The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games are fast approaching with hundreds of SportsAid athletes bidding to bring medals home for their countries. The Games will provide young, emerging talent with the opportunity to announce themselves on the international stage as they compete alongside well-established athletes from across the Commonwealth. Triathlete Erin Wallace, T38 long jumper Molly Kingsbury and T37 sprinter Rhys Jones are just three of those hopefuls raring to go.
Erin, 17, Molly, 16, and Rhys, 23, will be representing Team Scotland, Team England and Team Wales respectively. They have all been selected for the Gold Coast having received support from CGI, through its partnership with SportsAid, over the last year. CGI is the official Systems Integration, BPS and IT Outsourcing partner of Team England, Team Wales and Team Scotland for the Games.
Since 2015, CGI has been a key supporter of SportsAid when announcing its first set of annual athlete awards for nine bright prospects competing across a range of sports including athletics, cycling, skiing, swimming, gymnastics and basketball. Each year, the financial boost has helped up-and-coming sports stars with their training and competition costs when they are largely reliant on their parents.
Many of the athletes have returned exciting results with Erin a stand-out example having won 1,500m gold for Team Scotland at the Bahamas 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games. Team Wales star Sarah Omoregie, also a beneficiary of CGI’s backing in 2017, produced an outstanding performance in the Caribbean too as she broke the British Under-18 record to claim a silver medal in the shot put.
“It’s such an honour and I wasn’t expecting it to be honest,” said Erin upon confirmation of her selection for Team Scotland’s triathlon squad. “A few years ago, I wasn’t expecting to get anywhere near the Commonwealth Games so everything has happened so quickly. It’s a big confidence boost because it’s all happened really fast since the Commonwealth Youth Games.”
Erin, who combines athletics training with triathlon while studying at Eastwood High School, added: “I don’t feel like it’s scary – although probably when I get there I’ll be a bit scared – but at the moment, it just feels really exciting. I feel like at the Youth Games has prepared me a little bit – it was like a mini version of Gold Coast so hopefully that has given me a taste of what things will be like in April.”
CGI has helped to ease the financial challenges facing young athletes. The company, which was founded in 1976 – the same year as SportsAid, is the fifth largest independent information technology and business process services firm in the world. Approximately 65,000 professionals serve thousands of global clients from offices and delivery centres across the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.
Yet it’s not just the money which makes a difference. Rhys, a double Paralympian who won bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow four years ago, benefitted from the recognition and support he received through CGI’s buddy scheme. He was paired up with Emily Bristow, CGI’s RPA Capability Lead, who has maintained regular contact and been to cheer on Rhys at training and competitions.
“CGI has backed me in everything I've done from day one,” said Rhys – now being supported by British Athletics with Podium Potential funding on its Paralympic World Class Performance Programme. “Emily regularly came to watch training sessions to see how I was getting on and bought tickets to watch me race at the World Para Athletics Championships in London.
"It'll mean the world to put on that Welsh vest [at the Gold Coast]. For para-athletes, we don't get many opportunities to represent Wales at a Commonwealth Games. I just want to go out there and do myself justice. If I come out with a medal that would be phenomenal," added Rhys, who is coached by former Great Britain and Team Wales sprinter Christian Malcolm and will compete on Monday 9 April.
The CGI buddy scheme sees each athlete matched with a member of staff who acts a dedicated point of contact. The CGI buddy is responsible for staying in touch and following their progress in order to keep their fellow employees informed. Emily and Rhys have developed a strong bond and she is proud of the impact the support offered by CGI and SportsAid has made to his sporting ambitions.
“I was very keen to be a SportsAid buddy when the opportunity arose as I thought it would be a really cool thing to be a part of,” said Emily. “Rhys was my buddy and getting to know him was one of the most inspirational times of my life. Rhys has been through so much yet become a world class athlete. He’s travelled the world and represented his country at the Paralympics and Commonwealth Games.
“I learned that being a professional sportsperson is not all glamorous,” reflected Emily. “It’s early starts and training in the cold and the wet and the wind. It is hours of sitting on cold stadium seats for your parents, and scraping together what funding you can find to try and make it to the next competition. The money CGI gave to SportsAid made life that much easier for Rhys.
“He ended up in the finals of the World Para Athletics Championships and getting his British Athletics funding back, and most brilliantly of all, bagging himself a place on the plane to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. We made a difference to him and I’m proud of that. Mostly though, I am proud of Rhys and I plan on continuing to watch him train and keep a tabs on his career.”
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