Up-and-coming athletes are getting help with their training as part of a sports development programme, with help from Team GB members competing in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

A ‘Sporting Champions’ scheme, now in its eighth year, has so far helped 5,000 athletes up and down the country achieve their potential with free access to facilities at centres like King George’s Playing Fields in Brentwood and Sapphire Ice and Leisure in Romford which are both operated by Everyone Active.

The scheme’s decorated Olympians include Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova, Lutalo Muhammad, Richard Kilty, Lauren Steadman and Maisie Summers-Newton, while new to the panel for 2024 is GB sprint star Harry Aikines-Aryeetey.

Olympic silver medallist Colin Jackson is also helpinHavering g the scheme through his role as an ambassador to make sport more accessible in the community.

“I’m passionate about nurturing young talent,” Colin says. “This scheme goes above and beyond in this mission, talking on greater significance with the Olympics in Paris this summer. Seeing these future champions flourish fuels my excitement for what’s to come.”

On the scheme this year in Havering are Grace John, who was recently selected for the GB Women's American Football squad; Edward Appleby, who became the senior men's singles figure skating British Champion at the end of 2023; and Rebecca Coogan, who won bronze at Swim England National Open Water Championships in 2023.

Among athletes accepted on the scheme in Brentwood this year are Abigail Swan, the current Essex U17 800m relay champion and 3,000m individual bronze medallist who plays for Saracens Mavericks U18s in the Netball Super League.

Also accepted are para-wheelchair table tennis player Simon Heaps, who represents Team GB after losing both his legs in the last five years, and Gracie Judge who recently achieved first place at the Karate England International Open Championships’ 16 to 17-year-old female wado-ryu kata category.

Tom Fletcher, Everyone Active’s area contract manager, said: “Everyone Active’s Sporting Champions scheme has been very successful in providing exceptional support to emerging talent and we are delighted to be once again supporting athletes from Havering on their journey to success.  

“It’s fantastic to see how the scheme has expanded over the years, now providing more than 1,000 athletes nationwide with access to top-quality training facilities and support. 

“As a leisure provider working in partnership with Havering Council, we feel it is important to cater for all sections of the community. We hope to continue making a real difference to our athletes’ success and are excited to see what the relaunch of the scheme will bring this year.”  

Councillor Gillian Ford, Deputy Leader of Havering Council and Cabinet Member for Adults and Wellbeing, said: “Congratulations to Grace, Edward and Rebecca on being accepted onto Everyone Active’s Sporting Champions scheme and gaining much-deserved support for their already successful individual sporting journeys.

“I look forward to following their progress and I’m sure they will continue to serve as a great inspiration to the next generation of aspiring athletes in Havering.”

Everyone Active’s Brentwood contract manager Shaun Beagle said: “The scheme is now providing 1,000 athletes nationwide with access to training facilities. It’s important to cater for all sections of the community, making a real difference to our athletes’ success.”  

The scheme has poured more than £2million into young athletes to boost grassroots sports activity. No fewer than 30 competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, bringing home five gold, two silver and three bronze medals.

Elite GB members are now running sessions covering mental wellbeing, nutrition, managing finances, social media and media training, as well as a mentoring panel of top athletes including some competing at the Paris Olympics.