Olympians Leon Taylor and Mark Hunter took up their swords for SportsAid in London last night to mark the launch of the SportsBall 2015, which returns to the London Hilton on Park Lane this November.
Under the expert guidance of British Fencing, Leon and Mark swopped diving and rowing for a night of sabres and foils as 50 guests – including Mark’s former sculling partner Zac Purchase – watched them duel it out on the piste.
Former Olympic champion Mark said, “It's been really exciting to try a new sport. I've always watched it and wondered how it works so to actually try it has been really interesting. I've had great fun.
"It's been really nice to do something different, get new people involved in the charity, and just watch our future stars, and that's the thing I love about SportsAid. We get to see the talent of the future and get to know them as young people and watch them develop."
Olympic silver medallist Leon added, “Tonight's a good reflection on SportsAid because it's not just a case of coming to a room to hear someone speak, you actually get to watch something and put it into context. So people who are here for the first time will get why it's different. I love the SportsBall and from an athlete's point of view, you're more relaxed there because it's a very fun event and you get to interact more with the guests."
Watching the fencing contest, which Leon won 10-7, were representatives from companies including Bounts, BNY Mellon, Eversheds, OCS, PWC, Royal Bank of Canada and The Real Buzz Group. Afterwards they got to see some of the country’s best young fencers – Alex Beardmore, Kate Beardmore, Laura Gladdish, Megan Beddoe, Will Grealey and Harrison Nichols – take to the stage to give a stunning display of their sport.
Both Mark and Leon were impressed with their skills.
"It was really exciting to watch them do it properly," Mark said. "The dynamic movement they have its really impressive. I was blown away by it.”
Leon agreed, adding, "It just goes to show you think you are doing it ok and then you watch someone who has trained to do it and you really see the difference."
The SportsBall on November 5 will be the 39th edition of the event which marks the highpoint of SportsAid’s year by celebrating the achievements of the athletes it supports in the company of the charity’s supporters and many of the biggest names in British sport. Back in 2013 SportsAid had the privilege of welcoming Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, the charity’s Patron, to the event as its guest of honour.
Matt Nathanielsz from Bounts said, “We're 100% looking forward to the SportsBall, I think it will be a great event. There's a magic about SportsAid and I think it's going to be fantastic.”
Mark agreed, adding, "At the SportsBall you get to see the future talent of Great Britain - there's no other ball that has that. You get to see the next generation coming through and I think that's what's really special about it. You get to follow them over the next 10 years as they progress. That's why it's unique."
Last year’s event raised more than £80,000 for the charity following special appearances from Adam Gemili, Roy Hodgson and the One-to-Watch Award winner Morgan Lake, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of Jessica Ennis by becoming an Olympic heptathlon champion.
Interviews and information
Call Simon Worsfold at SportsAid on 020 7273 1978 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
SportsAid helps young sports people to overcome the financial challenges they face in their bid to become Britain’s next generation of Olympians and Paralympians. The charity’s patron is Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge. Some of the best known former SportsAid recipients are Sir Chris Hoy, David Weir CBE, Mo Farah CBE, Dame Sarah Storey, Jessica Ennis-Hill CBE, Ellie Simmonds OBE, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, Sir Ben Ainslie, Jonnie Peacock MBE, Tom Daley, Ade Adepitan MBE and Sir Steve Redgrave. Find out more at www.sportsaid.org.uk
The SportsBall is SportsAid's annual gala dinner which raises money for the next generation of British athletes. Attended in 2013 by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, SportsAid's Patron, it has also attracted many of the nation's most successful sportsmen and women over the years including Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir Ben Ainslie, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE and Sir Matthew Pinsent. Tickets and information are available from www.sportsball.org.uk