Seven athletes from Hampshire will be competing at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics over the next six weeks after receiving support from Hampshire County Council.
The two Olympians and five Paralympians have all benefitted from the Hampshire Talented Athlete Scheme (HTAS), which provides financial, training and nutritional support to the county’s most promising athletes from county to international level.
HTAS provides grants for competition and travel costs, free training at leisure centres and free bus travel. The scheme also offers fast track physiotherapy and sport science support, as well as public speaking and presentation skills training to inspire the next generation of athletes and encourage school children to be more active. The scheme is co-ordinated by Sport Hampshire and the Isle of Wight on behalf of the County Council.
Councillor Andrew Gibson, the County Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, said: “We’re very proud of the support we’ve provided these magnificent seven athletes, as well as many other sportsmen and women who aspire to achieve similar goals. The Rio-bound athletes have all worked incredibly hard and showed great dedication. But we know from speaking to them how much of a difference HTAS has made to their sporting careers.
“While some top athletes are supported by national sporting bodies, for others in some sports, there’s a gap – particularly for young athletes. It’s a rigorous process to be selected for HTAS. We wish them all the best of luck and hope to see them return from Rio with medals.”
Among the seven, is world champion para swimmer Alice Tai who is aiming for gold at Rio. She holds 15 British and two European swimming records and has been supported by HTAS for the past five years. Earlier this year she also won Junior Disability Sportsperson of the year at the annual Hampshire & IOW Sports Awards.
The 17-year-old from New Milton in the New Forest said: “The support from HTAS has been great. It’s provided essential funding to enable me to get to this point as well as free use of my local leisure centres, which allows me to train during school holidays. It’s really helped me to succeed in my sport.”
Odiham hockey star Alex Danson has been named in the Great Britain women’s hockey squad for the Rio Olympics, after winning team bronze at London 2012. Through the Hampshire Talented Athlete Scheme, Alex has visited local schools to inspire Hampshire’s next generation.
Paralympian Olivia Breen, who went to school in East Hampshire, was the second youngest Team GB Paralympian at the London 2012 Games when she won bronze in the T38 4x100m sprint relay. The 20-year-old is now one of the country’s most high profile para athletes, recently featuring in the Team GB kit launch with Jessica Ennis and Tom Daley. Olivia has also supported the development of Hampshire sport by attending the annual Level 3 School Games as the special guest.
The full list of HTAS Olympians and Paralympians include:
Alex Danson – Hart District, Olympics, Hockey
Alice Tai – New Forest, Paralympics, Swimming
David Smith – Eastleigh, Paralympics, Boccia
Georgie Hermitage – East Hampshire, Paralympics, Athletics (100m, 400m)
Mikey Jones – New Forest, Paralympics, Swimming
Olivia Breen – East Hampshire, Paralympics, Athletics (100m, long jump, 4x100m relay)
Stephanie Twell – Rushmoor District, Olympics, Athletics (5,000m)