ATHLETICS: Ennis and Ferdinand will inspire ‘Rio’ generation

Superstars: Jessica Ennis, second left and Rio Ferdiand, third left at the EIS.'            Picture: Dean Atkins.
Superstars: Jessica Ennis, second left and Rio Ferdiand, third left at the EIS.' Picture: Dean Atkins.
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THEY say you can’t buy experience but for one group of young sports stars they’ve been handed the next best thing.

The Jaguar Academy of Sport presented its latest batch of bursaries to the next generation of athletes at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield yesterday.

The Academy, which counts the likes of Jessica Ennis, Dame Kelly Holmes and Rio Ferdinand among its ambassadors, provides financial support for young sports people to pay for kit, travel and competition entry fees.

Perhaps most importantly the likes of Ennis are available for mentoring days when experience in fields such as media training and drug-testing awareness are passed on.

Ennis, Ferdinand and Holmes were at the event yesterday to talk to the group which included Sheffield diver Jack Haslam.

The 16-year-old Haslam, from Crookes, has been picked out by British Diving as a potential competitor for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Currently recovering from a long term back injury, the Tapton school student, said he was delighted to be part of the Academy.

“I was really pleased when we found it. At the moment I just want to get back to full fitness so I can start competing again, but this is a real boost.”

Haslam, who began diving as a six-year-old after impressing coaches at Ponds Forge, won a bronze medal in the springboard at the 2009 European Junior Championships in Budapest and now has his sights firmly set on the next by one Olympic Games.

“That’s the goal,” he said. “This bursary will help with training and the travelling we do. We travel to Plymouth quite a lot.”

And he revealed that being able to speak with Ennis will be valuable to his progression. He said: “It’s great to be able to listen to the likes of Jess who have so much experience of competing at the highest level.”

Ennis took part in a question and answer session with the 50 bursary recipients and revealed she never regrets for a second the sacrifices she made when she was a coming through junior events.

Sheffield squash star Nick Matthew, who is a member of the Academy, was on hand to offer media advice.