A charitable movement has helped keep alive the Olympic dreams of a Teesside rower who has vowed to raise the profile of a painful condition that almost wrecked her sporting career.
Teesside Philanthropic Foundation’s FAST Fund has hit the £100,000 milestone in donations to 119 of Teesside’s most talented sportspeople.
And Beth Bryan was among the local sportspeople to receive the latest batch of FAST Fund grants to help her focus on qualifying for Tokyo 2020.
When the 26-year-old discovered she had endometriosis, it almost spelled the end of her world-class rowing career.
Beth, who took bronze in both the World and European Championships in the women’s quadruple skull in 2017, lost her lottery funding due to her inability to train with the painful condition.
That left the former Egglescliffe School student short of funds by the time an injection which brings the pain under control was finally found.
So she was ecstatic when Teesside Philanthropic Foundation stepped in with a £2,000 Fast Fund grant to enable her to pick up her rowing training.
“The support of the FAST Fund meant the world to me,” said Beth, who regularly returns to her parents’ home in Hartburn from her training base in Henley. “The funding has enabled me to put money towards training and equipment and membership fees,” she said.
“It has helped to really take the pressure off me. I know I’m capable of going to the Olympics – but I have to be able to train every day to do that and I can only do that if I don’t have constant financial pressures.
“So it’s helped me make the next step back to where I believe I belong.”
Beth, who runs her own swimming school, is now pain free which means she can train again despite continuing to live with endometriosis.
She hopes her plight will help raise awareness of the condition, in which tissue which normally lines the uterus grows on other pelvic and abdominal organs and bleeds during a woman’s period, resulting in a web of painful scar tissue.
She said: “I want to talk about it because I want to raise awareness of it to help other female athletes that might be going through the same thing.”
“When I started getting pain it was put down to a back injury, but I knew it wasn’t a back injury.”
Symptoms of endometriosis can include painful periods, pain with bowel movements or urination, excessive bleeding and infertility.
Beth now has dreams of going to Tokyo in 2020 as part of the Great Britain women’s Olympic rowing team.
She said: “The fact it’s been such a hard year has made me stronger and made me work harder than ever to get back to the top.
“I want to earn my place back in the boat for Tokyo.”
The Foundation has now shared £104,000 between local sportspeople over the past four years through its FAST Fund.
The FAST Fund – which stands for Funding Assistance for Sportspeople on Teesside – provides grants to sporting achievers who have the talent but not necessarily the finances to excel in their chosen field.
A whole host of Teesside sports stars have reaped the benefit of FAST Fund cash since it was set up in 2016, including athletes, swimmers, martial artists, wheelchair rugby players, rowers, and tennis and badminton players.
Also among the latest grant recipients was Kelly-Jo Robson, the highest ranked British weightlifter in her class. She will head out to represent her country at the World Championships in Thailand in September after receiving £965 through the FAST Fund.
Kelly-Jo, who lives in Stockton but hails from East Cleveland, has twice been named English champion and represented Team GB at the last Commonwealth Games in Australia. She also represented Great Britain in the 49kg class at the World Championships in Turkmenistan where she broke three British records.
“I want to continue representing my country in international competitions to gain as much experience on the big stage as possible for the next Commonwealth Games,” she said.
“I receive no support for my training or competitions and I also work full time. The FAST Fund is a huge support for me as I cannot receive many other grants or funding opportunities due to my age.”
Another targeting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is pole vaulter Charlie Myers, from Marton, who received a £750 grant from the FAST Fund.
The current British champion, the 22-year-old is aiming to achieve the Olympic qualifying standard of 5.71 metres.
His grant will go towards the cost of regular physio to overcome a niggling injury as well as funds towards travel and accommodation for the Under-23 age group championships in Bedford and the British Championships in Birmingham.
“My aim for the season is to be selected for the Under-23 European Championships and to jump 5.71 metres, which is the qualifying standard for the World Championships in Doha and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo,” said Charlie.
Other recent FAST Fund grant recipients include swimmers Perry Gardner (£1,000), James Woods (£500), Beth Palfreeman (£480) and Faye Rogers (£720), long distance runner Josh Cowperthwaite (£1,200), ice hockey player Jacob Hammond (£750) and roller hockey player Max Fagan (£1,000).
Teesside’s three-times Olympic long jumper Chris Tomlinson sits on a committee who deliver the FAST Fund grants, along with athletics coach Rick Betts, amateur swimming administrator Sue Campion and Philanthropic Foundation trustees Harriet Spalding and Emily Bentley.
For further details about the FAST Fund and how to apply for a grant, visit: fastfund.org.uk