London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Katherine Grainger is amongst the successful sportswomen who are backing the latest Girls4Gold talent identification programme.
Sign up for Girls4Gold
Girls4Gold is the single most extensive female talent recruitment drive ever undertaken in Great Britain, seeking focused, powerful and motivated athletes who want to fulfil their Olympic or Paralympic ambition.
Britain’s most successful female rower, Katherine Grainger CBE, realised her Olympic dream in 2012 when she won gold alongside teammate Anna Watkins in the double sculls. Grainger is a fantastic advocate for women in sport and is encouraging female athletes with potential to get involved.
She said: “I completely fell into rowing, it was never the plan, I never thought it was the sport for me; I didn’t even start until I went to University but I just loved the challenge of it.
“If you’re thinking about signing up for Girls4Gold, or hearing about it has sparked something inside you and there’s a little bit of hunger there, just go for it!”
Together with UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (The Performance Pathway Team), GB Canoeing has launched Girls4Gold: Canoeing, the first in what will be a series of Girls4Gold campaigns, with the aim of discovering athletes who have what it takes to transfer into a new sport and compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Girls4Gold: Canoeing is aimed at athletic females aged 15-17 who compete at regional standard and motivated, high-performing women aged 18-25 who compete at national standard, in any sport, and believe they can achieve Olympic success.
GB Canoeing Performance Director John Anderson commented on the launch of Girls4Gold: Canoeing: "Girls4Gold is an exciting opportunity for GB Canoeing to work in partnership with UK Sport and the EIS to capitalise on the successes we had at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
"Whilst we have some outstandingly talented women already in our sport, as we look beyond Rio and onto Tokyo we want to build greater strength and depth in our talent pool so we can challenge for more medals in more events by 2020.
"Our aspiration is to be the number one Olympic and Paralympic canoeing nation by 2020 so there is no better time to get involved with Sprint Canoeing."
The Performance Pathway Team has run nine national athlete recruitment projects assessing over 7,000 athletes who were previously unknown to the UK World Class system. These projects have resulted in over 100 athletes transitioning into the World Class system, achieving 302 senior international appearances and 100 senior international medals, 38 of which were gold.
Nineteen identified athletes from previous campaigns represented Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, including rower Helen Glover, who was part of the crew which won Team GB’s first gold medal of the Games, and Taekwondo athlete Lutalo Muhammad, who won Olympic bronze.
The Performance Pathway Team are working in conjunction with other national governing bodies to continue the Girls4Gold campaign series across more Olympic and Paralympic sports, with details to be announced later in 2013.
Natalie Dunman, Head of Performance Pathways at UK Sport, said: "Girls4Gold is an ambitious programme to fast track outstanding female talent in to Olympic and Paralympic sport beginning with canoeing.
"We are looking for female athletes who have the drive and ambition to fulfil their sporting potential with the ultimate aim of becoming part of a World Class Programme and achieving medals on the international stage.
"Our experience tells us there are people out there with the potential to be Olympic or Paralympic champions but they may not have had the opportunity to connect with the right sport or have the necessary support network to succeed."
A number of athletes from the original Girls4Gold talent campaign have successfully joined Olympic development programmes and achieved international success, including canoeist and Girls4Gold Ambassador Angela Hannah, who transferred from hockey in 2007 and went on to be selected to represent Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games, finishing fifth in the K4 500m.
Angela Hannah said: "I’d never heard of sprint kayaking before I tried it so I googled it and saw how great it was, and thought 'why not?' At the start I fell in a lot, it took me about three months to have a dry session, but I loved being on the water.
"If you’re someone who's driven and really enjoys sport and you’re looking to compete at a higher level, just really look at Girls4Gold as an amazing opportunity because not many people will get this chance.”
Another Girls4Gold Ambassador, Naomi Riches MBE, was a member of the GB crew that won rowing gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the mixed coxed four event, with the same crew repeating their gold medal result at the Munich World Cup 2012.
Naomi Riches said: "I’d been in a boat a few times at college and thoroughly enjoyed it, but it was when I won gold at the World Championships in 2004 that I really caught the bug and going on to compete at the Paralympic Games in London was incredible. If being in sport at the top level is a dream of yours, why not give Girls4Gold a go? You never know where it’s going to take you!"
For further information and the application form visit: www.uksport.gov.uk/talent, with the application process closing at midnight on Sunday 15th December 2013.