The Army says it is hoping to put a number of its athletes on some of the most prestigious podiums in the world in the coming years.

Sport's military leaders are looking ahead to tournaments like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia - and are optimistic about their chances.

Major General Shaun Burley, director of the Army Sport Control Board, spoke to Forces Network in Aldershot about the importance of sport. He said:

"Sport is really important in the Army... It contributes to operational effectiveness - the success on the battlefield.

"[Sport] helps us to develop our people. It inspires leadership in them. It builds strength, it builds conditioning and it also builds the ability to keep going when things get tough."

Speaking about past success stories like that of double Olympic champion Major Heather Stanning, he said: 

"It is really important [to keep that going]. Heather was quite special - but we believe we might be able to sustain that level of success.

"[Our athletes] have got the opportunity to really achieve their aspirations and get onto the national governing body programmes for the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games," he added.

John Marvin Southeast Asian Games win
Lance Corporal John Marvin recently won a gold in boxing at the Southeast Asian Games and the Army wants more medals in future tournaments. Picture: PSC-POC Media

The Army is now hoping to raise awareness of its Elite Sport Programme (AESP), which currently has more than 50 soldiers on the books, including five podium and six potential podium athletes.

One of them is rifle and pistol shooter Warrant Officer Class 1 Zoe Bruce, who's currently gunning for the Commonwealth Games. She told Jon Knighton how the programme's helping her:

WO1 Zoe Bruce

We have [a] strength and conditioning coach, we see him twice a week. He helps us all with our training plans.

"We have nutritional advice now, which... helps us prepare for competitions. But most importantly, the psychological assistance we're receiving is spot on."

UK Sport, Sport England and the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) know they're dealing with a very special group of people.

Colin Allen, National Lead for Sport at Sport England TASS, said:

"They're not just athletes, they're soldiers as well and we need to be mindful that they've got those sometimes conflicting careers. There needs to be some kind of balance between them both so they can be the best soldier but also the best athlete they can be."

Cover image shows Major Heather Stanning with her Olympic gold & Operational Service Medal from Afghanistan.

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