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Sam Heppenstall-Batty

Having sampled his first taste of international competition shortly before lockdown hit, taekwondo prospect Sam Heppenstall-Batty is hoping funding from Entain Holdings and SportsAid will allow him to continue taking part in such events when they resume.

The 19-year-old described March’s Dutch Open as a “really good experience”, but things then went from one extreme to the other as sport – and much of daily life as we know it – shut down.

Unable to train, Heppenstall-Batty used running as a way of keeping his fitness up in the months that followed and has been gradually getting back to sparring, doing as much as regulations allow.

The Halifax prospect is eager to get back to competing and those aims have been aided by support from Entain and SportsAid.

Launched in 2019 with the support Paralympian Baroness Grey-Thompson, Entain’s three-year partnership with SportsAid helps young athletes across the UK each year realise their potential.

Athletes get funding for training, travel and equipment, as well as mentoring by Olympians and Paralympians on topics such as nutrition and sports psychology.

“It is amazing to be part of it,” said Heppenstall-Batty.

“International competitions are only a weekend away but it’s a lot of money – four or five hundred pounds each time.

“The more funding I have, the more competitions I can go to and the more experience I’ll gain, so it will be amazing to be able to do more of them when they are up and running.

“I want to prove to Team GB that I can do it at international level so it’s a big incentive.”

The initiative is part of Entain’s Pitching In, a major new multi-million-pound investment programme designed to support and promote grassroots sports.

The young athletes on the programme are following in the footsteps of legendary figures such as Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Mo Farah and Dame Sarah Storey – as well as taekwondo world champion Bradly Sinden, who has acted as inspiration to Heppenstall-Batty.

“It is surreal to see my name among some of the SportsAid alumni but I have to take it in my stride,” he said.

“I have trained with some of the GB team and it is a real confidence boost. It’s definitely scary but it’s satisfying not to feel out of place. It shows me where I’m at in relation to where I want to go.”

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.