GSF Awards 2021 - nearly 3,000 supported on sporting journey
2,978 talented young athletes from across the UK - including Modern Pentathlete Joe Choong and Paralympic Swimmer Stephanie Millward - will benefit from a cumulative £1.2m worth of free gym and swim memberships thanks to leisure charitable social enterprise GLL, which manages Better Leisure Centres on behalf of 42 Councils across the country.
The local athletes will be supported through the GLL Sport Foundation (GSF), the largest independent athlete support programme in the UK, which this year marks its 13th year of supporting today’s and tomorrow’s athletes.
The athlete awards cover Olympic, Paralympic, Deaflympic, Special Olympic and Commonwealth sporting disciplines.
With a staggering 97% of award recipients receiving no other sport funding and 63% of recipients being aged under 21, the GLL Sport Foundation has highlighted a vital funding gap for young talented athletes currently competing and National and international levels.
Chosen athletes will receive free training memberships to use leisure centre facilities across 300 plus GLL and partner-operated sporting venues.
Joe Choong, 25, studying at Bath University, who holds medals at national and international level in Modern Pentathlon receives GSF Support.
He said on receiving his award:
“Off the back of 2020, one of the hardest years anyone can remember, GLL Sport Foundation’s support has become even more important to athletes like me. It’s very difficult to make plans as an athlete when your next training camp or competition could easily be cancelled to due to COVID, but the continual support of GLL Sport Foundation’s provides essential funding and services allowing training to continue as smoothly as possible.”
Peter Bundey, GSF Chair, paid tribute to the athletes, programme stakeholders and also highlighted the impact the Foundation is making. He said: “These last 16 months since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic has had unprecedented impact on our lives and freedoms to protect lives and combat the virus. This time has therefore been hugely challenging for all sport and has affected both established and young talented athletes. Restrictions of training, travel and competitions has impacted every athlete in many ways.
“We have been impressed with all the creative ways that athletes have found to keep their sporting journey moving.
“We are therefore proud that; together with our sponsors and partners, we have been able to continue to offer support to talented athletes with access to training facilities as and when possible. Rest assured we are equally committed to continue the support of the GLL Sport Foundation for this and the next generation of athletes.
“Since the Foundation began, we have now given over 18,000 athlete awards, totalling over £12million of support. I would like to heartfelt thank all our sponsors, partners and supporters, who remain the lifeblood of this fantastic GLL initiative. I would also like to thank the athletes who have continued to support us during the previous months and look forward to being with you for years to come”.
GSF Patron and former Olympic Champion Sally Gunnell explained the impact of GSF support on the next generation of athletes and the communities they live in: She said: “Sport is such an important part of all our lives and has the power to inspire young people to excel and harness their talent towards their future. From my own experience starting out as a young athlete and progressing through my sport, I understand how important the recognition and support from organisations like the GLL Sport Foundation can be to a young athlete. It can make the difference in achieving sporting ambitions.
“This is ever-more important today as we recover from a difficult and challenging year, where dreams have been put on hold and sport had to stop. Athletes can now refocus and start competition and working towards those goals with the support of the GLL Sport Foundation.
“This support can positively impact communities by promoting the opportunity that sport can bring and promoting the benefits it brings in well-being from someone within that community.”
Since its launch in 2007, the GSF has provided over 18,000 athlete awards at a total support value of over £12million across the UK.
The 2016 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.
Over 40 GSF Sponsored athletes are expected to compete in the deferred Tokyo Olympics 2021.