Teenager Ilse Owen has been handpicked to follow in the footsteps of Olympic champions Christine Ohuruogu and Mo Farah after being fast-tracked on to a sporting excellence scheme.
Owen, who competes in Para Equestrian events and suffers from cerebral palsy, was single out by the British Equestrian Federation to join a mentoring scheme funded by Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in partnership with SportsAid.
Picked out as a potential star of the future, the 15-year-old, who attends Misbourne School, is one of 50 athletes across a myriad of sports chosen to receive financial assistance and expert tutoring across 2017.
Owen’s cause will be helped, with RBC and SportsAid handing her an annual £1,000 award towards costs such as travel, accommodation and equipment, while she will also have access to former Olympic and Commonwealth champions for help and advice.
“I really appreciate the help from SportsAid and the Royal Bank of Canada. Equestrianism is a really expensive sport, a saddle alone costs a lot of money,” said Owen, speaking at the Athlete Welcome Reception at RBC’s Riverbank House offices.
“With my disability, I get it specially made for me as I tend to have spasms, so I get a softer saddle to help me ride.
“This is my first year and I’m very grateful for SportsAid and the Royal Bank of Canada as this is a new experience for me.
“I was told by the British Excel Team (British Equestrian Federation Excel Talent Programme) to be able to deliver more as an athlete, so we applied for it, then a few months later I was accepted which I was really happy about.
“I could see straight away that the SportsAid family were really successful, seeing everyone in a Team GB kit who has been a part of it, so I’m really excited to be a part of that and develop as an athlete.
“Hopefully I’ll get my Team GB badge very soon.
“Being recognised as the best of the best as a 15-year-old is a bit of a wow moment. I didn’t expect that as an 11-year-old starting physiotherapy, so to come here and get this opportunity is amazing for me.”
Owen spends her time practicing at Sacha Hamilton Equestrian, at the Livery Yard in Bucks, a location she now regards as home from home.
Originally inspired to take up the sport by the British success stories at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Owen is now determined to follow in the footsteps of her hero Sophie Christiansen.
“I first started at the age of 10-11, around the time of London 2012,” she added. “One of my coaches at the time was the coach for Sophie Christiansen, who won three gold medals and broke records, which was such an amazing experience for me.
“Team GB in Para-Equestrian has always won gold, it is the best of the best, so that strives you more and more to be the best and to become the best you can be. I’m very excited for that.
“When I was 14 I managed to win the RDA National Championship, while a few weeks ago I came third in my first British Nationals dressage event. I’ll also be competing at my first Home International as well.
“I’m learning the individual team test, trying to step it up and go to international level, hopefully going on to qualifying school which could earn me the Team GB badge.
“To get the recognition of podium potential would mean everything to me. I never expected to get this far when starting at 11, so to be on the Excel at 14, the youngest age you can do it, was amazing. Getting on the world class would allow me to do what I love and compete internationally and get funded which would improve my performance.”
Royal Bank of Canada, one of the largest banks in the world and Canada’s largest bank by market capitalization, partners with SportsAid to provide financial support, ongoing mentoring and deserved recognition to 50 young talented British athletes looking to fulfil their sporting ambitions. For more information, please visit http://www.rbc.com/