RIO 2016 bronze medallist Andrew Small paid tribute to fellow Paralympians Hannah Cockroft MBE and David Weir CBE in encouraging him to take up wheelchair racing.
The 25-year-old from Stockport, alongside Wythenshawe twins Emma and Victoria Bradburn, have been recognised for their volunteering work with selection for the new TSB Young Leaders programme, launched at Old Trafford in July.
Young Leaders nominated as part of the scheme were joined in Manchester by double Olympic medallist Lutalo Muhammad, who posed for photos and took questions from the eager youngsters.
After getting 11th hour tickets to the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Small became enthralled by the feats of six-time Paralympic gold medallist Weir and five-time Paralympic champion Cockroft – knowing exactly who to thank for his progression ever since.
He said: “I’ve been racing for about four years now, so it’s been quite meteoric I suppose you could say.
“I was inspired by 2012 and I managed to get last-minute tickets to the Thursday night session of the athletics.
“I saw David Weir and Hannah Cockroft win their medals there. You couldn’t help but get swept up in that atmosphere.
“I came away with a buzz about me and wanted to give it a go. London 2012 opened up a lot of people’s eyes and a lot of doors, because if you’re not in those circles it’s hard to access them.”
The 2017 World Championship silver medallist has now turned his talents to helping new and up-and-coming athletes achieve their own Paralympic dreams.
Twenty-year-old twins Emma and Victoria Bradburn were also honoured at the event after volunteering for Simply Cycling, an initiative that teaches people to ride a variety of bikes.
With the programmes supported from TSB in partnership with Sport for Development charity, Sported, Stockport Wheelchair Racing and Simply Cycling will benefit from unique training and development opportunities to support them in their leadership roles, in turn helping strengthen the community club and create even more opportunities for young people across Manchester and beyond.
The launch of the Young Leaders scheme, which saw the youngsters participate in leadership workshops, media training and team building exercises, took place across two days at Manchester United’s iconic Old Trafford home.
The programme also rewards and supports the development of the next generation of volunteers, coaches and youth workers.
Despite their ages, the trio serve as inspirational figures in their local communities, supporting the next generation to get involved in their programmes.
“We looked at the ethos that TSB presented and said they were all about giving back and engaging with local communities, trying to see the different benefits sport can bring. I guess I’m living proof of that,” said Small.
Manchester Metropolitan University design student Emma added: “What keeps both of us involved is seeing people go from safety walking alongside a bike, to being able to do whatever they want on a bike. It’s really good to see and really rewarding.
“I hope to learn how to run a session myself and not to depend on lots of other people for help with things. I want to run the whole thing myself soon.”
Muhammad, Olympic silver medallist at Rio 2016, is an ambassador for the scheme, knowing just how important sport is in changing lives.
“Sport has played an integral role in my life,” he said. “I always feel like sport has been a great equaliser.
“I will tell the Young Leaders just to enjoy the journey.
“I think that’s the best piece of advice I ever received. Working in sport is very rewarding. So I would say try your best to enjoy the journey and know that it is all worth it in the end.
“Coaches and club leaders play an invaluable role in growth of sport, especially grassroots sport.
“I think at a young age, if it wasn’t for a coach believing in me and telling me that I can go all the way, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be here with two Olympic medals.
“I am very fortunate to be at the top of my sport and it all started because I had someone believe in me.”
TSB, in partnership with Sport for Development charity Sported, is proud to help local community groups across the UK use the power of sport to make a positive difference to young people and the communities they are part of. #TSBLocalPride