Social enterprise GLL awarded 129 gifted young athletes from Belfast with sporting bursaries, at an awards gala in Belfast City Hall on Tuesday 21 May.
GLL runs 14 Belfast City Council leisure centres (Better Belfast) and is distributing financial grants and Better training memberships worth almost £80,000 amongst some of Northern Ireland’s most talented young sport stars.
Many of these stars receive no other sports funding and rely on the bursaries to help them compete at national and international levels.
GLL’s Sport Foundation (GSF) is the largest independent athlete support programme in the UK. The annual awards cover Olympic, Paralympic, Deaflympic, Special Olympic and Commonwealth sporting disciplines, ensuring that athletes at a multitude of levels and abilities are supported on their sporting journeys.
Athletes supported by GSF will receive award packages that include financial grants up to £2000, free training memberships with access to 300 GLL and partner operated sporting venues and gyms, along with access to sports science, medical support and employment opportunities.
Ronan McKenna, Regional Community Sports Manager at GLL, paid tribute to the athletes:
“Every one of the athletes honoured this year has shown unbelievable commitment, drive and willingness to sacrifice to reach their potential.”
“GSF provides a fantastic support for some of our most promising young athletes and it’s an honour to be able to help them as they compete at the highest levels in their chosen sport.”
“I would like to thank all our partners and sponsors for supporting the programme. Belfast City Council, Mary Peters Trust and Rebound Physio provide the direct links to Sport Governing Body talent pathways, whilst our corporate sponsors headlined by GLL and Technogym, numerous local authorities, university and physiotherapy partners directly encourage these sporting dreams so that they can become a reality.”
Lady Mary Peters, explained why the Mary Peters Trust is one of the GSF Awards sponsors:
“It’s crucial that talented young athletes are supported early on. The passion that drives athletes to compete at the highest level is instilled in us when we’re young. Nurturing that talent and passion can create a legacy in Belfast of sporting excellence to inspire future generations.”
“The GSF is a lifeline to young athletes who dream of competing in their chosen sports at national level and representing their country at international championships and tournaments.”
“Young athletes starting out face serious challenges, especially when it comes to accessing training facilities and equipment and paying to travel to competitions. For many, the costs of competing are too high and can put them off getting involved.”
“The incredible training facilities in GLL’s Better Leisure Centres are perfect for young athletes to drive themselves on and fulfil their potential.”
Jack McMillan is a swimmer and a GSF Supported Athlete:
“I love swimming and am lucky that I’m able to pursue my passion in this way. I know that if it wasn’t for the support I’ve received from GSF I wouldn’t have been able to pursue it as successfully as I have so far.”
“I’m driven and I want to compete at the very highest level. The support I receive from GSF has been absolutely invaluable to supporting me in chasing that dream.”
“Being able to use the first-class Better facilities for free has had a fantastic impact on my training and preparation, and the physiotherapy sessions have been priceless. The GSF Bursary has really helped me and I know that the athletes receiving the bursaries this year will see the same positive effect on their training.”
Since launching in Belfast in 2015, the GSF has provided over 375 athlete awards at a total support value of over £230,000 across the city.
Previous GSF supported athletes have included boxer Anthony Joshua, Paralympian Michael McKillop and Irish Hockey International, Shirley McCay.