BUDDING Island sporting stars could get help with cost of travel to the mainland, fitness facilities and discounted sports equipment, thanks to the Isle of Wight Council’s Talented Athlete Programme.

The authority’s sports unit is now accepting applications for the 2020 scheme, aimed at helping gifted sports people reach their full potential and in achieving further success.

Talented athletes who meet the scheme’s criteria will be able to benefit from discounted cross-Solent travel with Wightlink, free use of the council’s leisure centres and receive discounts in selected local retailers, physio and chiropractic services, up to 20 per cent.

The scheme is only open to Isle of Wight residents.

Last year’s programme helped more than 70 athletes, aged from eight to 80, spread over 21 different sports.

The scheme has benefitted a number of sporting stars, including athletics 10,000m star, Jessica Andrews (now Martin), who competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, hammer thrower Andrew Frost, who competed in both the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games, as well as discus thrower, Nick Percy, who is currently Britain’s number two.

For young people currently competing at a Hampshire county level or above, the scheme provides support to access and train for top level competition within their chosen sport.

The scheme offers the same support for adults representing England or Great Britain, and those who are recognised by their sport’s governing body as a potential talent.

Lee Matthews, the council’s recreation and open spaces manager, said: “The scheme seeks to give support and encouragement to our home-grown sportsmen and sportswomen of all ages, so they can achieve the very best they can without having to worry about the costs of using leisure facilities or travelling around the Island and to the mainland.

“I urge them to take advantage of the scheme and I thank our sponsorship partners for coming on board again and helping us to continue to support Island future athletic stars.”

Wightlink marketing and innovation director, Stuart James added: “We know that in order to pursue training or competition it is often necessary for Island sportspeople to travel to the mainland, so we are doing our bit to ensure the need to cross the Solent is not a barrier to progress.

"We are delighted to continue our support for the scheme.”

To check your eligibility against the current criteria and to obtain an application pack, please visit: www.iwight.com/sportsunit

Applications must be in by the February 2 closing date, with successful applicants notified during that month.