Elite goalball players Dan Roper and Laura Perry have been recognised as two of the most promising athletes in the country by Sport England and SportsAid.
The ‘Backing the Best’ programme, with £5.5 million of new National Lottery funds, will see Dan and Laura from March receive grant aid towards their training and competing costs.
The four-year scheme was launched after a new study, carried out by Leeds Beckett University, showed the rising cost of competing at an elite level has led to some of England’s best up-and-coming talent dropping out.
Laura and Dan, who founded and coach the Fen Tigers club, are both in the starting line-ups for the national teams. Laura said of the award: “It’s a huge honour to be one of just 60 young athletes from around the country to receive this support. As elite players, it is crucial for us to able to make it to club training to support and inspire the next generation of players”
Dan added: “It is particularly important to us as members of the national teams. We’re at the start of a four-year cycle to be at Tokyo 2020 and we need to be at the top of our game.
“This means a lot of travel to training camps and international competitions as well as the basics such as equipment, kit and food. With the help of “Backing the Best” we can concentrate on training hard as we build up the Fen Tigers and aim for the podium at Tokyo.”
Sport England director of sport, Phil Smith, said: “Backing the Best has been designed to give a helping hand to those who need it – so that ability and attitude are the only criteria for success, and not money.”
Mike Reilly, CEO of Goalball UK, added: “This award is a testament, not just to the talent and drive of Laura and Dan, but also to the potential of Goalball to reach from a grassroots level to the Paralympic podium.
“Sport England regularly recognises Goalball rapid growth and its ability to transform the lives of visually-impaired people so we’re incredibly proud that they, and SportsAid, are backing Laura and Dan as they continue to perform at the highest level.”
WHAT IS GOALBALL
Goalball, originally devised as a rehabilitation programme for injured soldiers returning from World War II, was one of the hits of London 2012 with crowds cramming into the Copper Box to support the men and women’s teams.
Since then, the sport has grown in popularity with eleven extra domestic tournaments being added to the calendar for the upcoming season, which begins this month.
The positive impact that involvement in the sport has for visually impaired people is documented in the video on the Goalball UK website at: www.goalballuk.com/
Goalball is played by two teams of three players with a maximum of three substitutions on each team. The object of the game is to score a goal by bowling the ball along the floor so that it crosses the goal line of the opposing team.
It is open to both male and female visually impaired athletes, and sighted players can also play.
It has three main distinguishing features:
1. All players wear eyeshades so that they are totally blindfolded
2. Goalball is played on an indoor court that is 18m long and 9m wide. The court has tactile markings (string that is taped to the floor), which helps players determine where they are
3. The ball contains internal bells, which help players locate it during play