Four rising Milton Keynes sporting stars awarded bursaries

The Mayor of Milton Keynes, Cllr Martin Petchey, Ethan van Leeuwen, Dame Sarah Storey, Alfie Yabsley, Jack Leahy, The High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, Ruth Farwell
The Mayor of Milton Keynes, Cllr Martin Petchey, Ethan van Leeuwen, Dame Sarah Storey, Alfie Yabsley, Jack Leahy, The High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, Ruth Farwell

Milton Keynes Community Foundation has partnered with SportsAid Eastern to award four local sports stars with bursaries of £2,000.

The presentation took place at Jurys Inn on Friday at the MK Sporting Lunch. The winners were joined by Dame Sarah Storey, Paralympic multiple Gold medal winner in both cycling and swimming.

The bursary money can be essential and is often used to contribute towards costs such as competition fees, coaching, purchasing new equipment and travel expenses.

The first bursary winner is Jack Leahy - a 15-year-old Gymnast Tumbler. Jack has a fantastic record of accomplishment including being British No.2 and Home Nations No.1 in his age group. Last year Jack came 1st in Scalabis Cup and 2 nd in both the British Championships and the World Age Group Championships!

This year Jack fulfilled an ambition of winning Gold at the European Championships! He hopes to use the bursary to help pay for training fees, competitions and accommodation travel expenses.

Ethan Van Leeuwen,17, is currently in the England Junior Programme and trains at The National Badminton Centre on a daily basis as part of a group of Junior Programme players.

He also trains at the Milton Keynes Badminton Academy. Ethan is currently the U19 Doubles British No.1 and U19 Singles British No.3 and Mixed Doubles No.2 Last year he took part in the U17 European Junior Championships, reaching the final of the doubles, winning a Silver medal, as well as helping England win Bronze in the team event..

His most recent success was winning the Croatian Open doubles title just three weeks ago.

Domestically, Ethan has reached the finals of both doubles events at the U19 Gold tournament, and won the doubles at the U17 National Championships and reached the finals of the mixed doubles back in 2017.

“At my age, it’s crucial to start playing more international events. Due to Badminton England funding cuts, they now have limited resources to support us. I will use the bursary to cover some of the costs of playing at this level.“ Ethan said.

Alfie Yabsley is an 18-year-old Athlete ranked British No.1 in U20 2,000m Steeplechase event. Alfie has recently been selected to run the 3,000m steeplechase for Great Britain’s Junior team at Loughborough International.

Alfie’s ambition is to become a World and Olympic Champion over a range of distance events, as well as having a long and healthy career and to put athletics on the map.

“I will use the bursary to cover the costs of travel associated with competing at this level. I'm still in full-time education and find it very difficult to fit in part-time work without it interfering with my athletics.” Alfie said.

Thirteen-year-old Badminton player Lisa Curtin is currently a member of the England Junior Performance Programme.

Lisa has won a total of eight national titles and eight international titles to date.

During the last 12 months Lisa has been selected to play in the Junior Quadrangular held in Ireland, winning gold in the team event, gold in the doubles and reached the final in both singles and mixed doubles at the same tournament and being 1-2 years younger than most of the opposition.

Internationally, she has also won the doubles event at the U15 Langenfeld Cup in Germany, won Gold in the U15 Finnish Junior winning the singles event two years running and won Silver in both U15 singles and doubles in Hoensbroek in Holland. Lisa was selected to play for England at U15 8 nations winning team bronze and reached the semi-finals in the doubles.

In February Lisa was selected to play singles and doubles at the European U15 Championships held in Russia. Lisa won Silver in singles beating tough seeded players along the way.

Mark Ormerod, the regional chair of SportsAid said “As a National charity, we really value the partnership we have locally with Milton Keynes Community Foundation. Together we ensure that the bursaries are awarded to the most talented local youngsters as identified by their governing bodies.”