A PAIR of future Black Country sporting stars have picked up Sandwell Council grants to help them fulfil their dreams.

Leo Handy, aged 13, from Oldbury, and Tividale 17-year-old Christopher Gardner were presented with £500 each through the council’s gifted and talented scheme.

He might be 13-years-old, but Leo is already a multiple champion having won the British Schools Olympic Weightlifting competition for the third time in succession.

He recently achieved two personal bests while competing at a competition in Derbyshire lifting 37kg in the snatch and 50kg in the clean and jerk.

Next year Leo will progress to compete in the open category and his aim is to become a member of the Great Britain squad.

Councillor Richard Marshall, cabinet member for leisure, said: “We know what sacrifices young people have to make to reach the top in any sport – and the sacrifices their families make too in terms of travelling, accommodation and dedicating their own time.

“So even though it’s Chris and Leo who we are supporting, I’m also very aware of the support they get from their families and we want to help through our gifted and talented grant scheme.

“Chris and Leo are fantastic role models for their peers and we hope will one day soon be putting Sandwell on the sporting map.”

Rising hockey star Chris has already been selected to play in the Great Britain Colleges hockey team. The 17-year-old has also played for the Ireland under-18 national team and hopes to continue developing and establish himself as an international player.

Chris recently competed in the West Midlands Men’s Hockey (Association of Colleges) team which won the gold medal at the AOC National Championships.

For more information about the grants available visit www.sandwell.gov.uk/giftedandtalented.

Sandwell Council’s gifted and talented programme is still open to applications having been specifically set up to provide financial support to elite young athletes living in the borough.