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Olympic legend Michael Johnson has today announced the launch of Michael Johnson's Young Leaders Programme. The initiative, spearheaded by the four-time Olympic gold medal winner, aims to provide young people from around the world with the tools they need to fulfil their potential through sport.

By developing an in-depth, sustainable programme focusing on sporting performance, leadership development and community engagement, Michael Johnson's young leaders programme will give specially selected young people – all of whom come from a diverse range of challenging backgrounds – the confidence, skills and resources to make a positive impact on their futures.

Kicking off in an Olympic year, the first edition of the programme will provide a unique and ongoing programme of empowerment, education, support and mentoring to twelve of the world’s most inspirational young people who have tackled some of society’s toughest challenges head-on.

Their once-in-a-lifetime journey will begin with an intensive course at the Michael Johnson Performance Center, Michael’s one-of-a-kind training ground in Dallas, where they will be provided cutting-edge support to enhance their sport performance skills, receive in-depth leadership training and get time and support to develop their ideas about how they can contribute to their communities and make a genuine difference for fellow young people back home.

The young leaders will be travelling to Dallas in May from all over the world – Mexico, Nepal, UK, Cambodia, Armenia, Kenya, Uganda, India, Brazil and Tanzania – and were carefully selected not only for their potential to develop sporting talent but their capability to lead and a desire to contribute to their community.

They all have shown promise in diverse ways, from captaining a Street Child World Cup winning team in Brazil, to running sports tournaments to rebuild communities after the Earthquake in Nepal, to leading women’s rights activism in Uganda; and they have all treaded different paths of adversity – whether it be gender discrimination, domestic abuse, or poverty – and decided to act using their love for sport as their guide.

Following the course in Dallas, the young leaders programme will work with these individuals through a personalised twelve month plan, where they will receive state-of-the-art virtual sports training sessions designed by Michael Johnson Performance Center, ongoing mentoring to continue their leadership development, and tangible support for their own goals and projects aimed at using sport to help their community.

Following the year-long engagement, the initiative will continue to support these young leaders long after as alumni of the programme, providing them with network, profile, and tangible education and employment opportunities.

Michael Johnson said of the launch of the programme: “These young people are already doing incredible things in their communities. We have a participant who is dodging bullets in order to provide sports training for young girls. We have a participant who is campaigning the UK government for better access to disability sport. They are truly inspiring and have shown me the incredible plans they have for their communities, but which they need help to implement. We will be here to give them that help and cannot wait to see what they can achieve.”

Regarding the desired outcomes for the young people on the young leaders programme, Michael said: “It’s not about finding the next Gold Medallist – although if someone has the potential then Michael Johnson Performance will identify and nurture that talent. It is our hope that successful young people from the programme will become community leaders, or be the first of their family to go to college, or start their own sports charity or clubs. Success here means that every single young person who has gone through the programme will have the skills and opportunity to achieve a better future.”

A participant on the initiative, Freya Levy from the UK, who overcame muscular dystrophy to represent GB at wheelchair basketball, said; “I feel incredibly honoured to be chosen to be part of the programme. To go to an elite top level performance centre and learn from a former Olympic Legend such as Michael Johnson is an incredible opportunity. I’m hoping the lessons I can learn will help me as I continue to pursue accessibility for disabled sport back in the UK. There is so much more I want to do in this area and I am so excited that Michael Johnson's young leaders programme will help me achieve it.”

The young leaders were selected by Michael and a carefully curated panel of experts in youth leadership, sport, and social change. The selection process was carried out in partnership with Coaches Across Continents, the award-winning global charity that trains up local community leaders in using sport as a tool for social change.

The young leaders will attend the course in at the Michael Johnson Performance Centre in Dallas from May 14th to 21st