Croydon runner Prince Reid has never minded taking a little bit more time to get to the top. Living with autism, the 18-year-old is no stranger to overcoming adversity with learning disabilities and difficulties threatening to derail a career in athletics, a sport in which he has plenty of passion. But having worked his way up to eventually cross the line in first place, the T20 middle-distance runner is now looking up - with ambitions aplenty across the next few years.
And while he’s far from alone in his pursuit, leading his own path is what continues to drive Prince forward. “Doing the best that I can and improving - there’s not much of a better feeling in sport because you know you’re doing something good,” said the Blackheath and Bromley runner and Croydon Harrier. "I have several ambitions, but my primary ambition is to become greater and do the best I can.
"The second ambition is the Paralympics, World Championships, European Championships. I believe I can keep improving - that’s what I want to do. The main aim is to keep going - it’s easy to stop, so I keep going. The most vital year was last year was when I gained independence and when I knew my own pace, knew how I could move.
“That year I didn’t train with any group; I trained by myself. I used to run around in the park on my own, on the road on my own. That was the most successful year in my life in terms of sport and life in general. When sport works out it seems to bring everything with it. I’m proud that I gained independence.”
His cause is also being helped by SportsAid and the Backing The Best programme, which offers critical financial help to talented young athletes who would otherwise face difficulties progressing through their sport’s system. Backed by £5.5 million of National Lottery funding, Backing The Best presents annual awards of £5,000 per athlete to help with essential costs such as travel, accommodation, kit, nutrition and medical bills.
Prince was one of dozens of SportsAid athletes who attended workshops at The London Stadium, offering media training, nutrition advice, performance lifestyle guidance and support for parents. The youngsters from all over the country were joined by sports stars Maggie Alphonsi, John McAvoy and Jake Wightman, with the latter offering his support for the SportsAid programme.
“When you’re young the funding opportunities are pretty slim, so to know that there are people out there that will help you fulfil the potential that you feel like you have when not a lot of others are doing that is pretty vital,” said Jake. “I hope they’ve gained a lot from us athletes being here, because it wasn’t that long ago that we were in that position. Every single one of them has got a good platform to go for success.
“Being a part of something like this, they’re already a pretty good way along the path of being successful athletes. I hope they can come away believing that can happen thanks to Backing The Best.”
Backing The Best is helping talented young athletes facing the greatest financial pressure to pursue their sporting ambitions. The programme, managed by SportsAid for Sport England, is supported by National Lottery funding. Visit www.sportengland.org/our-work/talent/backing-the-best/ to find out more.