A Lancashire-based entrepreneur has spoken of the ‘incredible’ World Athletic Championships performance of Katarina Johnson-Thompson, whom he sponsored as a teenager.
Johnson-Thompson won heptathlon gold and broke the British record with a score of 6,981 points at the recent championships in Doha.
Barrie Wells watched on from the stands as she secured her first global outdoor title, the culmination of a journey that started with paying for her taxis to and from training when she was just 16-years-old.
On her victory, Wells said: “To be able to watch her compete and train over the years and for her to come away with not only a gold medal, but also the British record, is incredible.
“While she may not need my funding anymore, being there to support her at all her events is very special and I am delighted her determination and commitment to success has paid off.”
After a successful career in financial services where he set up and sold two insurance companies, Wells wanted to use his wealth to make a difference.
Inspired by a trip to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, he set-up the Lancaster-based Wells Sports Foundation (now called the Barrie Wells Trust) and sponsored 20 British athletes in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics.
“A big part of supporting athletes leading into London 2012 was to be able to share the journey with them, and especially make a significant difference in the early days”, Wells said.
“In the case of Katarina this included paying for her taxis, her driving lessons, her first car and, when she was injured, taking her away on holiday with my family to watch the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona.”
The Woolton-born athletics star trained at her hometown club Liverpool Harriers and was coached by Mike Holmes until 2016, a year before she made the move to Montpellier, France to further her training.
Off the track and field the 26-year-old is patron of the Barrie Wells Trust, which currently runs the Box4Kids initiative.
The initiative provides the experience for seriously ill and disabled children to see their favourite sports team or music artist in an executive box.
Wells believes Johnson-Thompson is perfectly suited to her role as patron.
He said: “Katarina is a great role model to all of the children we support through the Box4Kids initiative.
“She regularly hosts with me and is a great inspiration to all the children she meets.”