Major boost for junior athletes as sponsorship programme returns
After a year’s absence owing to the pandemic, the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sport’s National Junior Athlete Sponsorship Programme returned yesterday with over $50,000 donated to ten athletes and five sports governing bodies at a luncheon yesterday at Hamilton Princess and Beach Club.
“We had a year off last year, but we had to get the programme back up and running so that we can continue with our development of elite athletes,” Jekon Edness, senior sports development officer, assured the audience.
Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, also reiterated Government’s commitment to the development of young people in sports, with athletes from sports like tennis, motorcycle racing, sailing, martial arts, volleyball, swimming, football, boxing, equestrian and cycling receiving funding. “Due to the challenges of Covid, as you can imagine, this year’s programme has been slightly altered to allow our NSG’s [national sports governing bodies] to incorporate the use of international coaches to assist the selected pool of junior athletes on our island,” the minister said.“We can say without a doubt that we are united, we are committed to the development of our young people through athletics and through sports.”
Antonio Warner, a 14-year old tennis player, received a sum of $3,900 through the Bermuda Lawn Tennis Association to attend training at the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Centre in Tampa, Florida.
Warner was crowned champion of the 12 and under division in the Sagicor COTECC Junior Tournament in St Lucia and was subsequently chosen to attend the International Tennis Federation Central American and Caribbean Tennis Confederation training camp in the Dominican Republic,
Sailor Sebastian Kempe, 15, who aspires to represent Bermuda at the 2024 Olympic Games in France, has been granted $4,091 through the Bermuda Sailing Association to participate in the Youth Sailing World Championships in Mussanah, Oman.
Jediah Cumbermack, 15, a promising motorcycle racer, has been granted $3,196 through the Bermuda Motorcycle Racing Association to train and compete in the M1GP in California.
Szaine Williams, a 14-year-old martial artist who aspires to compete in the 2022 Junior World Wushu Championships, was granted $2,891 through the Bermuda Sanshou Association to train at the United Martial Arts Training Centre in Lubbock, Texas.
The sum of $3,091 went to the Bermuda Volleyball Association to assist with the development of Natalie Gazzard, 15, who has represented national teams at the under-14, 16 and 18 levels. The funds will enable Gazzard to attend the Jax Beach Volleyball Camp in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Swimmer Finn Moseley, 16, who represented Bermuda at the Carifta Games and CCCAN from 2017-19 will receive $2,698 through the Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association to attend the Plymouth Leander Academy in Devon, England.
Others to receive sponsorships were footballer Caleb McDowall who will receive $3,030 through the BFA to train at Watford Football Academy in England; equestrian Kayla Bardgett $4,900 to train with Wendy Arndt in South Carolina and boxer Kahlil Smythe, $3,520, to compete at the Arnold Classic in Ohio.
Cyclist Liam Flannery was awarded $3,182 through the Bermuda Bicycle Association to participate in the UCI Junior World Championships in Belgium.
Grants were also given to the Bermuda Basketball Association ($4,405) for their Advanced Youth Development Clinic featuring coach Jamaal Jackson; the Bermuda Cricket Board ($5,400) for their Gary Palmer Batting Clinic and the Bermuda Netball Association ($4,350) for their Tracey Neville Workshop.
Funds of $3,879 and $1,500 respectively were awarded to the Bermuda Triathlon Association and the Bermuda Golf Association for the Jack Maitland Camp and the TPI Camp featuring local golf professionals.
The programme was launched in 1994, with 65 per cent of the athletes going on to represent Bermuda at the senior level.
Runner Dage Minors, a 2012-13 scholarship recipient who was a six-time All-American during his time at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, was the guest speaker at the luncheon. Minors was also the first Bermudian athlete to win the elite category of the Front Street Mile in 2018 and holds multiple national records.
“I wish you all the best in your future endeavours. Always be willing to learn about your sport, competitors and different training methods,” he told the athletes.
“Every day try to get better, be humble and respect the process. Not all of us will make it to the next level in our sports, but the things we learn as athletes will make us better humans and members of society.”