Fourteen-year-old swimmer Holly Hibbott from Southport received a £2,000 boost to her sporting career on Saturday when Sir Elton John CBE handed her a cheque from SportsAid to help her achieve her Olympic ambitions.
The donation is one of the first to come from SportsAid's new Elton John Sports Fund after the charity raised more than £300,000 at an acclaimed concert by the artist at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire on Saturday June 28.
The fund will support some of Britain's brightest prospects from more than 50 different sports by providing annual awards of £2,000 to help with essential training and competition costs.
Holly said, "It was a really good experience meeting Sir Elton John. He was really nice to us all and gave us a few words of encouragement for the future. It feels great to be one of the first athletes to benefit from his support and to have someone who believes in my ability gives me a lot of confidence."
She added, "The support will help me in lots of ways like travel costs, training equipment expenses and accommodation for when I am racing away from home."
Next weekend Holly will be representing Great Britain at the European Junior Swimming Championships in Dordrecht in the Netherlands.
Elton John said, "It was a special moment to meet Holly and the other athletes. Their successes are already very impressive, and with a little extra help and recognition who knows what they could go on to achieve. They are the reason we were all at Stoke Park for the concert. Working with SportsAid, we know we are helping the right athletes at the right time."
Holly was also inspired to meet Mark Foster, Karen Pickering, Duncan Goodhew – who have all benefited from SportsAid’s support – and Keri-Anne Payne at the event.
Before the concert began Keri-Anne Payne said, "I've spoken to quite a few of the young athletes who are here tonight and it’s amazing to see what they feel when they are given SportsAid's support because of the confidence it gives them that someone believes in them and that they are on the right track."
Other SportsAid alumni who were there to show their support were Steve Redgrave, Katherine Grainger, Ade Adepitan, Derek Redmond, Gail Emms, Danny Crates, Anna Watkins, Mark Hunter, Zac Purchase, Richard Hounslow, Sarah Winckless, Shelley Rudman, Heather Stanning, Beth Rodford and Steve Williams.
Towards the end of a superb performance that included the classics Your Song, Rocket Man and Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Elton John said to the crowd of 5,000 fans, "Thanks to your support we will be able to fund young athletes for the next eight years to help make their dreams come true. Thank you!"
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- Caption: Elton John with SportsAid athletes (left to right) Molly Harding, Daryll Neita, Fred Wright, James Arnott and Holly Hibbott (credit: SportsAid/Ingrid Abery).
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Background on SportsAid
- SportsAid is a national charity (#1111612), established in 1976, which helps young British
sportsmen and women who aspire to be our next Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth or world champions.
- SportsAid's patron is Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge.
- At London 2012 almost two-thirds of the British team were former recipients of SportsAid's support, winning 20 of Team GB's 29 gold medals and 27 of ParalympicsGB's 34 gold medals.
- The athletes supported by SportsAid are typically aged 12 to 18 and are among Britain's brightest hopes for the future.
- The SportsAid Awards they receive are funded by the charity's donors and supporters. They recognise the athletes' achievements and help them meet the high costs of training and competing, which they otherwise have to pay for themselves.
- SportsAid ensures the right people get the right help at the right time by working with the governing bodies of around 70 sporting disciplines to identify those with the greatest potential.
- As well as providing SportsAid Awards to help young athletes meet the cost of sport, SportsAid also manages the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), which provides specialist services to athletes in higher or further education.