Olympic gold and bronze medallist Greg Rutherford MBE has shown his support for the next generation of British athletes by signing up to become an official ambassador of SportsAid Week 2017. Long-jump legend Greg, who has unfortunately had to withdraw from the London 2017 IAAF World Championships next month due to injury, joins Ellie Simmonds OBE and Lutalo Muhammad MBE in giving his backing to this year’s initiative.
The inaugural SportsAid Week was launched in 2016 to mark the charity’s 40th anniversary and generated over £40,000 as Olympians, Paralympians, up-and-coming athletes, National Governing Bodies, schools, universities, commercial organisations and individuals came together for a week of fun and fundraising. The initiative was such a success that it has now become an annual fixture with SportsAid Week 2017 taking place from Monday 25 September to Sunday 1 October.
Greg received support from SportsAid in 2003 as well as an award from TASS, a scheme managed by the charity, during 2004 and 2005. The Milton Keynes-born star was working as a waiter when he was presented with financial help by SportsAid. He was 17-years-old and considered reaching Olympic standard and competing at the Commonwealth Games as his long-term goals. He has far surpassed those hopes having been crowned Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European champion.
“I will always be grateful for the boost SportsAid gave me when I was a teenager,” said Greg – who has previously attended the charity’s annual SportsBall as well as endorsing its partnership link-up with Asda back in 2013. “Having the money to be able to help with your training and competition costs is a big deal for a young athlete. It’s expensive having to pay for pieces of kit, travel, accommodation and different fees, so that support can really take the strain off you and your parents.”
Greg, knowing the difference SportsAid’s support can make, called on the British public to back the charity’s fundraising drive: “I am proud to be an ambassador for SportsAid Week and would like to encourage people to raise any money they can to contribute towards helping our brightest sporting prospects. Finance shouldn't be a barrier preventing young talented athletes from progressing and reaching their potential, and SportsAid Week is giving us all the chance to provide a helping hand."
Last year’s SportsAid Week saw a diverse range of fundraising activity undertaken including bake sales, sports quizzes, fancy dress days, raffles, bucket collections and healthy eating challenges. Raising as little as £5 can be enough to help a young athlete travel to their next training session whilst £1,000 is able to fund a major one-off cost such as a warm-weather training camp or transport and accommodation for an international competition. Ellie, who was given a SportsAid award when she was aged 11, is excited to be returning as a SportsAid Week ambassador for a second year.
"I love meeting the young athletes SportsAid supports and seeing the drive and determination they have to be the best they can be,” said swimming legend Ellie. “I remember when I had help from SportsAid and it's really important when you're starting out in your sport. It gives you the confidence to push on and succeed knowing that there are people out there who believe in you. That’s why SportsAid Week is such a great idea. It’s an opportunity to show the next generation of athletes that we’re right behind them and want to do what we can to help them on their way.”
SportsAid Week 2017 sees the introduction of the #MyMiles challenge – a social media led campaign asking fundraisers to undertake physical activity, covering a distance of their choice, to raise money for the charity. The inspiration behind the concept came after many fundraisers decided to support young athletes by taking on sponsored triathlons, bike rides, rows, run, swims and walks during last year’s initiative. #MyMiles is accessible to everybody – you can do a single mile or cover as much as 40 – that’s the distance a SportsAid athlete, on average, will clock up each week in training.
SportsAid has played a vital role in the success of British sport since 1976. The charity’s impact was demonstrated at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games when 150 medals (64 gold, 43 silver, 43 bronze) were won for Team GB and ParalympicsGB by previous beneficiaries of SportsAid awards. Sir Mo Farah, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Dame Katherine Grainger, Laura Trott CBE, Dame Sarah Storey, Adam Peaty MBE and Georgie Hermitage MBE are just a small group of SportsAid alumni, in addition to Greg, Ellie and Lutalo, that won medals in Brazil last summer.