Athlete funding scheme opens for applications

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A scheme to support young athletes to travel out of Highland to train and for competitions re-opened on Friday January 14.

Administered by High Life Highland (HLH) on behalf of sportscotland, the Highland Athlete Travel Award Scheme (ATAS) supports athletes from rural, remote and island communities.

HLH head of sports development Mags Duncan said: ‘Following the launch last year, we had 14 athletes secure funding representing sports including athletics, golf, badminton, rugby, orienteering, surfing and downhill mountain biking.

‘The scheme allows athletes to access training centres outwith Highland that give our athletes the same opportunities as others across Scotland.

‘It’s our hope it will make a real difference to the quality of sports performance and support them to access specialist training and competitions which will benefit their development.’

Athletes can apply for up to £1,500.

One of those who benefits from the scheme is Thurso High School pupil Craig McLachlan who has been surfing since he was 10 years old.

The 16-year-old won the open title at the Scottish National Surfing Championships in November, becoming the youngest surfer to take the top national award.

Speaking of the importance of ATAS, Craig said: ‘I’m dedicated to the sport and take as many opportunities as possible for training. With the ATAS money, I went to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides with my coach for two weeks’ training.

‘The money has helped pay for travel and accommodation. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go away and get training like that without it.’

High Life Highland also gives athletes supported by the scheme free access to all its facilities across the region.

Stephen Mackay can now train anywhere across Scotland. Photograph: Bobby Gavin.

Another athlete who received funding was Stephen Mackay, who has represented Scotland at 3,000m and is the Inverness Harrier 1,500m record holder.

He said: ‘I use the track and the new gym in Inverness. They’ve got a strength and conditioning suite which is really good. It’s one of the best I’ve ever used.

‘That’s where I train normally but with High Life Highland you can now train anywhere in Scotland free so if I’m away for the weekend I can nip into any of the centres covered by the Leisure Link Scheme.

‘Being in the north can be a disadvantage as you’ve got that additional cost just to get down the road which you don’t have if you are based in the central belt. So this funding makes it easier to get to competitions and get to the level of training camp we need as full-time athletes.’

Highland athletes can apply for this year’s ATAS funding until February 14.

Visit www.highlifehighland.com/sport/hatas for more information.

Main photograph: Craig McLachlan has been surfing since he was 10 years old. NO_F03_AthleteFunding_Craig-McLachlan-Scottish-Championships

Photo 2: Stephen Mackay can now train anywhere across Scotland. Photograph: Bobby Gavin. NO_F03_AthleteFunding_S-Mackay-credit-to-Bobby-Gavin