Young Lisburn badminton ace, Jeffrey Rong (14) and cross-country star Callum Morgan (20) from Glengormley have each received a £2000 ‘Make It Happen’ award from the Mary Peters Trust.
The Trust’s ‘Make It Happen’ funding stream enables two outstanding athletes take advantage of specialist cutting-edge training and development opportunities helping propel their sporting careers to the next level.
Presented annually since 2014 winners are selected from a top-class field of athletes following a competitive interview process. From the latest cohort of applications, the awards panel judged Callum and Jeffrey as the candidates showing the most potential to benefit from access to specialist skills and knowledge.
Friends School Lisburn Year 11 pupil and Alpha Badminton Club member, Jeffrey Rong is ranked Irish No 1 in the U15s age group. In an exceptional year for 2023, Jeffrey won the Irish Open and the Ulster Open in all three U15s categories – singles, boys, and mixed doubles – as well as clinching a treble in both the Leinster Opens. In December at the Irish Nationals, he won gold in the singles and mixed doubles, taking silver in the boys’ doubles.
It was a visit to his primary school, Pond Park, by Alpha Badminton’s Trevor Woods that first inspired Jeffrey to take up the sport aged six, joining his older brother who was already involved in the racquet sport. Jeffrey has been involved in the Irish team set-up since 2020 when he was selected for the Irish U13s before moving up to U15 level in 2022.
“I’m incredibly pleased to receive a Make It Happen award from the Mary Peters Trust. It’s a first for my club Alpha and I’m so proud. It will help me improve core strength and conditioning and I’ll be able to attend a top European Summer School in Denmark later this year. Sparring with older and more skilful players will develop my game and my athletic agility.
“By close of 2024 I’m hoping to be selected for the Irish U17s and I’d like compete in major international tournaments and ultimately compete in a Commonwealth Games and other multi-sport tournaments.”
Andrew Stewart, Ulster Badminton Executive Manager, added, “Jeffrey is one of the leading under-age players in Ireland. A hugely talented badminton player, over the past two years he has consistently demonstrated unwavering commitment and showcased remarkable achievements in regional and national tournaments.
“Jeffrey is now at the stage in his career where additional specialist areas will further enhance his development as a player. Using the award to attend a key badminton European Summer School will also give him significant experience and help expand his sparring and training with the best players in Europe in his age group.”
Cross-country and 5000m runner Callum Morgan has been one of Northern Ireland’s most consistent young performers in his athletics disciplines over the past few years. Callum has competed at the World U20s and the European U23s as well helping Team Ireland win a silver at the European Cross Country Championships.
“I’m thrilled to have secured a special Make It Happen funding award enabling me to participate in a high-profile training camp in South Africa in preparation for the indoor season. I’m aiming to improve my PBs leading to opportunities to compete in faster races on the UK and European circuit where all the top athletes run their qualifying times.
“Having finished 14th in last year’s 5000m U23 European Championships I aim to make it into the Top 5 in two years’ time. Taking part in various international camps and training with top Irish endurance athletes such as my friend and colleague Nick Griggs, will maximise my chances of attaining these goals.
“Similar to every athlete, my dream is to get on the starting line of an Olympic Games. Within my sights are Los Angeles in 2028 and the 2032 games in Brisbane, Australia.”
Callum began his running career at North Belfast college, St Malachy’s, a school with a tradition of producing excellent track and field athletes. Now a second-year maths and computer science student at Queen’s University Belfast, Callum is combining his training with studying part-time so that he can fully focus on his long distance running career.
Tom Reynolds, Athlete Development Lead for Athletics NI says, “Attending international training camps and top competitions during 2024 will help Callum achieve senior international times and lead to performing at the U23 European Track and Field Championships in 2025 before transitioning to senior level and challenging for a place on NI and Ireland senior teams.
Congratulating both athletes, Lady Mary Peters added, “These additional cash awards presented to the very best of our emerging young talent are vital in making a difference to an athlete’s progress and opportunities to improve.
“I wish both Callum and Jeffrey the very best of luck for their training camps and ongoing development in their respective sports. I know they will both give of their absolute best to achieve their goals and look forward to their potential future successes on track and on court.”