JUNE 11 - WORLD cycling champion Victoria Pendleton and Olympic silver medallist Shelley Rudman have today launched ‘Girls4Gold’ - a mass recruitment drive for young athletic women by UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport, aimed to uncover hidden talent with the potential to rise to the podium at London 2012 and beyond.
‘Girls4Gold’ is the latest in a series of talent identification initiatives led by UK Sport and the EIS on behalf of targeted national governing bodies.
It will introduce promising female athletes into specific sports and boost Britain’s overall talent pool by embracing those sports where female athletes have a real chance of medal success: cycling, canoeing, rowing, sailing, modern pentathlon and the winter sport of bob skeleton.
Athletic women aged 17-25, who have competed at county level or above in any sport, are invited to apply at www.uksport.gov.uk/girls4gold.
Successful girls will be invited to Olympic Talent Assessment events over the summer to identify those individuals who have a higher probability of podium success.
The EIS talent identification scientists will then work closely with elite coaches from the beneficiary sports, to provide the short listed athletes with the opportunity to discover their potential in a world class training environment.
The female-specific campaign builds on the huge success of ‘Sporting Giants’, which attracted over 3,800 applicants, but with a female to male ratio of 1:4.
‘Girls4Gold’ comes at a time when British Cycling and the other targeted governing bodies are looking to enhance their squads and help fill some of the talent gaps within specific disciplines in their sports.
Pendleton, a strong medal contender in Beijing and one of the heroines of the recent UCI World Track Cycling Championships in Manchester, winning two golds and a silver medal, has welcomed the initiative:
She said: “It will be fantastic to recruit more girls to try out for cycling and the other Olympic sports.
"I’m confident we will find some outstanding hidden talent to join us in the team for 2012.
"I just hope we don’t find anyone better than me!
“’Girls4Gold’ is a great initiative that has the potential to unearth future Olympians, and I know firsthand the rewards and satisfaction that competing at the top of your game can bring.
"You’d be mad not to give it a shot – who knows how good you might become?”
Rudman was Britain’s saviour at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, bringing home Britain's only medal, in the bob skeleton.
She also showed her support for ‘Girls4Gold’:
She said: “I am living proof that medals can be won in a new sport in a very short timeframe.
"I won my Olympic medal less than four years after first trying the sport of bob skeleton.
"I was already a track hurdler, so I guess I had a head start and was able to transfer my abilities to the skeleton discipline.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for sporty girls out there to see if they can do the same, and take their talent to the next level.”
Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said: "’Girls4Gold’ is exactly the type of scheme we need if we are to increase the talent pool of athletes in this country and boost our chances for medals in 2012 and beyond.
"Athletes such as Rebecca Romero and Shelley Rudman have shown that with the right support, dedication and drive, young women can pick up sports quickly and progress to the very top level.
"They along with the likes of Victoria Pendleton and Kelly Sotherton are fantastic role models to girls up and down the country.
"’Sporting Giants’ was a great success and I am sure ‘Girls4Gold’ will also help uncover more hidden talent that's out there."
Speaking at the ‘Girls4Gold’ launch at the home of British Cycling, the Manchester Velodrome, UK Sport’s talent identification Consultant, Chelsea Warr, said: “The ability to achieve Olympic gold is a rare commodity and identifying those that have what it takes is no easy task.
"Talent search campaigns like ‘Girls4Gold’ are essential if we are to truly maximise every opportunity to reach our aspirational goal of fourth place in the medal table in London 2012.
“In ‘Sporting Giants’, we were looking for athletes with a very specific characteristic - extreme height.
"This time, the only criteria are that these girls are highly athletic and motivated, so it’s actually open to a much wider population.
"The applicants should be under no illusions – this is going to be an extremely tough journey but the rewards are every sportswoman’s dream.
“For girls out there who believe they have the mental toughness, the physical ability and the raw talent we’re looking for, I would urge them to come forward to see where ‘Girls4Gold’ and a new Olympic sport can take them.”
photos Janos Schmidt