BUDDING Isle of Wight sports stars have been urged to apply for the 2018 Talented Athlete Programme.

The Isle of Wight Council's sports unit is accepting applications for the scheme, which is aimed at helping gifted sports people reach their full potential by providing discounted access to a range of services.

Those who meet the criteria will be able to use the council's leisure centres free of charge and receive discounts in selected Island retailers, plus physio and chiropractic services.

Discounted travel on Wightlink and Southern Vectis is also available.

Last year's scheme supported nearly 70 athletes from aged eight to 79, while Team GB runner Jess Martin and Commonwealth Games competitor Andy Frost have benefited in the past.

Cllr John Hobart, cabinet member for environment and heritage, said: "The scheme seeks to give support and encouragement to our home-grown sportsmen and sportswomen of all ages, so they can achieve the very best they can without having to worry about the costs of using leisure facilities or travelling around the Island and to the mainland.

"I would urge our home-grown stars to take advantage of the scheme and I would also like to thank our sponsorship partners for coming on board again and helping us to continue our support to future Island stars."

Wightlink marketing and innovation director, Stuart James, added: "We know in order to pursue training or competition it is often necessary for Island sportspeople to travel to the mainland.

"We are doing our bit to ensure the need to cross the Solent is not a barrier to progress.

"We are delighted to continue our support for the Talented Athletes programme."

Young people currently competing at a Hampshire county level or above and adults representing England or Great Britain, or recognised by their sporting governing body as potential talent, are eligible.

To check eligibility and to obtain an application pack, visit: www.iwight.com/sportsunit or email sports.unit@iow.gov.uk

The application process closes on January 31.