Celebrating its tenth birthday on 13 November, the Talented Athlete Sponsorship Scheme (TASS) has provided crucial support for many of the UK’s sporting hopefuls.
"The support was an enormous stepping stone, allowing me to go on to win gold at the Beijing and London Paralympics."
To mark the event, Great Britain Para-cycling Team rider and Paralympic champion David Stone (one of the beneficiaries from the TASS programme) attended a special birthday reception at the Houses of Parliament.
Guy Taylor, National Director of TASS said, “We were delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate our 10th birthday at such a splendid location as the Houses of Parliament and hosted by Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson.
"TASS began in the Autumn of 2003 when names like canoeists and London 2012 medallists Liam Heath and Jon Schofield were in the first batch of Award recipients. Since then TASS has given over £30 million in support to over 6,000 athletes across 50 sports.”
British Cycling and TASS have enjoyed a productive partnership since 2004. In total 61 cyclists have been helped by TASS to the tune of an estimated £366,000. Typically support includes equipment purchase, access to physiotherapy, strength & conditioning and coaching support amongst other elements.
Stone said: “After some years out of sport, TASS gave me the support to pursue my sporting career again. Studying at Sussex University, my TASS mentor at the University helped me juggle my sporting and academic commitments.”
David Stone is a multi-medal winning para-cyclist. Born with cerebral palsy, Stone began cycling at the age of eight. “As a disabled person growing up, you come across lots of obstacles. Cycling gave me an outlet, something to get rid of all those frustrations”, he explained.
Stone’s talent was spotted early and he joined the Great Britain Para-Cycling Team in 1995 shortly before his 16th birthday and made his international debut a year later. He made his Paralympic debut in 2000 in Sydney, placing seventh in the CP3 road race and time trial.
After that he briefly left the sport to study for a Social Work degree at university. He began riding again in 2003 and entered the National Time Trial Championships, where old coach Gary Brickley spotted him again. In 2005 Stone received TASS funding to help him develop his undoubted talent.
He went on to win double gold at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games – a performance for which he was named MBE - and gold in the time trial at London 2012.
Guy Taylor said, “We are a well-established scheme with a great track record. This is not about talent identification, this is about nurturing athletes who are already known to be talented and are wisely pursuing their education at the same time as a demanding sports career.
"These are exactly the kind of athletes that are surviving on minimal funding, can spend weeks out of training because they cannot afford a physio appointment and need all the help that they can get to stay in the sport as a pipeline of talent for Rio 2016, Korea 2018 and beyond.”
David concluded: “Luke got me access to equipment and facilities at Sussex and Brighton University through the scheme. I was able to buy a bike with the funds and started to travel a lot to Manchester as my career took off. The support was an enormous stepping stone, allowing me to go on to win gold at the Beijing and London Paralympics."