HomeSports140 Rising Sports Stars Financially Supported To Pursue Career

140 Rising Sports Stars Financially Supported To Pursue Career

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Some 140 rising stars across 33 different sports have been awarded bursaries and financial awards worth £88,500 by social enterprise GLL to help them pursue their sporting ambitions.

The 16th  GLL Sport Foundation Awards ceremony at Belfast City Hall honoured the city’s best young sports talent. Now in their 16th year, both the amount of funding and the number of athletes supported is a record for the Foundation.

Athletes supported include the Commonwealth and European Gold medallist and double Olympian Michaela Walsh, currently in preparation to represent Ireland at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Other supported athletes include:

• Aidan Walsh – Boxing (Commonwealth Gold and Olympic Bronze medallist);

• Grace Davison – Swimming (Commonwealth Youth Games Gold medalist); and

• Kirsten Millar – Judo (Commonwealth Judo Championship Gold medalist).

The GLL Sport Foundation (GSF) is the largest independent athlete support programme in the UK and awards gifted young athletes, many of whom rely on these bursaries alone to compete at national and international levels.

Local recipients in Belfast this year include 140 individuals across 33 sports, including boxing, badminton, canoeing, swimming, tennis, triathlon, judo, and powerlifting.

Awarded in partnership with the Mary Peters Trust, athletes supported by GSF this year received financial grants of up to £1,000 alongside training support, and access to all Better leisure facilities across the UK. The membership will provide access to cutting edge facilities and specialist equipment to support the young athletes with their training commitments.

The GSF is delivered in Belfast by GLL, the social enterprise which runs the 16 ‘Better’ leisure centres across the city. Since launching in Belfast in 2015, GSF has provided over 900 awards worth over £600,000. Previous GSF supported athletes include multiple Paralympian Gold medallist Michael McKillop, Irish Olympic Marathon Runner and winner of the 40th Belfast City Marathon 2022 Paul Pollock, and Irish Hockey International Shirley McCay.

GSF National Ambassador, Commonwealth and European Gold medallist, and double Olympian boxer Michaela Walsh said: “I will always be grateful for the support I have received from GLL. This support has made a huge difference in my career and allowed me to pursue my dreams. Access to great training facilities has made a massive difference; knowing that I can call into any of the Better leisure centres and that they will have the right equipment and gyms to train offers great peace of mind. This support is invaluable in my training for the forthcoming Paris Olympics and I’m sure there will be future Olympians among the awardees tonight whose journeys will be supported by GLL.”

Regional Business Manager at GLL Jonathan Michael said: “We know that all of the athletes awarded a bursary or financial support are talented, but what sets these 140 individuals apart is their incredible commitment to their chosen sports. They have put in many long hours of training to reach such a level and are fantastic role models for the next generation of Belfast’s elite sportspeople. The achievements they record locally, nationally, and internationally make everyone at home proud and GLL are honoured to support their journey.”

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