Inverness Harrier record holder Stephen Mackay gives backing to Highland Athlete Travel Award Scheme as application window opens
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A scheme to support young athletes to travel out of Highland to access training facilities and for competitions reopens today.
High Life Highland (HLH) administers the Highland Athlete Travel Award Scheme (ATAS) on behalf of sportscotland, supporting 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 facilities outwith Highland that gives our athletes the same opportunities as others across Scotland.
“We are delighted to work in partnership with sportscotland to bring this additional funding to support talented athletes across Highland.
“It’s our hope that 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 £1500 through the application process, and High Life Highland also gives athletes supported by the scheme, free access to all its facilities across the region.
One of those who benefits from the that is Stephen Mackay, who has represented Scotland at 3000m and is the Inverness Harrier 1500m record holder.
He said: “I use the track but also the new gym facility in Inverness. They’ve got a strength and conditioning suite which is really good – to be honest 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 the Highlands for free, so if you’re away for the weekend I can also nip into any of the centres covered by the Leisure Link Scheme in other areas of Scotland.
“Being in the north can be a bit of a disadvantage as you’ve got that additional cost just to get down the road which you maybe 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 that we need to as full-time athletes.”
Another athlete who received funding was 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: “My older sister started surfing and I tried it and enjoyed it quite a lot.
“I’m dedicated to the sport and take as many opportunities as possible for training and so with the ATAS money I went to Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides with my coach and we managed to stay out there for two weeks training.
“The money has helped pay for the travel and accommodation and it’s super beneficial – I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go away and get training like that without it."
Highland athletes can apply for this year’s ATAS funding until February 14.