Tennis quartet join top sportswomen on programme to accelerate change within sport
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Fran Jones, Lucy Shuker, Emily Appleton and Ali Collins have been selected to be part of Unlocked 2021, a programme created by the charity The Women’s Sport Trust, which aims to empower female athletes to use their platform to help drive change within sport.
The quartet of tennis players are among 35 athletes from 27 sports to have been selected for Unlocked and join the likes of England football player Nikita Parris, five-time Paralympic wheelchair racing champion Hannah Cockroft, and England rugby league international Jodie Cunningham on the 2021 programme.
The six-month programme, which is in its second year, gives elite sportswomen the opportunity to share experiences and ideas and work with industry experts from the world of sport, business and media to help implement change within sport.
The athletes will have access to regular networking sessions and educational webinars as well as receiving individual coaching from an assigned mentor to help them use their influence to confront the issues they feel most passionate about.
Tammy Parlour MBE, CEO and co-founder of The Women’s Sport Trust, said: “It has been a challenging year for many, but as we come out of Covid-19, there is no better time to turbo-charge our effort and continue to unlock the value of women’s sport. We believe the best way to do this is by supporting these elite women and connecting them together. Individually they are strong advocates for change but together they are unstoppable.” .
Jones, 20, qualified for her first Grand Slam at the Australian Open earlier this year and is currently ranked No.200. The LTA Pro Scholarship Programme player was born with a rare genetic condition called Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia Syndrome, which means she has three fingers and a thumb on each hand, three toes on her right foot and four toes on her left.
Jones would like to use the Unlocked programme to become an advocate for pushing boundaries and not allowing external influences to limit people's objectives or belittle their achievements.
"I’m excited to join the Women’s Sports Trust in their journey to unlocking the true potential of females in sports," she said.
"Alongside the successful athletes on this programme, I hope we can drive the presence of women’s sport forward, and continue to grow as individuals alongside one another.
"No matter how small or big the impact, we will do our best to assist women across the country flourish."
Shuker is one of Britain's most successful Wheelchair Tennis players having won two- Paralympic bronze medals and clinched over 100 international career titles. She took up wheelchair tennis after a motorbike accident at the age of 21 left her paralysed from the chest down.
Named as one of Britain's most influential people with a disability, Shuker, who is supported by the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis Performance Programme, wants to use her position on the programme to inspire the next generation.
She said: "I'm incredibly honoured to be one of only 35 female athletes selected to be part of this year's Unlocked programme. It's an amazing opportunity to learn and to help drive change."
Twenty-one-year-old Appleton was a successful junior player, reaching a career-high ranking of No.10. Since transitioning to the professional circuit, Appleton has won three singles titles and 11 doubles titles. Through her place on Unlocked she would like to promote and improve conversations surrounding female health within sport and increase opportunities for women within tennis through a more balanced tournament and prize money structure.
Appleton said: “I feel incredibly honoured and proud to be a part of Unlocked 2021 amongst so many other incredibly talented and inspiring female athletes. I can’t wait to work with the other girls to help make women’s sport more visible and unstoppable”.
Collins is a Scottish professional tennis player who represented Great Britain in all age groups events from under 12 to under 18 level. The 20-year-old is one of just three female professional tennis players in Scotland and wants to use the programme to help her to become the best role model and inspiration to the younger female players as possible.
Collins said: “It is a great privilege to be selected for Unlocked 2021 alongside the other incredible women on this list. I am very thankful to the Women’s Sport Trust for involving me and I will do everything I can to make the most of the opportunity.”