The Army Elite Sport Programme (AESP) was established in 2014 launched using a £1.4m donation from private security company G4S following the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The British Army has joined with UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport and respective sporting National Governing Bodies to identify Army athletes who have the potential to finish on the podium at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and beyond.
The Minister for Sport, Helen Grant MP, gave her firm backing to the initiative in wishing it every success. She said “The Army has traditionally been a great source of top sporting talent but the new Army Elite Sport Programme will take this up a level and help unearth more Olympic stars of the future. The chance to represent Team GB at the Tokyo 2020 Games is a fantastic opportunity for our Army personnel and I am sure that this partnership between UK Sport, the English Institute of Sport and the British Army will be a great success”.
The AESP strategic partnerships with UK Sport offers exciting opportunities which could potentially open pathways that were previously unavailable for the identification and development of the Army’s most talented athletes. Investment will be specifically targeted to those sports where there is evidence of existing gaps in GB Olympic and WCD programmes – particularly in areas where the Army has the potential and track record to deliver high performance athletes via a range of Talent Identification (TID), Talent Transfer (TT) and Talent Confirmation (TC) campaigns and strategic partnerships.
The establishment of the AESP six years prior to Tokyo 2020 is recognised as the time required to develop an Olympic hopeful into a medal contender. As part of the AESP, talent Scientists from the English Institute of Sport will run assessments in the garrison towns nationwide and further afield in Germany and Cyprus. They will identify potential individuals who can be fast-tracked in to sport’ World Class Programmes where there is an identified talent gap. The AESP will then ensure their military career can develop in harmony with the demands of their training programmes and competition commitments.
Rod Carr, Chair of UK Sport said: “UK Sport is proud to be part of this innovative partnership with the British Army and is confident it will unearth future Olympic medallists to make the nation proud”. The British Army has a rich tradition of supporting athletes and our experience tells us there will be personnel out there with the potential to be Olympic medallists but up until now they may not have had the opportunity to connect with the right sport or have the necessary support network to succeed. This initiative will provide them with a wonderful opportunity to access the world class support services which allow them to reach their full athletic potential”.
The British Army have expanded their Elite Sport Programme to uncover and develop more medal winning British Olympians within its ranks. Richard Wyeth spoke to Major General Shaun Burley CB MBE, Director of Army Sport Control, to find out more:
It has long been established that the values and standards demanded of a British soldier mirrors those of any aspiring champion wishing to climb to the top of their sport. Selfless commitment, courage, integrity to name but three, when mixed with discipline and the Army’s fitness regime make for a very powerful combination. Sport, as any soldier will tell you, plays a fundamentally important part in their development and training, and inevitably the result is a rich seam of sporting achievement which courses through the regiments and corps of the British Army.
Since 2007, UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport have run ten national athlete recruitment projects assessing over 7,000 athletes who were previously unknown to the UK World Class System. These projects have already discovered 19 athletes who represented Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, including rower Helen Glover, who alongside Captain Heather Stanning, won Great Britain’s first gold medal of the Games.
The official launch of the Army Elite Sport Programme took place at the Army School of Physical Training in Aldershot – itself a sport centre of excellence – and was attended by Lieutenant General James Everard, Commander Land Forces, Brigadier John Donnelly, the Army’s Director of Personal Services, the National Director of the English Institute of Sport, Mr Nigel Walker and Chair of UK Sport, Mr Rod Carr. Olympic and World Champion Rower Captain Heather Stanning was also in attendance to explain her experiences as she embarked on her path to both military and sporting success.