UK Sport, the British Army and the English Institute of Sport have joined forces to launch a ground breaking talent programme aimed at identifying future Olympic medallists from within the ranks.
The Army Elite Sports Programme (AESP) launches using a £1.4m donation the British Army received for providing some of the security at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Olympic Rowing champion Heather Stanning who has combined her elite sport success with a career in the Army is seen as a prime example of the talent that could exist within the ranks.
Captain Heather Stanning said: "Anyone in the Armed Forces has already demonstrated that they're committed, have great teamwork skills and are up for a challenge.
"These are mentally strong people, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes [of the Army Elite Sport Programme] and who emerges, because I think there will be some surprises and that's really exciting."
This new collaboration will reach out into the garrisons and units to identify men and women in targeted sporting disciplines who possess the potential to go all the way to the podium in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and beyond.
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 some 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 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."
UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport have a proven track record for identifying talent, having run ten national athlete recruitment projects assessing over 7,000 athletes who were previously unknown to the UK World Class system. These projects discovered 19 athletes who represented Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, including London 2012 Olympic Champion rower Helen Glover – who won gold alongside Captain Heather Stanning, Olympic Taekwondo bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad, and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Skeleton champion Lizzy Yarnold.
The launch of the AESP six years ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is recognised as the time required to nurture and develop an Olympic hopeful into a medal contender. As part of the AESP, Talent Scientists from the EIS 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 sports’ 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.