The Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of SportsAid, joined thirty 16 to 20-year-old athletes at a workshop this week designed to help them on their journey to the Olympic or Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020 or PyeongChang in 2018.
Hosted by GSK at its cutting-edge Human Performance Lab in west London, the athletes took part in a series of scientific assessments on respiration, temperature, power, cognition and body composition before joining a mentoring session with Olympic swimmer Keri-anne Payne and having the chance to meet Paralympic wheelchair athlete David Weir CBE.
The Duchess of Cambridge took two cognitive tests to experience firsthand what the athletes had been doing. The tests measured reaction time and help facilitate skill acquisition and skill execution in athletes.
David Weir said, “It’s been a privilege to meet the athletes here today and share their achievements and challenges with the Duchess. It’s a long road to Tokyo but her support will make a big difference and with the right approach, it’s achievable. It’s exciting to think these athletes could be part of the next generation of British sporting heroes and I wish all of them the very best of luck.”
Another of the assessments seen by the Duchess took place in an environmental chamber set to the heat and humidity of Tokyo. Sprinter Shona Richards, 19 from Epsom in Surrey, who this summer won two silver medals at the junior world championships, described the opportunity as a “brilliant experience”.
“It’s been really good, this is one of those places you hear about but you don’t really get an opportunity to go to. So being here is a huge deal and I’m so glad I was invited. It was incredible to meet the Duchess, it’s something I never thought I’d do.
“We spoke about the day and the facilities, the support I’ve had from SportsAid and what I’m aiming for in the future. I’ve been supported by SportsAid for quite a few years now and I can honestly say that it’s one of those things that people don’t realise how much help it does give you as an athlete. There are a lot of places I couldn’t have been, a lot of places I couldn’t have raced without SportsAid, and that needs to be recognised as a huge influence in sport.”
SportsAid’s Chief Executive Tim Lawler said, “We’re very grateful to GSK for opening the Human Performance Lab up to these athletes today and for the fantastic insight it’s given them. We’re also delighted to have the Duchess with us as her support will give a huge boost to these inspirational young people, acknowledging all the sacrifices that they and their families are making for the future of British sport.”
Charles Leslie, Global Head of the GSK Human Performance Lab, added, “It was great to support these talented young athletes and their coaches today. We hope the research our science team carried out will help them achieve their goals and that the Duchess enjoyed finding out how science can help the next generation of British athletes.”
The GSK Human Performance Lab carries out research with elite performers – athletes, sports teams, extreme explorers – to better understand how the body and brain function. This allows its scientists to help develop improved training, recovery, nutrition and competition programmes for partners. In return, the research helps GSK develop products that better meet the healthcare needs of consumers and informs wider GSK research.