With this year’s Commonwealth Games now underway, all eyes will be fixed on the 28 athletes from Hampshire.
High jumper Isobel Pooley from Fleet, hockey player Alex Danson, who grew up in Odiham, and Yateley swimmer Andrew Willis will be among those representing England at the games in Glasgow.
The Commonwealth Games follow on from Hampshire’s outstanding success at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games where athletes from the county hauled 10% of the GB medal total.
The athletes will be competing across 17 different sports, with 11 of the men and women supported by the Hampshire Talented Athlete Scheme.
The scheme is funded by Hampshire County Council and co-ordinated by Sport Hampshire and IoW and aims to help the county’s athletes reach world class podiums.
Councillor Keith Chapman, Hampshire’s executive member for culture, recreation and countryside, said: “Hampshire has a strong sporting heritage, with many exceptional sportsmen and women living in the county.
“The Hampshire Talented Athlete Scheme goes some way to providing much needed support to these committed, talented and determined sportsmen and women. We look forward to watching the progress of our local athletes towards achieving their sporting ambitions.”
More than 200 people have been given funding or support through the scheme for 2014.
Funds have been doubled thanks to the council’s Olympic legacy programme, which was launched in July last year with the help of Hampshire-based Olympic gold medal cyclist Dani King.
The scheme has been given £92,000 per year for the next three years as an investment in Hampshire’s talented athletes as part of the legacy programme.
The scheme provides funding and a range of support services from partners and sponsors to help offset the high costs of competing in high level sport. Leisure centres gift free access to allow the athletes to train and fast-track physiotherapy helps athletes recover from injuries.
Stagecoach, Bluestar and First bus companies provide annual bus passes, reducing athletes’ travel costs.
Swimmer Willis, who has benefitted from the scheme, said: “I am really looking forward to my second Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“After the support we received in London I am looking forward to the experience.
“I would like to thank Hampshire County Council and Sport Hampshire and IOW for the support I received on the Hampshire Talented Athlete Scheme.
“The extra funding enabled me progress my swimming career and helped me become the athlete I am today.”
A new element to the scheme is the expansion of the athlete assemblies. This programme was piloted in 2012 with athletes visiting schools to speak about their sporting experiences and the upcoming the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The success of this pilot led to the council providing further investment and this term more than 50 assemblies have been held across the county.
Cllr Peter Edgar, the council’s executive member for education, said: “In Hampshire every young person matters.
“We want them to all achieve their sporting potential, whether they become an Olympic athlete or whether to take up a sport for their pleasure for the rest of their lives.”