them the ability to reach their full potential.”
Since its launch in 2007, the GSF has provided over 13,000 athlete awards at a total support value of over £7.5million across the UK.
The Rio Olympics and Paralympics were historic successes for Team GB, and the GSF supported athletes also broke the Foundation’s record medal haul with 20 medals won between them.
Supported athletes receive Award packages that include financial grants of up to £1,250, free training memberships enabling access across 300 GLL and partner operated sporting venues along with access to sports science, medical support and employment opportunities all focussed towards supporting their athlete journey.