Believe Talent Fund removes hurdles for more rising sports stars

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A national champion discus thrower, a record-breaking hurdler, an international-level swimmer and a Special Olympics hopeful are among the latest recipients of Be Well’s Believe Talent Fund.

A trio of rugby playing teenagers, a promising BMX rider and a rising cycle speedway star also feature on the list of 14 promising local athletes awarded grants to support their dreams of sporting stardom.

Selected on the strength of their national-class potential, they have each been handed up to £500 to help pay for travel costs, accommodation, competition and training fees, and equipment.

Councillor Chris Ready, Wigan Council’s cabinet portfolio holder for communities and neighbourhoods, said: “We’re really proud that our borough is a hotbed of sporting talent and our Believe Talent Fund is about helping our young athletes unlock their potential and overcome some of the hurdles blocking their path.

“We’ve now supported more than 130 young athletes with grants totalling more than £66,000 – and we’ve seen the likes of Keely Hodgkinson, Emily Borthwick, Harry Coppell and Charlie Bowling go on to achieve great things on the World, Commonwealth and Olympic stage.

“I’d like to wish our latest beneficiaries the very best of luck for their future sporting careers. We are right behind them and will be cheering them on as they fly the flag for Wigan Borough in their chosen sports.”

Sponsored by local businesses Fielden Factors and JJH Building Contractors Ltd, the Believe Talent Fund is open to athletes aged 11-24 and living in Wigan Borough who require financial assistance to participate in sport. Athletes with disabilities can also apply irrespective of age.

Recipients this time around include 14-year-olds Adam Peacock and Zaac McMullen; two members of the England touch rugby training squad who hope to represent their country over in France later this year, and 18-year-old Faith Yates of Wigan Warriors’ U19s girls team.

Anna Healey, 18, is fresh from a trip to Sweden with the Swim England team while her Wigan BEST teammate Evie Cutter and Olivia Edgar of Chorley Marlins, both 15, are also making waves as part of the national talent pathway.

Beth Pendlebury, 15, of Trafford Athletics Club, currently ranks no.1 for discus and no.2 for shot putt nationwide at her age level and is joined from the world of athletics by hurdlers Lois Melling, 13, (Preston Harriers) and 13-year-old Thierry Kerr (Sale Harriers) who broke a British record in the 60-metre hurdles with a time of 9.41 seconds.

Making names for themselves on two wheels are 16-year-old Ellis Berry of Mid Lancs BMX Club, who hopes to race for Team GB at the 2025 world championships, and 18-year-old John White of Astley and Tyldesley Cycling Club who was part of the England Junior Team that won the Cycle Speedway Home Internationals series in Newport last summer.

Also receiving support are 17-year-old tennis talent Brennan Foster, 12-year-old Thomas Miller of Black Scorpions Karate and skier Marcus Prosser, also aged 12, of Rossendale Special Ski Club, who has ambitions of competing at the Special Olympics.

The deadline for applications for the next round of grants is 31 May 2024. For more information on how to apply visit wigan.gov.uk/believetalentfund