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Titanic Belfast was the setting for the Female Sport Forum’s latest conference, Building Momentum, held on Friday 3rd November. The conference was designed to build on the legacy of two major female sporting events, the Uefa Women’s U19 Football Championships and the Women’s Rugby World Cup, being held in Northern Ireland earlier this year.

Over 180 delegates enjoyed keynote addresses from Louise Martin CBE, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, motorcyclist Maria Costello MBE and former Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis OBE. The delegates also had their pick of a strong programme of workshops from the IFA & Ulster Rugby, Volunteer Now, Netball NI and the Youth Sport Trust.

Louise Martin CBE provided the conference with a look back to her first involvement with the Commonwealth Games, competing in Australia in 1962. She is a previous Commonwealth Games Scotland chair and has also held the role of Commonwealth Games Honorary Secretary. Louise spoke openly about the difficulties she has faced in being viewed as an equal participant in male dominated boardrooms, but she has certainly proved herself, playing a crucial role in Glasgow’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Louise celebrated the success of the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games, held in the Bahamas, and looked forward to the 2021 Youth Games when young athletes from across the Commonwealth will be visiting Belfast!

Maria Costello MBE was the next keynote speaker, and all those in the room were inspired by Maria’s story of success, despite 24 broken bones along the way! Maria spoke of her first knowledge of a woman riding a motorcycle making her think “if she can do it, so can I!” This sparked off an extraordinary motorcycling career, with Maria setting the record as the fastest woman to lap the TT course in 2004 and becoming the first woman to stand on a TT podium when she placed third in a race in 2005. Maria focused on the word “persistence” – something she has demonstrated throughout her career and encouraged all those in the room to “choose a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

There was much anticipation as the delegates waited to hear from the final speaker, Denise Lewis OBE, and she did not disappoint. Denise spoke about her own sporting journey and the athletes who inspired her to take up sport seriously, as she could see something of herself in them. She also talked about the difficult transition when retiring from fulltime sport and moving into the media. Denise spoke about the impact we can all have in inspiring young people to take up sport, and impressed upon the audience that failure is not something to fear but rather should be embraced as a learning for the future and a reason to keep going.

The Female Sports Forum also used this event to launch their new Podium Leadership programme. Working in partnership with Podium Performance, this project aims to foster the relationship between sport and business. The brand new programme will allow participants to engage with female business leaders and provide them with the opportunity to develop skills which will allow them to lead at the highest level.

Sport NI continue to support the work of the Female Sports Forum and are looking forward to working with all our partners in the Active, Fit & Sporty project to continue to increase the number of females participating and leading in sport and raise the profile of female sport across Northern Ireland.