Two of Buckinghamshire’s rising stars of the sporting arena have seen their careers boosted with a £750 award each from the Bucks SportsAid Foundation.
Eighteen-year-old Alice Freeman from Marlow, who already plays hockey for England, and GB judo squad star Emma Pang, 15, from Burnham, have been presented with the money, which is designed to help young sports stars of the future with training, equipment and travelling expenses.
A thrilled Alice received her cheque from former top British sprinter and World, European and Commonwealth Games medallist Donna Fraser, in front of an audience of businessmen and women from across the region at a special Bucks Sporting Lunch Club on Friday (April 27).
The talented teen, who plays for the Reading Ladies 1st team, which finished top of this year’s Investec Premier League, said: “The grant will be a big help, especially as I need to renew my kit and sticks before the start of next season. I was selected for the England U18s for the first time last year and am playing for them again this year, now my ambition is to be selected for the U21s, so I will be competing hard to achieve that goal.”
Alice, who is currently studying in the upper sixth at Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School in Marlow, says the majority of her sporting equipment is paid for by her family, and she plans to put the money towards buying a car to help with travelling to training and matches.
She began playing when she was just nine, first played for Marlow hockey club, before moving on to Wycombe, and then joined the high-flying Reading team in 2011, recently competing with her Reading team mates in the EuroHockey Club Champions Cup in Brussels.
Training with Reading twice a week and with league games every weekend, she also plays for her school and last year represented England at the European Championships and at the UK School Games, winning a gold medal.
Sporting commitments at a competition in Romania meant Emma was unable to attend the lunch, but she says she plans to use the grant towards new judo kit and funding to enable her to enter more competitions.
“It’s a big help,” said Emma. “If we are selected for competitions our expenses are paid, but if we want to compete in other events we have to fund ourselves, so mum and dad usually help out and this will make a real difference.”
A pupil at Beaconsfield High School, Emma comes from a truly sporting family – her three sisters also compete in judo at a very high level and are national champions – and as the youngest she is keen not only to follow in their footsteps but to outdo their achievements.
Already a four times national champion, winning in the U13, U15 and U17 categories, she trains three times a week and added: “It can be quite hard to find a balance between training and education, but I really want to get to the top in judo.
“It would be a dream come true if I could get to the Olympics, I trained with the Olympic team at Easter and they were really inspirational, so I need to keep practicing and training hard for 2016.”
The lunch, held at Dorney Lake, near Windsor, venue for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games rowing and kayaking events, was organised by a core team of business sponsors from across the county.
Welcoming the audience, Austyn Smith, from independent financial advisers Austyn James Wealth Management, in Beaconsfield, said: “I am delighted to be able to offer my support to Bucks SportsAid. It is a fantastic cause which has supported many athletes on their journey to success. I hope that the grants awarded to Emma and Alice will help them achieve some of their goals. They are both worthy athletes and I wish them every bit of luck with what I am sure will be a promising future.”
As guest of honour, Donna, who benefited from SportsAid funding during her early career, gave the audience an insight into the competitive world of British athletics, recalling how she overcame being a painfully shy girl from Croydon to realising she had an athletic ability after much encouragement from her family.
She talked about her own successes, winning medals at the World Championships in 2005, European Championships and Commonwealth Games and her great friendship with Olympic champion Cathy Freeman, forged at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. There, she was beaten into fourth place by fellow GB runner Katharine Merry by just seven hundredths of a second, despite achieving a series of personal bests to get through to the final.
“I learnt so much from those Olympic Games, especially about self-awareness and my advice to all young athletes is to embrace your opportunities, never ever underestimate your ability to achieve, like I did, because if you want to do well, you will - just reach for the stars and go for it!,” she said.
Also sponsoring the event, which raised nearly £3800 for Bucks SportsAid, were Gerrards Cross-based law firm B P Collins LLP; chartered accountants Harwood Hutton, from Beaconsfield; NatWest Commercial Banking in High Wycombe and local business group Buckinghamshire Business First.
Roger Fennemore from Bucks SportsAid also took the opportunity to speak about the support the organisation provides to young athletes.
Notes to editors