A TALENTED eight-year-old skateboarder and horse-rider feature on this year's Isle of Wight Council Talented Athlete Scheme.

A group of 74 athletes, aged from eight to 80 and representing 21 sports, has qualified for the scheme which provides support for promising athletes who are competing at county level or above.

Wightlink will also support the scheme with discounted travel for mainland training and events, alongside Southern Vectis who are offering discounted bus rates to members.

Athletes receive free access to the council’s 1Leisure Fitness facilities across the Island, as well as discounted sports psychology services from RMA Sports Injury Clinic and special rates at Love Running.

This year, skateboarding features in the scheme for the first time, with eight-year-old Martha Eggleton, from Whitwell, receiving support.

She is due to compete in events around the country, once she has recovered from breaking her leg in five places earlier this month.

Isle of Wight County Press:

More traditional sports such as dressage — under which 12-year-old Poppy Bennett is being supported — swimming, rugby, athletics and cricket are also represented alongside the more unusual — flag football, land sailing and underwater hockey.

Cabinet member for environment and heritage, Cllr John Hobart, said: “Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors — who include Cowes Chiropractic Clinic, Wightlink, Southern Vectis, the council’s 1Leisure service, RMA Sports Injury Clinic and Love Running — we are, once again, able to support budding sports stars on the Island.

“The Talented Athlete Scheme takes some of the hassle out of sporting preparations in terms of using facilities, training, travelling, so they can concentrate on their sport and making the Island proud. I wish this year’s crop of budding athletes the very best of luck over the coming year and beyond.”

Wightlink marketing and innovation director, Stuart James, said: “We are really proud to continue our support for the council’s Talented Athlete Scheme as we recognise the benefits it brings to Islanders pursuing their sporting dreams.

“Competing at such a level demands travel off the Island for competitions and training, so we are delighted to do our bit to support this group of gifted sportspeople with discounted cross-Solent travel.

The programme has supported several Island stars including Rio Olympics athlete Jessica Andrews (now Martin), Commonwealth Games hammer thrower Andrew Frost and discus thrower Nicholas Percy.

Budding golf star, 16- year-old Nick Matthews, said: “Without the support I’ve received through the scheme it would be very hard to compete at this level due to the amount of mainland travel involved."