Jason (Queally) and the aeronauts

Chorley-based Olympic gold medal cyclist Jason Queally has helped launch a £1.5m quest to unearth the champions of the future.

Lancashire defence giant BAE Systems has agreed to pump its expertise into finding British champions.

Queally was at the launch of the partnership which will see the aerospace firm, which employs 10,000 people at Warton and Samlesbury, provide its expertise in cycling, sailing, rowing and bob skeleton.

BAE's expertise will be channelled through UK Sport in a similar way to its link with Formula One.

The five-year partnership agreement will focus on supporting GB medal-winning sports and is worth around 1.5m.

It will give potential medal winners access to a knowledge and skills base which includes 25,000 UK-based engineers.

It will help UK sports competitors prepare for future summer and winter Olympics and Paralympic Games as well as World and European Championships.

UK Sport chief executive John Steele added: "This deal represents a terrific opportunity for some of our best medal prospects and I am delighted that UK Sport has been able to bring it together. BAE Systems is recognised as one of the world's most innovative companies and its commitment to helping sport in this way is fantastic.

"It is also needed, as the margins between success and failure on the world stage get ever smaller. In Athens in 2004 Chris Hoy won his Olympic cycling gold medal by 0.185 seconds, while the coxless four succeeded in the rowing by just 0.08 seconds.

"There is no doubt whatsoever that the equipment they used helped them in their endeavours, and it is these fractional margins of victory we are looking to help secure for the future."