Kent-based scheme Free Access for National Sportspeople (FANS), which promotes sporting excellence, is is aiming to help turn talented performers into elite internationals. With Athens 2004 Olympics double gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes as patron, it looks set to succeed.
The county-wide FANS scheme, established in 1998, supports disabled and non-disabled athletes who perform at national level in a wide range of sports. The scheme has over 500 members across Kent ranging in age from 8–86 years. Dame Kelly Holmes is joined by a number of past and present FANS members as ambassadors – including Paralympic table tennis medallists Will Bayley and Ross Wilson and Olympic athlete Lisa Dobriskey (Ashford AC).
Support available includes free access at specified times to over 60 leisure and sports facilities for personal training plus discounts on kit, equipment, physiotherapy, sports massage, osteopathy, chiropractic treatment and sport science support. Small grants are also available to FANS members in full time education.
To be eligible for support, athletes must reside in Kent or Medway, perform in a sport recognised by Sport England, be a member of a national team or squad, be currently listed in the top ten of a national age-group ranking, or have finished in the top ten in any national age-group competition in the last 12 months.
Around 100 athletes benefit from FANS in Kent including track and field, cross country, fell and mountain running, race walking and long/ultra distance running. Current members include middle-distance Tonbridge AC athletes Phoebe Barker, Kathleen Faes and Maximilian Nicholls (pictured).
Similar schemes exist in neighbouring counties but generally do not have the same scope and breadth of Kent FANS. Dame Kelly Holmes said: “I think the FANS scheme is a brilliant idea. I know how much time and energy talented sports performers put into their training.”
Kent FANS Ambassador Lisa Dobriskey added: “To be the best you need to train like the best and the range and quality of the facilities Kent has to offer allows athletes on the scheme to do just that.”
To find out more about the Kent scheme please visit the FANS website