THE?county’s most promising athletes have been awarded funding by Hampshire County Council to help them on their journey to sporting glory.

It follows a decision by Andrew Gibson, the authority’s executive member for culture, recreation and countryside.

This year, 191 sportsmen and women – 14 in East Hampshire – have been picked for the Hampshire Talented Athletes Scheme, funded by the county council and managed by Energise Me.

The scheme provides athletes with grants for competition and travel costs, physiotherapy and sport science support, free access to leisure centres and bus travel, plus public speaking training to inspire children during school visits.

Two former athletes from the scheme competed at the Winter Olympics in South Korea – skeleton racer Lizzy Yarnold from Winchester and alpine skier Laurie Taylor from Basingstoke. They follow Hampshire Talented Athletes Scheme athletes at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics, including women’s hockey captain Alex Danson, sprinter Georgie Hermitage, boccia player David Smith, and swimmers Alice Tai and Mikey Jones.

Mr Gibson said: “Hampshire has a strong sporting heritage, with many exceptional sportsmen and women living in the county. We know from speaking to them how much of a difference the Hampshire Talented Athletes Scheme has made to their sporting careers, particularly when they were young and support from national sporting bodies was not always available.

“We are committed to nurturing the grass roots and supporting the county’s talented athletes, not only by developing future sporting champions but also by engaging thousands of youngsters at school assemblies to encourage them to lead healthier, more active lives.”

Jon Monkcom, chairman of the Energise Me board of trustees, added: “The Hampshire Talented Athlete Scheme is a real success story, helping promising young sportsmen and women to achieve their goals. It’s a rigorous process to be selected for the scheme as we focus on athletes who have potential for podium finishes at national and international levels. We look forward to watching their progress and perhaps help produce medal winners at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.”

Of the 191 athletes awarded support this year, 119 will receive grant funding worth a total of £40,825. The funding was approved by Mr Gibson at his recent decision day.