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Sam Smith

With so many hidden costs associated with powerchair football, Wylam’s Sam Smith insists his World Cup ambitions wouldn’t be possible without the financial support of Entain Holdings and SportsAid.

The 21-year-old is a recent recipient of the award, with the two bodies having partnered up in a three-year agreement in 2019, aiming to help young athletes across the UK realise their potential.

Having made his England debut at the 2017 World Cup in Florida en route to the team’s third-place finish, Smith – a third year journalism student at Newcastle University – is hoping the Three Lions can emulate last year’s European success on the global stage in Sydney, in 2022.

But with the whole team reliant on specialist equipment and carers – among other financial constraints – the Northern Thunder star is hugely grateful for the programme’s backing.

“The funding I receive enables me to be as good as I can be in the sport,” said Smith, one of 50 beneficiaries of Entain’s programme which is part of the Pitching In initiative.

“All of us in the team require the help of a carer, so there’s always their travel and accommodation costs to consider, as well as everyone actually on the team.

“The support also allows me to make sure my equipment is at the standard it needs to be, and that it is maintained. It’ll also help me train individually when the lockdown eases – whether that’s renting a hall or travelling to a training camp – and I don’t think it’d be possible to continue at my current level without it.”

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.

Besides the financial help, Smith recognises the wide-ranging psychological benefits of the scheme, which have helped fuel his focus on establishing himself as an integral player for the national side in their quest for world domination.

He said: “It’s been a long road so having someone outside your immediate bubble telling you they believe in you definitely helps with your confidence on and off the pitch.

“Knowing you have their support also removes the headache of worrying about how you’re going to fund everything associated with your sport. I’m able to focus on my game and reach my potential.

“I was on the fringes of the team that won the Nations Cup in 2019, and now I’m determined to play a bit part in our World Cup efforts in two years’ time. Support from SportsAid and Entain will play a big part in allowing me to do that.”

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.