The Olympic dreams of swimmer Aimee Willmott and runner Matty Hynes are being spurred on by unique fund set up to give Teesside’s most talented sportspeople a financial helping hand.
Aimee, from Ormesby, and Middlesbrough-based Matty are among the 10 talented Teessiders celebrating after receiving vital financial support to help them fulfil their sporting potential.
Aimee, who competed at the 2012 Olympics in London, qualified to compete in the 400m individual medley in Rio this summer just days after receiving a £2,000 grant, while Matty will bid to run in the 10,000m in Brazil on the back of receiving £1,500 from the FAST Fund.
Local talents from the sports of athletics, swimming, wheelchair basketball and BMX racing received grants worth a total of £11,500 from the FAST Fund, run by charitable movement, Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.
Aimee, who has relocated to London to focus on her swimming career, said: “I’m ecstatic to have qualified for my second Olympics. Although I now live in London, I remain a Teessider through and through, so it’s great to have this support from back home.
“The money I’ve received will help massively with my funding towards the rest of the season. During the European Championships, the London Aquatic Centre where I train will be closed, so I am travelling to Dubai with my swim club to kick-start the next block of training. The grant I received will pay for that.
“It’s great to see the Philanthropic Foundation supporting young talent in the area, as well as more established athletes.”
Meanwhile, long-distance runner Matty hopes the funds will fuel his own Olympic ambitions, having recently competed against Mo Farah in the World Half Marathon Championship.
The Middlesbrough runner has his eyes on the Olympic 10,000m trials at the end of May before potentially stepping up a distance to take part in the Berlin Marathon in September with a view to achieving a qualifying time for next year’s World Championships in London.
Matty said: “Getting this money from the FAST Fund is amazing. I think Teesside sports people are very, very lucky to have something like this. It’s great to know there are people willing to put their faith and money into you. That means a lot.
“I’ll be using the money for physiotherapy and travel. Normally I can’t afford to lose a week’s work but I’m looking at getting in two weeks of warm weather training in Portugal.
“It’s great to be able to concentrate solely on my athletics because I normally have to fit it around my working life. That’s pretty tough when you’re racing against the best in the world, talented runners who are focused solely on athletics every minute of the day.”
Set up thanks to the generous support of 45 local companies and individuals, the £120,00 FAST Fund – Financial Assistance for Sportspeople on Teesside (FAST) – provides grants for the region’s talented sportspeople as they strive to reach the top of their chosen game.
The Foundation is keen to help young talents with aims of following in the footsteps of Tees sports stars such as World and European 60m gold medal sprinter Richard Kilty, Olympic swimmer Aimee Willmott and England footballer Stewart Downing.
Talented sports people can apply to the FAST fund for vital funds to enhance their sporting opportunities and develop their talent.
Foundation chairman Andy Preston, the Middlesbrough-born businessman who founded the Philanthropic Foundation in 2011, said: “Teesside is renowned for its sporting talent but many young athletes don’t fulfil their early promise because they are held back due to a lack of finances.
“We hope our initial £120,000 FAST Fund will help our sporting talents fulfil their potential by helping them with expensive necessities such as equipment and overseas tournaments.”
Also included in the list of the latest FAST Fund grant winners were:
- Mary Johnson (BMX) – £1,000 for Billingham-based Mary, the current British BMX champion for her age group and winner of the Gazette’s Junior Sports Person of the year 2015.
- Gareth Allan (biathlon) – £600 for Billingham athlete, who is a Team GB representative in the senior male age group.
- Nathan Baker (running) – £500 for Marton lad, who has raced for his running club at national and regional competitions.
- Paul Brown (triathlon) – £1,200 for Guisborough Paul, a European gold medal winner in 2014, who has also represented Great Britain.
- Sam Day (athletics) – £750 for Stokesley athlete, a North of England silver medal winner and UK top 10-ranked 400m runner.
- Liam Reedle (wheelchair basketball) – £1,000 for Norton 16-year-old, who plays for RGK Tees Valley Titans and is a Paralympics gold medal hopeful.
- Jonathon Taylor (cross country running) – £1,000 to Marton middle distance runner, captain of the British cross country team in 2015.
- Jack Baister (swimming) – £1,972 to Marton swimmer who is a freestyle and open water specialist, who has represented England and Great Britain.
To apply to the FAST Fund for a grant, visit www.fastfund.org.uk. More grants will be issued in November this year.