The Jean Pickering Olympic Scholarships
With 2020 just around the corner, and with the 2020 Ron Pickering Memorial Fund grant applications open, it is a good time to fill you in on one of the RPMF’s most important projects, the Jean Pickering Olympic Scholarships. This initiative, following on from the successful Great 12 Olympic Fund, has been helping some of Britain’s most talented athletes since the build-up to the 2012 London Olympics.
Jean Pickering, once a great athlete herself, dedicated her later life to supporting young athletes through the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund. It was a chance meeting in 2009 with Lady Victoria Leatham, the daughter of Lord Burghley, at the England Athletics Hall of Fame Dinner, when both Lord Burghley, former President of the IOC, and Ron Pickering were being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
After getting to know Jean, Lady Victoria Leatham offered the support of the Draper’s Company to the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, in the name of her father. Ultimately all twelve of Great Livery Companies of the City of London pledged to donate to the fund over the three-year period from 2009-2012, and the Great 12 Olympic Fund was born. 21 athletes, across different age-groups, were supported with the goal of helping them achieve selection for the London 2012 Olympics in London . Many of them were without any other funding so the annual support of up to £5000 was monumental. These included Holly Bradshaw, Sophie Hitchon, Laura Weightman, Sophie McKinna, Andrew Pozzi, Lawrence Okoye, and Jack Green.
For Robbie Grabarz, it also meant he could become a full-time athlete for the first time. Over the three-year period Grabarz gained and subsequently lost British Athletics funding, but the consistent support of the RPMF meant he could maintain his full-time athlete status despite these fluctuations in Governing Body support. The culmination of these three years was a Bronze medal for Robbie at the 2012 Olympics.
When Jean passed away in March of 2013, the trustees of the fund felt it important to remember her monumental contribution to the charity and to the many athletes who she supported and guided. That same year, Lady Victoria Leatham was elected first female Master Draper in its 600 year history and had chosen the RPMF as her personal charity to support. A Gala Dinner was held in the Historic Drapers Hall, and the resulting revenue from auctions and donations made, was used to establish the newly named Jean Pickering Olympic Scholarships.
The JPOS supported five athletes in the run-up to Rio 2016 and is now supporting six highly promising athletes ahead of Tokyo 2020. The athletes come from across a range of events, and they are Martina Barber (F20 Long Jump), Taylor Campbell (Hammer), Niamh Emerson (Heptathlon), Tom Gale (High Jump), Alicia Barrett (100m Hurdles) and Markhim Lonsdale (800m).
Remembering Jean in this way is incredibly important because it represents the spirit she embodied during her life. She loved to watch young athletes achieving and she understood how these grants could be life-changing for them. However, the JPOS scholarships also represent a substantial financial risk to the fund, as the traditional RPMF Grants are largely funded by money raised by our charitable runners that choose to “Run for Ron” in the London Marathon each year. These funds provide the hundreds of smaller grants awarded each year to young athletes in need by the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund. The support for the Jean Pickering Olympic scholars, however, is dependent upon other activities such as personal donations made via the RPMF website, and as the beneficiary of the Raffle at events such as the England Athletics Hall of Fame Dinner, or the British Athletics Supporters Club Annual Dinner, but more is always needed.
A series of articles on the 2020 JPOS recipients and a look abck on their seasons, will be appearing in Athletics Weekly and on this website, in order to promote the fact that the Application Process for the 2020 RPMF Grants is open for young athletes looking for some support.
We encourage young athletes to apply now for the 2020 RPMF Grants at: rpmf.org.uk/apply-grant/
To support the RPMF to continue to help young athletes in need : rpmf.org.uk/donate/