Bangor’s Eve Walsh-Dann insists the financial support of Entain Holdings and SportsAid is a crucial component in ensuring she maximises her development all the way towards para athletics’ main stage.
The 18-year-old won T35-T38 100m and 200m gold medals at the World Para Athletics Junior Championships in 2017, and is targeting spots at both the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and the 2024 Paralympics.
But with a limited field of para athletes in Northern Ireland, Walsh-Dann explains that regular travel to England is crucial in order to measure her continual progress, by racing against other competitors in the same classification.
And with the pressure of travel costs – for training and competition all over the world – eased by the programme’s funding, Walsh-Dann believes she has been afforded the best chance of achieving her dreams.
“Competing against other para athletes is the only way you can really gauge your own development, which means travelling to cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester throughout the year,” said Walsh-Dann, one of 50 beneficiaries of Entain’s programme which is part of the Pitching In initiative.
“I wouldn’t be able to do that without the support of Entain and SportsAid, and once the lockdown restrictions are eased even further I’ll be able to travel more and more.
“The money also allows me to equip myself with the best kit available, so I’ve got the best chance of getting to the levels I want to get to – representing Northern Ireland and Great Britain on the highest stage.”
As well as funding for training, travel and equipment, athletes on the SportsAid programme receive valuable mentoring by Olympians and Paralympians on topics such as nutrition and sports psychology.
The young athletes will be following in the footsteps of legendary figures such as Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Mo Farah, Dame Sarah Storey and Ellie Simmonds OBE – all of whom received SportsAid support – and more recent beneficiaries including Dina Asher-Smith and Adam Peaty MBE.
Walsh-Dann remembers the precise moment she found out she had been selected for Entain and SportsAid funding, and believes there are a wide range of psychological benefits associated with the programme too, on top of the monetary support.
She said: “I was out training in the garden with my coach on Zoom when my dad came and told me I’d been selected for the scheme. I couldn’t believe it!
“It means a lot to know that there are people outside my personal bubble that have invested in me and want to try and help me achieve success in the future.
“It’s amazing to be on the same pathway as some of the biggest names in British sport. I really want to add my name to that list and hopefully I can inspire other young people like myself, in the future.”
Entain is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. As part of this three-year partnership, Entain are supporting a diverse group of 50 UK athletes per year from a variety of spots and para-sports. Visit entaingroup.com to find out more.