Great Britain has enjoyed success on the world stage for many years and lots of the athletes who have gone on to fulfill their dreams have been part of the UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme. Athletes who are part of the Programme are striving for Olympic and Paralympic medal success and to help them on their journey, the World Class team offer performance support in a number of areas to help British athletes to achieve success at the highest level. 

Georgina Sharples is at the heart of this as Head of Performance Support and is responsible for ensuring that all athletes have access to the best possible medical and scientific support across human and equine.

“One of the primary objectives for our support team is the provision of high quality championship support to both human and equine athletes,” says Georgina, “ensuring athletes arrive optimally prepared and compete throughout in the best possible shape.

“We have a large support network that comes from a range of backgrounds. A number of the practitioners that we work with have been involved in equestrian sport their whole careers and a smaller number have come from other sporting spheres bringing this expertise with them and this blend of backgrounds will help us to move forwards.”

The World Class Programme is made up of three tiers: Podium, Podium Potential and Podium Potential Pathway, which is to be introduced in 2019.

“At Podium level we have athletes capable of delivering medal winning performances and who are seeking selection onto senior championship teams. Our support team engages with the athletes and their home support teams to help to keep these combinations in peak condition throughout the season.

“At Podium Potential level, the support team are there to offer performance support but their primary purpose is to help develop the athlete’s knowledge and understanding of all the components that contribute to an optimal performance and how best to manage them.” 

One of the primary objectives for our support team is the provision of high quality championship support to both human and equine athletes

Two of the major areas that make up the support structure are Equine Sport Science and Medicine (ESSM) and Human Sport Science and Medicine (HSSM).

“Within the ESSM team we have a number of veterinarians, farriers and equine physiotherapists/osteopath as well as a saddler and an equine biomechanist. We also have a Scientific Advisory Group who work closely with our ESSM team to help answer performance related questions, and horizon scan to ensure that we are staying at the forefront of equine support.

“It is equally important that our human athletes receive the best possible support and they are helped by our HSSM team; comprised of a chief medical officer, physiotherapists, performance nutrition, sport psychology and performance lifestyle advisor. Athletes on the Programme also have access to physiotherapy and strength and conditioning support via the regional English Institute of Sport (EIS) performance centres.

Athletes on the Programme have access to further welfare support at squad training on topics such as anti-doping, safeguarding, various aspects of business support and access to personal development training.

The equestrian World Class Programme is funded by the UK Sport, through Exchequer and National Lottery support. The programme focuses on three key areas for British athletes and horses; identifying talent, developing potential and maximising medal-winning performances on the world stage.

“We are trying to achieve the ultimate performance and to do this we have to look at the performance as a whole. There’s a contribution from the human athlete and the equine athlete and so the harmony of their partnership is really important.” 

More information about the World Class Programme can be found on the website, under the World Class section.