Olympic silver medallist Gail Emms has hailed the importance of SportsAid to help keep alive the dreams of young aspiring athletes.
The 36-year-old who shot to fame in 2004 after she and playing partner Nathan Robertson became the first Britons ever to reach an Olympic badminton final, was speaking at the Suffolk Golf and Spa Hotel as part of a special SportsAid Lunch Club event aimed at raising money for up and coming sports men and women from the county.
And having enjoyed the benefits of the initiative in her burgeoning playing career Emms, who also won World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold, feels the scheme could not be more important for the future of aspiring athletes.
“SportsAid is a charity I have worked for since I retired but I was funded by them when I was a youngster.
“They are a charity that I believe a lot in, they helped massively and for me it is a way I can give back .
“It is so important to have young people in sport, it can give so much to them whether they are going to be an Olympic champion or not.
“To give them that dream and hope to me gives them confidence and self belief and without that I don’t know where they would be.
“There are so many aspiring athletes out there and we need to help them with their dreams.
“The day in day out costs of training, equipment, travel and all those little things there is no help from any governing body.
“These are athletes who want to represent their country and can see a world championships in sight and those are the ones we need to support.”
One athlete who has seen the benefits of such support is Bury St Edmunds basketball ace Grace Synnott.
The 16-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the sport having first been introduced to basketball at St Louis Middle School, before going on to represent Suffolk, the East and most recently England Under-16s, having been scouted along the way.
And having enjoyed the support of SportsAid, Synnott, who will be representing the nation in the European Championships next month, spoke about the importance of the initiative.
“Having the support of SportsAid is brilliant for me because when we go to tournaments we have to pay for so many things just to get to those places,” she said.
“It would be such a huge price for my parents to pay and so I’m really grateful to SportsAid for their continued support.
“It is vital to have that support otherwise athletes wouldn’t have that chance to progress, that has certainly been the case for me.
“I’d love to get to an Olympic Games one day and so I’ll just have to see how far I can go in the sport.”