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2010 heroes launch

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The Heroes project offers funding from Original Source to 15 young athletes

28 May 2010

Double world youth sprint champion Jodie Williams ensured the 15-strong 2010 UKA Heroes Project, sponsored by Original Source, was launched in style with a blistering display at the Loughborough International on 23 May.

The UKA initiative, which was first launched in 2008 and is supported by World Championship bronze medallist Jenny Meadows, includes 15 youngsters expected to challenge for a place in the senior British squad for either London 2012 or the 2016 Olympic Games.     

Each athlete on the scheme will receive two £500 bursaries from Original Source to help towards travel expenses, kit, medical support and equipment throughout 2010, with a further £1000 on offer to the Hero deemed the most successful by the UKA Performance team.

Sprinter Williams is one of 13 athletes retained from last year, along with hurdler Niall Flannery, pole vaulter Jade Ive, high jumper Alan McKie, wheelchair racer Daniel Lucker, heptathlete Ben Reynolds and javelin thrower Izzy Jeffs.

Middle-distance runners Ross Murray, Laura Weightman and Beth Potter, 400m athlete Jordan McGrath, sprinter Shaunna Thompson and hammer thrower Sarah Holt.

Paralympian Hollie Arnold and triple jumper Ben Williams have been invited onto the scheme for the first time, with former Heroes Abdi Ahmed  and Jessica Leach taking a break from the scheme. Middle-distance runner Ahmed is taking a year out to study in Egypt and high jumper Jess Leach has given up her place as she won't be competing in 2010.

And after justifying her inclusion by claiming the 200m in 22.79seconds in Loughborough, Williams admitted she was delighted to have the support for another season.

“It’s great to be part of the Project again this year because it really helped me out last year – especially with all the attention that came my way after the World Youth Championships,” said Williams, whose time made her the fourth fastest woman ever in her age group.

“So it is great that I will have the support from Original Source and UK Athletics to help me achieve my goals this year like I did last year.”

And world indoor silver medallist and UKA Heroes ambassador Meadows admits she’s excited to see the progress of Williams and co. throughout the summer.

“Jodie had an outstanding year in 2009 which means 2010 will be tricky for her,” said Meadows. “It’s great that Original Source will fund her for another year and help her to continue on her way to senior competition.”

Fellow sprint sensation Shaunna Thompson was added to the scheme in 2009 after claiming the Commonwealth Youth Games 100m and 200m titles in 2008. Thompson struggled with an ongoing hamstring injury last year but still managed to make the finals of both the 100 and 200m at the World Youth Championships in Italy.

And after blowing off her early-season cobwebs in spectacular style at the Great City Games in Manchester on May 16 when she pipped Christine Ohuruogu into second place in the 150m race, an injury-free Thompson is looking forward to the summer.

“The plan for this year is to stay injury free, get a personal best and go to the world juniors,” said Thompson. “It would be amazing because I went to them last time in Poland in 2008 and the way I like to work is to do a competition first and familiarise myself with them first and the next time I mean business.”

New triple jump recruit Ben Williams joined the scheme after catching the eye with his leap of 15.91m to top the podium in Italy.

And the 18-year-old, who smashed through the 16m barrier on his return from Italy last year, admits the funding will be key to him ticking off the milestones once more this summer. “I’m over the moon to be on the scheme and to be recognised as being good enough to be on it,” added Williams.

“I think financially it is going to be a great help when you are trying to juggle college with athletics and training you can’t really have money to fund yourself.”

Fellow new joiner Arnold underlined her 2012 medal potential by claiming discus silver and javelin bronze at the IWAS Junior World Championships in July of last year only to be struck down with a stress fracture in her lower back before the season was out.

But after being picked out for a place on the Original Source sponsored project this season, has vowed to turn a winter of discontent to her advantage. “It feels really good to be on the scheme and to be able to join in with such a great group of athletes,” said Arnold.

“I think the scheme is really going to help me with my funding and my training expenses so I am delighted to be part of it and hopefully after working hard in the gym I can come back stronger.”

Hammer thrower Holt breezed past the Commonwealth Games qualification standard for the fourth time this season in the Midlands and admits she is desperate to squeeze in a trip to July’s European Championships before bidding for Delhi gold. “I have got the Commonwealth standard and I have cleared it four times already this year which is brilliant,” said Holt.

“My aim now is just to continue matching and exceeding that to make sure of my place in the team and then try and get a place at the European Championships as well.”

Middle-distance runner Potter recovered from a fall to finish fifth in the 3,000m at last summer’s European Junior Championships in Serbia.

And once she recovers from a shin injury, Potter is hoping to prove her worth to the scheme. “I am looking at getting back later in the season and getting personal best times,” said Potter.

“I am in no rush and that may mean I miss out on the World Junior Championship and likewise the Commonwealth Games would just be a bonus.”

Javelin thrower Izzy Jeffs battled back from injury to finish 13th at last year’s World Youth Championships in Italy but decided to change her technique in the winter in a bid to break into the medal places in the future.

“It is a real privilege to be retained on the scheme after a really rough year and I am very grateful for that,” said Jeffs. “It is a real confidence boost for me that UKA still believe I have the potential to be a top class athlete and hopefully I will prove that.”

Birchfield Harrier Jordan McGrath also suffered with injuries last year – missing the European juniors with a hamstring injury – but has vowed to banish those memories this year.

“I’m really happy that they have decided to invest in me again because last year I was injured and it was quite a bad time for me,” said McGrath. “They have been good enough to stand by me and now hopefully I prove it was the right decision by giving them some good results to look at.”

Morpeth Harrier Weightman narrowly missed out on a place at the European juniors last summer and believes the continued help from the Project with allow her to make amends at this year’s World Junior Championships.

“Last year it helped me to travel around the country and get to events I might not have been able to get to otherwise,” said Weightman. “This summer there are plenty of events I want to go to in order to help me get to the worlds so I think the money will help me with that.”

Fellow north-east runner Niall Flannery, who halved the end-of-year top prize with wheelchair racer Lucker last year, is hoping the continued support will help him claim the prize again this year.

“Being part of the scheme will help me a lot because it aided me last year and it helped me the year before so I am sure it will be a big boost again,” said Flannery.

 “It has also helped me do some of the competitions abroad that I wouldn’t have been able to do and allowed me to get involved in the warm-weather training which has set me up so well for this summer.”

Gateshead athlete Murray finished sixth in the final of the 1500m at the European Junior Championships last July and despite missing the spring with a stress fracture in his leg has ambitious targets this year.

“If I was to run a new personal best this year then I would be absolutely delighted because I have missed a huge chunk.

“Then hopefully I can go to the Commonwealth trials in good shape, give it everything I have and see where I end up.”

Lucker enjoyed his most successful season to date in 2009, striking four golds and two silvers at last summer’s IWAS Junior World Championships in Switzerland and hopes to do it all again this summer.

“The Commonwealth Games has always been a target this year, but now it is a bit further away,” said Lucker.

 “Making the Commonwealths is still achievable but my next goal is retaining my titles at the World Junior Championships from 100m to 5,000m on the track.”