AN Olympian and an international businessman who both had tough upbringings in Stockton, have teamed up to help young athletes reach their potential.

Despite growing up surrounded by poverty, drug addiction and violence, Teesside Tornado Richard Kilty is one of the few British athletes to win a medal at every major outdoor and indoor championships.

His natural talent, hard work and sheer will to win overcame any disadvantages and he is determined that a group of talented young Stockton sports stars – who he has identified – start out with a level playing field.

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He said: “I know the difficulties of not having any money as a youngster in the sport and maybe not having the support and helping hands around you.

“You have to travel a lot and some of the parents don’t drive and perhaps don’t have the money to buy the kit their son or daughter needs.”

Stockton Borough Council asked Richard to visit local schools as part of his Playground to Podium programme where he, his wife – elite triple-jumper Dovilė Kilty – and England international long and triple jumper Scott Hall inspire and coach students.

After a five-week training camp five athletes aged between 10 and 12 were selected.

“They all have the raw talent to succeed. They are so naturally gifted and were so engaged in what we were saying,” said the 32-year-old athlete. “But there are a lot of other factors in reaching the pinnacle of sport. I know that only too well.”

To give them extra help Richard and Scott will provide them with free coaching once a week and all their kit, running spikes, tracksuits and transport costs will be provided by Billingham-based businessman Kevin Barry.

“He comes from a very similar background to me. He grew up round the corner from where I lived,” said Richard.

“I’ve heard Kevin’s story. He came from very humble, tough beginnings. It’s great to see that we’re on the same page and when we met we hit it off straight away.”

Mr Barry is the chief executive of both the Milk & Grind Coffee Shops - which just opened in Stokesley - and Future World Technology, the developer of a global online recruitment application called 1MinCV.

He said: "I feel so privileged and indeed humbled to be able to help Richard and these talented young athletes.

“He is such a fantastic role model who will continue to inspire them. We both want to give them an opportunity for their ability to shine through.”

There are plans to recruit up to seven more young athletes and the first group – who are sprinters and long jumpers – could soon be competing.

“Kevin and I can’t wait,” said Richard. “We’re going to get a minibus and that will be all branded and when we go to competitions they’ll be dressed all the same.”

He added: “I want them to go in there and be bold. These kids are so good anyway they’ll stand out a mile.”

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