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Water polo players receive boost from Backing the Best programme

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Four water polo players are set to benefit from the latest wave of SportsAid funding through the Backing the Best programme.

Annie Clapperton (Stretford), Emily Pyper (Woolton), Matthias Madden (Solihul) and goalkeeper Tom Manley (Newton Abbot)  are among 115 up-and-coming athletes who have been selected to receive financial support and expertise from the programme.

All four players are preparing for the U21 EU Nations competition in Manchester in November, alongside their Swim England U19 teammates.

SportsAid manages Backing the Best on behalf of Sport England. Now in its third year, it supports those who would face difficulties on the talent development programme without financial help. All successful athletes have displayed outstanding ability in their sport.

Expert mentoring

Olympic silver medallist Keri-anne Payne shared insights and guidance when she joined the athletes and their parents at a SportsAid workshop held at Loughborough University last month.

Keri-anne said: “It has been so good to see the young athletes contributing to the whole day, to see them getting involved and asking questions.”

Ironman John McAvoy and weightlifter Zoe Smith also joined the group. The workshop included information about performance lifestyle management, nutrition, sports psychology and working with the media. Parents also had a specific session tailored to help them.

Phil Smith, Sport England’s Director of Sport, said: “Talent and effort alone should determine who reaches the top in their sport.

“Yet many aspiring high performance athletes have had to consider whether they can continue to pursue their sporting ambitions due to the mounting costs of competition, training, travel and specialist equipment facing them, and their families, at critical points in their development.

“Backing The Best is helping to level the playing field by providing aspiring athletes with the additional support to relieve this financial pressure and give these up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to fulfil the promise they have shown.”