Paralympic heroes Ellie Simmonds, Pam Relph and Toby Gold reflected on the importance of the support they received from SportsAid during the early stages of their careers as they met young athletes currently being helped by the charity at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) offices in London last Thursday (29 September).
RBC, a key partner of SportsAid since 2013, hosted a special athlete showcase for staff at its Thames Court and Riverbank House offices with demonstrations provided on boxing, modern pentathlon, judo and rhythmic gymnastics. The bank sponsored 21 athletes during its first year and 50 for each of the last two through the charity.
"RBC is delighted to partner with SportsAid – an organisation with an unparalleled track record in cultivating sporting talent,” said Dave Thomas, CEO, RBC Capital Markets, Europe. "It's exciting to know we support future Olympians and Paralympians with the potential to go on and achieve great things.”
The athlete showcase helped to bring the many different elements of SportsAid’s work together all in one day – the involvement of a commercial partner in RBC, the presence of young athletes and high-profile alumni, the support of a number of sporting National Governing Bodies, and plenty of fundraising activities including an office raffle.
The showcase was held by RBC to celebrate the inaugural SportsAid Week as the charity marks its 40th anniversary in 2016. Five-time Paralympic gold medallist Ellie, who has just returned from Rio with Pam and Toby, received a SportsAid award in 2006 and spoke to the young athletes and RBC staff about what the support meant to her.
“It [SportsAid support] really helped in giving me confidence when I was younger,” said Ellie. “It makes you realise there are people out there who believe we can do it. Your parents support you but it gets quite expensive going to competitions, the cost of equipment and getting places. It goes a long, long way and we’re forever grateful.”
Rower Pam, now a double Paralympic champion, and Toby, who won silver in the T33 100m in Rio, also spent time interacting with staff while taking in the impressive displays from SportsAid athletes - all of which are supported by RBC. On top of their financial award, many of the athletes benefit from RBC’s buddy scheme too.
The buddy scheme sees members of staff from RBC staying directly in contact with athletes to offer them ongoing support and recognition for their achievements. The buddies also spend time visiting the athletes in their training environments as they look to provide them with an extra motivational boost as their careers progress.
“I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn’t for SportsAid funding,” said 100m sprinter Imani-Lara Lansiquot. “I go on a lot of training camps, require physiotherapy and without that charity and support I wouldn’t be achieving what I’m achieving so I’m very grateful. We need the funding to keep taking young athletes to the next level.”
Imani’s buddy is Paul Adams - Head of UK & Nordic Structured Solutions at RBC Capital Markets. Imani, 19, who finished fourth in the IAAF 2016 World Under-20s Championships this summer, has felt the benefit of the scheme and said it acts as a ‘touch base’ where she can gain advice from Paul.
“It’s fantastic to see Imani’s career grow, but more importantly it’s a great opportunity for RBC to reach out into the community and be part of something that allows us to give back through the work of SportsAid,” said Paul. “It’s a real chance for me to get involved in something which is really inspirational for me and my children.
“It also allows me to be able to pass on some knowledge and advice to Imani especially when she is in such a critical part of her development heading towards the seniors and hopefully the World Championships. There’s a lot we’re able to share from our experiences in business and sport, and I’m learning from her as well.”
The success of SportsAid’s partnership with RBC was perfectly illustrated when Paralympian Georgie Hermitage, a previous award recipient with help from the company in 2014 and 2015, went on to win two gold medals in Rio in the T37 100m and 400m, as well as silver in the T35-38 4x100m relay.
“The support was essential for me in those first couple of years,” said Georgie. “Between being a parent and trying to juggle the bills, and just being able to afford to put petrol in the car, it would’ve been a struggle. SportsAid is all about bringing through new talent, and supporting it before the major funding comes in.”
The athlete showcases were led by rhythmic gymnast Hannah Martin, judokas Shelley Ludford and Showgo Kimura, modern pentathletes Benjamin Chambers and Alexandra Bousfield, and boxers Viddal Riley and Demie-Jade Resztan with the support of British Gymnastics, British Judo, Pentathlon GB and England Boxing.
RBC's partnership with SportsAid is part of the bank’s global five-year Kids Pledge, a $100 million commitment to help one million young people around the world. RBC supports a broad range of community initiatives through donations, sponsorships and employee volunteer activities. RBC has contributed £250,000 towards supporting young athletes through SportsAid since 2013.
PHOTO CREDIT - Dan Tucker