INVERNESS para-equestrian rider Emma Douglas has been recognised as a future British Paralympian after being chosen to be part of the Bank of Scotland Local Heroes initiative.
The 27-year-old, a disabled rider for the past five years, will receive a cash injection of £1000 towards training and competing and is one of only 82 sportsmen and women selected from across Scotland.
Douglas attended the launch of the scheme at the Emirates Arena, Glasgow, one of the key stadia for next year’s 2014 Commonwealth Games and rubbed shoulders with Olympic gold medallist Katherine Grainger and Commonwealth champion Robbie Renwick.
And the Gollanfield rider, who specialises in dressage, believes her recent recognition will be just the confidence boost she needs ahead of a hectic season this year.
"It was great to see how the Bank of Scotland Local Heroes scheme will help and support us as athletes," said Douglas.
"We were invited to bring our parents because obviously they play a big part in supporting you so that was great too.
"The money that I get is going towards training and I’ve just bought a new horse, so I’m just getting to know him, and having two horses makes it even more expensive.
"At the end of the day it’s not just you that is the athlete. The horse is the athlete as well, so you’ve got to keep on top of your horse’s health and welfare, as well as your own.
"I am hopefully going to qualify for the British Para-Dressage Championships, which is held in Surrey in June, but the qualifiers for that have been running since September last year.
"Alongside that, I’m hoping I’ll get picked to represent Great Britain in the summertime and also the National Championships, which is run alongside the able-bodied dressage, in September."
In partnership with SportsAid, this initiative by the Bank of Scotland, as part of Lloyds Banking Group, is designed to ensure more talent reaches the top of their sport.
SportsAid has been supporting talented athletes for more than 35 years and Grainger, who claimed gold in the double sculls at the London 2012 Olympics, maintains young people like Douglas can only benefit from programmes such as this one.
"Local Heroes Day is bigger and better every single year," she said.
"It’s a brilliant thing to be a part of. The young people who get involved are so enthusiastic, so excited, and are just so willing learn.
"It’s very exciting with the Commonwealth Games almost imminent next year, while being at the launch at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome — it doesn’t get much better than that.
"For young aspiring athletes to come to what will be an absolutely massive Commonwealth venue is wonderful. It’s a great place to feel inspired."
As part of Bank of Scotland’s London 2012 legacy, Bank of Scotland Local Heroes, in partnership with SportsAid, will provide support and funding to 82 emerging Scottish athletes in 2013.
Over 220 Local Heroes have benefited from the programme since 2008. Follow Scotland’s future stars at facebook.com/bankofscotlandlocalheroes