The Scottish Institute of Sport Foundation has stepped into a controversial vacuum in elite athlete support by backing Catriona Morrison, the World duathlon champion, and she could be the first of several world-class Scots to be rescued from limbo by the foundation. Basketball and cycling are other potential targets.

The foundation is helping the 30-year-old Broxburn woman as she attempts to retain her world title, and add the European one in Edinburgh this year.

Bankrolled by Bill Gammell's Cairn Energy group, the SISF aims to create a winning culture in Scottish business, as well as sport. They are providing Morrison with a £7500 package to help her pursue several major goals.

Her lottery backing was cut despite more money being available to British sport now than ever before: £600m until London 2012. But the Treasury is so prescriptive that this is for Olympic and Commonwealth Games sports only.

When The Herald reported how Morrison had been ditched after her switch from the triathlon (in which she competed for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games) to the duathlon, despite having won the world title, we criticised this misguided policy. Questions were asked in the Scottish Parliament, but while MSPs merely talked about the inappropriate support, the SIS Foundation has acted.

The Scottish Institute of Sport's newly-arrived chief executive, Mike Whittingham, met Morrison at a sports awards dinner. "He was shocked to learn I was already on the way out of their programme, and it was he who approached the foundation," said Morrison.

The foundation's executive director, Graham Watson, confirms they are backing Morrison as part of their Winning Scots programme.

"We aim to help coach development, coaching leadership, talent identification and development, mental skills training, and research into the culture of winning," said Watson. "We are talking to one or two commercial organisations, but at the moment we're funding out of existing foundation resources.

"We want to encourage and support our notion that you can change Scotland's culture and instil a winning one, particularly that you can install a belief that winning is something you can plan for, and doesn't just happen by chance. If we can find one or two good case studies every few months, people we can back, athlete and coach, to target success in a major international event, it could make a significant impact. Ideally it would be an event on home soil, in Scotland or the UK.

"By encouraging more Scottish athletes to aspire to win, and in major events, hopefully you inspire a new generation of athletes as well. Catriona is an example of that. Here's someone who is already a world champion, someone who is not necessarily being picked up by the existing system. She's very inspirational and motivated, yet at the moment is in a sport and environment where she is not getting the maximum support you'd like to see.

"She's come up with a programme of very specific goals. Her aim is to win the European Duathlon in Edinburgh in June. She wants to defend the world elite title in Hungary. She was silver medallist in the World long course duathlon championships last year. She wants to do well in that again.

"She wants to represent Britain at the world half-ironman championships in the USA in November, successfully defend the British and Scottish duathlon, and maintain her world No.1 ranking. She is very focused in what she wants to do. She can be an inspiration to young kids, whether that's in the West Lothian area, or more broadly.

"We're helping with costs for physiological testing, physiotherapy, massage, medical and coaching support, and specific race preparation she and her coach need to do. "For what I consider to be a relatively small investment, less than £7500, we can help someone to become a European champion. If Catriona can win on home soil, in partnership with the media, it starts to show how success can be achieved. For a few thousand pounds, you can make a major impact. It's a great opportunity.

"The fact that it's a non-Olympic and non-Commonwealth sport is totally irrelevant. We should be supporting her."

Morrison is excited to be a prototype which could lead to other Scots being supported. "I'm obviously not going to run off with the money and lie on a beach," she says. It has allowed her to cut her work as a school sports co-ordinator to three days per week, and this weekend, in Mallorca, she contests a half-marathon as part of duathlon preparations.

The investment is just a start for the foundation. "We are also looking at basketball," says Watson. "The under-18 Scottish women's team is very good just now, but basketball isn't on the Commonwealth programme for Glasgow 2014 or Delhi 2010. We have some very talented youngsters who aren't being picked up by any specific programme - one or two girls who are already getting on the radar screen of GB coaches for 2012.

"Someone here needs to be supporting that type of athlete, to help maximise their chance of getting into that British Olympic team. We're seriously looking at how we can best help. What we are not is a sponsorship body. What we are, is about facilitating development of winning performance, and winning athletes. If you have one or two girls who can reach the pinnacle of their sport, representing Britain in the Olympics, we should look seriously at supporting them.

"I've also spoken with the chief executive of Scottish Cycling. The World Mountain Bike Championships will be in Fort William this summer, and there are young Scots who could win there at junior level. But they're not part of any specific programme in their age group. That's the sort of things we are looking at.

"Catriona is the first of our investments, if we can call it that, in this area. What we want to do is encourage other Scots who might have similar aspirations, who are not being funded in the talent development programmes at the moment, to talk to us. But we are not about giving money in an uncontrolled way. It would be very focused, on partnerships, helping buy-in various services, probably with the SIS or the area institutes.

"We are refining our areas of focus and seeing where we, as a business-led group, can make maximum impact and support what's already happening in Scotland.

"One area we are fascinated by is Scottish coaching - is there the potential to build world-class coaches here? Can we find a small group, maybe half a dozen athletes who have been at the top of their career, who either have retired or are in the process of retiring from their sport. People whom you can't teach anything more about how to be a world-class competitor, but who have no coaching expertise. Someone perhaps in their late 20s now, but who by their mid-30s could be a world-class coach?"

Rhona Martin, the Olympic curling champion, now set to retire and become a coach, seems a classic example. There is clearly scope for partnerships with local authorities already investing in coaching.

"How do we get an education component into that, so that over the next seven or eight years, as part of our Winning Scots programme, not only do we support athletes who might not otherwise get there, but support the creation of a small group to develop world-class coaching, in partnership with the SIS, and possibly Stirling University?

"We've people looking at performance and coaching modules worldwide, to establish best practice. There's a programme in the US, for example: Positive Coaching Alliance - a series of training programmes for coaches, parents, and athletes. It's based on academic reports on the ways in which you get young people to perform - how you use sport - not just to teach how to be a good golfer or runner, but a whole bunch of broader life lessons around sport."