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Tokyo 2020 team shows importance of investment in talent

Our 2019 Talent Plan laid out our strategy to help develop the world’s best talent system and how investing in producing more and better athletes remains a key objective for us.

23rd July 2021

As nearly 400 athletes are set to represent Team GB at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, more than 60% of them have directly benefitted from our investment of National Lottery funding on their sporting journey.

We’re a partner of the charity SportsAid that helps young British sportsmen and women aspiring to be the country’s next Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth and world champions.

The SportsAid alumni travelling to Tokyo number 242 – 61% of the 397 athletes and travelling reserves.

Dina Asher-Smith at the 2015 London Youth Games, standing in front of a sponsor banner

Of those 242, four have come through the Backing the Best initiative that was founded in 2015 and is funded by us but managed by SportsAid – whose research shows it costs around £6,000 a year for young athletes to travel and pay for coaches and training camps.

The programme is designed to help those for whom the cost of sport would ultimately prevent them from progressing through their sport’s development system and fulfilling their potential.

In addition, 91 of the 242 are graduates of the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) that is again funded by us and overseen by SportsAid, and helps athletes in education to get the best from both their academic and sporting lives.

These programmes aim to give those from all backgrounds a chance of developing their talent, and for our strategic lead for talent and performance, Duncan Truswell, they’re about living the ambitions of our Uniting the Movement strategy.

"It matters that we are impatient to realise our long-held ambition to systematically identify, recruit and develop those, mainly, young people with the most potential," he said.

"Systematically means that we will do so deliberately, not by accident. Actively looking beyond the traditional talent pools or pathways to find and engage those with the most potential – whoever they are, wherever they live and whatever background they’re from.

"We want to remove the barriers whether they're financial, or having to make a choice between a sporting career or education, so that young people with potential from all walks of life can become athletes and it's not a privilege for a lucky few.

"Only when we, together with our partners and sports governing bodies, can do this – embracing and engaging the huge variety of sport and activity providers in England – will we find our true sporting potential.

"I hope that in Tokyo, in Beijing (for the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2022) and in Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games in 2022, we’ll begin to see evidence of progress towards our vision."

Since 1 April 2017 we’ve invested more than £51 million in 27 Olympic and 18 Paralympic sports, and more than £18m into organisations like SportsAid and programmes such as Backing the Best and TASS.

We work to ensure that the approximately 60,000 young athletes on English Talent Pathways have a meaningful development experience that equips them with knowledge, skills, competencies and experiences that allow them to successfully transition to high performance programmes, but also adult life.

It matters that we are impatient to realise our long-held ambition to systematically identify, recruit and develop those, mainly, young people with the most potential.

Duncan Truswell

Strategic lead for talent and performance, Sport England

And these pathways have a proven history of success, with 80% of Olympic and 86% of Paralympic medallists from Rio 2016 being graduates of our funded pathways.

We're also a partner of the School Games, and more than 70 of the athletes competing for Team GB competed at the School Games National Finals early in their sporting careers.

But for Duncan, it’s not solely about success on the field of play, he wants our national teams at events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games to truly reflect the nations they represent.

“We believe that sport is a medium through which people can develop themselves and their identity,” said Duncan.

“What people see, hear and feel happening on the pitch or the podium can have an impact on how our society views, for example, diversity.

“I hope that by uniting as one Team GB, ParalympicsGB or Team England we can somehow role model the changes we seek towards a more tolerant and inclusive society.”

Find out more about our investment in, and work to, develop talent pathways.


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