The decision was made in the boardroom: 27 young female and male athletes and youth teams from Lower Saxony will receive financial support from Volkswagen Financial Services for at least one year. The backing is part of the new program to promote young sporting talent launched by the Volkswagen Group's financial and mobility services provider. A top-caliber jury that included the German national soccer player Alexandra Popp from the club VfL Wolfsburg and the former Olympic biathlon champion Arnd Peiffer from Germany's Harz mountain region came together in Braunschweig to select the top sports talents aged up to 22. Interestingly enough, the lucky chosen come from no fewer than 20 different sports – a wide spectrum that embraces basketball, soccer, kite surfing, para track and field, rowing, gymnastics, sport climbing, swimming, and triathlon. The athletes selected are based in many parts of the state, with club locations such as Braunschweig, Celle, Cuxhaven, Gifhorn, Hannover, Lüneburg, Osnabrück, Rotenburg, Salzgitter, Springe, Walsrode, and Wolfsburg.
Volkswagen Financial Services received 409 applications from all over Lower Saxony, including a number sent in as short videos – many more than the VW FS sponsoring team had expected. A successful premiere! "There are quite outstanding young athletes among the applicants. It was impressive to see them, their talent, their motivation, and the fun they were having," said Alexandra Popp, who was recently voted both National Player and Personality of the Year 2022 in German football. "What's more," she added, "these young people are incredibly focused and structured – otherwise they wouldn't have already got this far." The hugely popular striker from Wolfsburg is certain: "The support from Volkswagen Financial Services will be an extra dose of motivation."
Lovely gesture: after a training session with her fellow Women's First Division teammates, Popp had no intention of passing up the opportunity to personally bring the news to artistic roller skater Ricarda Zander in Wolfsburg that she was one of those receiving financial support. Popp remembers: "Experiencing her joy at first hand touched my heart. That alone made it worthwhile being a jury member." The 17-year-old sports talent knew nothing in advance about the planned encounter, but had been lured to the grounds of the VfL Wolfsburg sports club at Elsterweg under the pretext of a photo shooting — i.e. to the site where top-tier football was played until around 20 years ago when it moved to the new Volkswagen Arena stadium. The young skater was all the more thrilled as a result of the surprise and expressed her gratitude and delight with the words: "Thank you very much for choosing me. I'm mega happy to have won this sponsorship."
As a former Olympic champion in biathlon, Arnd Peiffer is delighted that two winter sport athletes are among those being sponsored – one from Braunschweig and a young biathlete unknown to Peiffer beforehand from his home club WSV Clausthal-Zellerfeld. He commented: "I'm certain that the sponsorship from Volkswagen Financial Services will pay off for them too. But the funding will also give further tailwind to all the other athletes as well." Asked what else he was pleased to see, Peiffer, who also serves as biathlon expert for Germany's ARD broadcasting network, noted: "I was impressed to see how diverse the sports landscape in Lower Saxony is. That's another reason why it was a real pleasure to be part of the jury."
Manfred Kehm, Team Leader for Competitive Sports Promotion at the Lower Saxony Sports Association (LSB), sees the VW FS program for promoting young talent as a boost for competitive sports in Lower Saxony. The sports promotion expert, who was also a member of the jury, knows only too well that "the effort these young people put into their sport is huge." That's why it's a nice reward for them to now receive extra funding, he said. Kehm praised the fact that many of them had gone to great lengths in their applications, for example by listing in minute detail what they needed the money for.
Like Kehm, Andreas Hundt, career advisor at the Olympic Training Center Lower Saxony, was highly impressed by this commitment and involvement on the part of the young athletes. Hundt was also pleased with the composition of the jury. He said the various members had brought in different perspectives: "I like that."
Another member of the jury, Dr. Kerstin Loehr, Editor-in-Chief of the Braunschweiger Zeitung newspaper, spends a lot of her spare time sailing. "Coming to grips with the elements of wind and water is more difficult than some might think," the journalist insisted. That's another reason, she said, why she was pleased to see a highly dedicated water sports enthusiast among those being sponsored. Generally speaking, she pointed out, it's all about "courage, discipline and perseverance" – and Kerstin Loehr was able to identify all these virtues in the applicants. "So the choice was really difficult for me."
