Young NI athletes have received over £70,000 in top scholarships and cash
Some 125 talented young athletes received sports scholarships worth over £70,000 from social enterprise GLL at an awards gala at Belfast City Hall.
Athletes such as Belfast boxer and Olympic bronze medalist Aidan Walsh, Bangor Paralympian Eve Walsh Dann and Team GB Trap Shooter Kirsty Hegarty (née Barr) have received financial grants and training memberships from Lady Mary Peters Monday night.
The GLL Sports Foundation (GSF) is the largest independent athlete support program in the UK and rewards gifted young athletes, many of whom rely solely on these scholarships to compete at national and international level.
Local recipients this year include 125 individuals currently competing at the Olympic, Paralympic, Special Olympics, World, European and Commonwealth levels, 84% of whom receive no other central funding for their athletic journey.
Awarded in partnership with the Mary Peters Trust, athletes supported by GSF this year received financial grants of up to £1,000 as well as training support and access to GLL facilities across the UK .
Among these beneficiaries, 61% are under 21 years old and 15% are under 16 years old.
The GSF is offered in Belfast by GLL, the social enterprise that runs the 15 Better Leisure Centers across the city.
Since its launch in Belfast in 2015, GSF has given out over 773 awards worth over £450,000 to local sports stars. Former athletes supported by the GSF include Paralympian Michael McKillop, Irish Olympic marathon runner and winner of the 40th Belfast City Marathon 2022 Paul Pollock, and Irish hockey international Shirley McCay.
Boxer and Olympic bronze medalist Aidan Walsh said: “As an Olympic boxer from Belfast, I am proud to be part of this group of incredible young athletes honored by the GLL Sports Foundation Awards 2022.
“Belfast is well known for producing athletes in many disciplines, and support like this is really important to ensure that young talent has a chance to break through. Local children who are not as financially supported have had to struggling to pay memberships for local gyms, so when GLL steps in to give them access, it’s fantastic.
“It’s something that I’ve used to my advantage, and I’m very proud to be back using these facilities and celebrating the community where I come from.
“Some of the best athletes in the world use GLL gyms in Belfast and across the UK because it’s up there with the rest in terms of equipment and facilities. Having this on my doorstep is fantastic and I know this will support many more young athletes to put Belfast on the map.
GLL Regional Business Manager Jonathan Michael believes that each of the 125 athletes honored this year have demonstrated an “incredible level of talent, commitment and sacrifice” as they compete at the elite level.
“As a social enterprise, we are thrilled to support more athletes in this way every year and in more and more sports than ever before,” he continued.
“The GLL Sports Foundation continues to grow in line with the advancement of local sports talent.
“It is our pleasure to present 125 awards to worthy recipients this week and I would like to thank our partners, Belfast City Council and the Mary Peters Trust, for supporting us. We are delighted to have been in a hall of 125 incredible athletes this week and know that they will each go on to achieve great success for their city.