For VW FS, CFO Frank Fiedler and Dr. Michael Reinhart, Chairman of the Management Board of Volkswagen Bank, both sat on the jury. Fiedler had this to say: "We at Volkswagen Financial Services take our social responsibility very seriously, and the refocusing of our sports sponsoring represents an important addition to our other activities. Our commitment now to give a boost to young people and also fast-track their sporting development is a matter close to our hearts at Volkswagen Financial Services." Reinhart added: "We are enormously pleased for the young athletes, who are pursuing their goals full of passion and may now be in a better position to really take off. The really high number of applications shows that our offer for young sporting talent has struck a responsive chord." That's why Volkswagen Financial Services are already announcing a sequel: the second round of the promotion program for talented up-and-coming athletes will start in the late summer of this year – on September 1st, to be precise. The deadline for applications is October 15th. All the necessary information will then once again be available in good time at https://sporttalente.vwfs.com.
|These are the individual athletes and teams who are being sponsored by Volkswagen Financial Services with the amount they have applied for:|
|Änna Pannek (age 12), sport: canoe slalom, club: Kanu- und Segel-Gilde Hildesheim|
|Maivi Fuchs (age 13), sport: aerobic gymnastics, club: Blau-Weiß Buchenholze|
|Svea Funck (age 13), sport: track and field, club: TV Jahn Walsrode|
|Alexandra Melnichuk (age 13), sport: trampoline gymnastics, club: TGJ Salzgitter|
|Laura-Dominika Milos (age 13), sport: table tennis, club: Hannover 96|
|Aaron Jakobs (age 14): sport: biathlon, club: WSV Clausthal-Zellerfeld|
|Jonas Körner (age 14), sport: sport climbing, club: Deutscher Alpenverein Sektion Braunschweig|
|Mailina Nedderhut (age 15): sport: tennis, club: TC GW Gifhorn|
|Jasper Pippig (age 15), sport: golf, club: Golfclub Hannover|
|Kristin Raddatz (age 16), sport: Jujutsu, club: VfL Westercelle|
|Chiara-Sophie Silberstorff (age 16): sport: soccer, club: VfL Wolfsburg|
|Laura Burbulla (age 17), sport: para track and field, club: VfL Wolfsburg|
|Marcel Graf (age 17), sport: apparatus gymnastics, club: VT Rinteln|
|Anton Schaper (age 17), sport: cross-country skiing, club: Eintracht Braunschweig|
|Ricarda Zander (age 17), sport: artistic roller skating, club: VfL Wolfsburg|
|Fabian Frick (age 18), sport: kitesurfing, club: Cuxkiters Cuxhaven|
|Tim Kalies (age 18), sport: track and field, club: Braunschweiger Laufclub|
|Emily Pischke (age 18), sport: track and field, club: Hannover 96|
|Jasper Till Schröder (age 18), sport: cycling, club: RC Blau-Gelb Langenhagen|
|Fabian Schönke (age 19), sport: triathlon, club: RSC Lüneburg|
|Paul David Leerkamp (age 20), sport: rowing, club: Osnabrücker Ruder-Verein|
|Phil Grolla (age 22), sport: para track and field, club: VfL Wolfsburg|
|Marcel Meyer (age 22), sport: track and field, club: Hannover 96|
|Team from MTV Braunschweig, sport: cheerleading|
|Team from Deutscher Ruder-Club von 1884 Hannover, sport: rowing|
|Team from SSG Braunschweig, sport: swimming|
|Team from TK Hannover, sport: 3x3 basketball|
|The jury comprised:|
|Arnd Peiffer, world and Olympic champion in biathlon|
|Alexandra Popp, German national soccer player from VfL Wolfsburg|
|Manfred Kehm, Team Leader, Competitive Sports Promotion, LandesSportBund Niedersachsen e.V.|
|Andreas Hundt, career advisor at the Olympic Training Center Lower Saxony|
|Dr. Kerstin Loehr, Editor-in-Chief of the Braunschweiger Zeitung newspaper|
|Frank Fiedler, Member of the Management Board of Volkswagen Financial Services AG|
|Dr. Michael Reinhart, Chairman of the Management Board of Volkswagen Bank GmbH|