SportsAid is delighted to announce the 10 athletes on the shortlist for its prestigious One-to-Watch Award. The annual award is presented at the charity’s SportsBall, taking place this year at the Hilton Park Lane in London on Thursday 5 November, with previous winners including diver Tom Daley, sprinter Jodie Williams, skeet shooter Amber Hill and gymnast Courtney Tulloch.
The last two years have seen Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, SportsAid’s Patron, and England football manager Roy Hodgson present the One-to-Watch Award with fierce competition for the accolade. The winner of the award in 2014 was heptathlete Morgan Lake – the double junior world champion – who has since set the UK junior (Under 20) record for high jump.
The 10 athletes shortlisted have been selected from 1,200 rising British stars supported by SportsAid across more than 60 different sports during 2015. Each year, athletes are nominated by their sport’s governing body on the strength of their talent and potential, demonstrating why the One-to-Watch Award has gained such a strong reputation for identifying the best up-and-coming prospects.
“I think SportsAid is an amazing help to so many athletes all over the country so it's really great to get this recognition,” said Morgan upon receiving the One-to-Watch Award last year. “The money from SportsAid has helped a lot. I have been able to put it towards increasing travel costs, medical support and equipment. It has meant that I can focus on just the sport without other worries.”
The judging panel for the award is chaired by Olympian Sarah Winckless with representatives from Sport England, UK Sport, the English Institute of Sport, BBC Sport and SportsAid. The 10 athletes shortlisted for the 2015 One-to-Watch Award are some of Britain’s brightest prospects with a huge medal haul and a string of record-breaking achievements between them all.
Laviai Nielsen (athletics)
19 from London. SportsAid Award from Jaguar Land Rover Academy of Sport
- Gold at the 2015 European Junior Championships over 400m and anchored British 4x400m relay to gold
- Selected for 2015 IAAF World Championships in the 4x400m relay squad
- Ranked first in Europe and fourth in world at Under-20s level over 400m
- Unbeaten by British Under-20s athletes over 400m indoors and outdoors throughout 2015
“It feels amazing to be recognised for the hard work and dedication I’ve put into my sport this year. Winning the European Under-20s Championships in the 400m was an incredible moment for me. I had picked up a small injury mid-season, which meant missing out on the national Under-20s Championships, and some vital aspects of training - my confidence suffered badly. Just before and during the Championships themselves, I had doubts over whether I could still win, as I was one of the gold medal favourites for the event, and for the Great Britain team. The pressure was immense.
“As I was standing on the start line for the final, I remember thinking “it’s yours, if you want it”. So I told myself to forget everything that had happened, and to focus on and believe in this one moment. The gun went off, and I went for it; I have never felt that much adrenaline in my life! When I crossed the line in first place, I couldn’t believe I had actually done it. I had wanted it the entire season, but to do it was a feeling I couldn’t imagine, and one I still find hard to describe. I remember screaming because I was so overwhelmed with emotion! It inspires me to have a moment like that again.”
James Arnott (disability athletics)
18 from Plymouth. SportsAid Award from Elton John Sports Fund
- Gold at the 2015 IWAS World Junior Games, 200m, T46
- Silver at the 2015 IWAS World Junior Games, 100m, T47
- Silver at the 2015 IPC Grand Prix, 100m, T47
- Set a personal best over 200m of 23.22 secs at the 2015 Bedford International Games
“I am extremely grateful and happy to be placed in the top 10 for such a prestigious award - it really makes me feel that my work hasn't gone unnoticed. Over the past season I have had a couple of international encounters which are always a massive highlight for me with the excitement of going abroad and representing your country. My main highlight was getting the opportunity to run against the best in the world at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium in the London Anniversary Games.
“I cannot describe how the crowd made me feel and how proud I was. The support from SportsAid has done so much for me over the past year. Being able to live at Oaklands College in St Albans allows me to train six days a week and this would not have been possible without the funding I receive from SportsAid. This helped go towards my residential fees and also travel expenses to various competitions.”
Esah Hayat (disability tennis)
13 from East Finchley. SportsAid Award from GLL Sport Foundation
- 2015 World Deaf Junior champion
- Part of the men’s Great Britain team at the World Deaf Championships
- Lawn Tennis Association rating of 4.2 – in line with non-disabled national ranked tennis players
- SportsAid’s athlete of the month in August 2015
“I feel proud and humble to have made it to this stage as there are so many fantastic athletes. This encourages and motivates me to work harder with my coach Andy Kemp and carry on improving my tennis. Hopefully, this will also highlight Deaf Tennis and encourage more young people to take it up. Winning the World Deaf Tennis Youth Boys Championships in Nottingham was my biggest achievement so far.
“Having won the tournament, I am now more confident while playing. SportsAid’s support has been crucial to my success at the World Deaf Championships. It paid for an extra lesson a week, which gave me more time with my coach to work on and sharpen my game leading up to the tournament. I am grateful for the funding as otherwise the costs would have been too high.”
Leah Williamson (football)
18 from Milton Keynes. SportsAid Award from SSE
- The Football Association Women’s Super League (FA WSL) Continental Cup player of the year
- 2015 Professional Footballers’ Association women’s Young Player of the Year
- SportsAid’s athlete of the month in May 2015
“It's great to be recognised as ‘One-to-Watch’ and nominatied for the Award out of so many athletes at SportsAid who are all huge talents for the future. We all work hard so I'm thrilled to be picked. My standout moment this year was scoring a penalty that took England Women’s Under-19s to the 2015 European Championships. It had to be replayed five days after the original game due to an intervention by UEFA. I'm so thankful for all the SportsAid support I have received. It's helped me get to training in London and also funded equipment to enable me to compete and recover from injuries.”
Joshua Armstrong (rowing)
17 from Glasgow. SportsAid Award from Moffatt Trust
- Gold at the 2015 World Rowing Championships, JM4x (the first ever gold for Great Britain Rowing Team in a men’s quad event at any level)
- Reached semi-finals of the Fawley Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta (JM4x)
- Won the boys’ doubles with fellow SportsAid athlete Gavin Horsburgh at the 2015 National Schools Regatta
“It feels fantastic to have made the final 10 for the One-to-Watch Award. Having seen the calibre of previous finalists I feel privileged to be among them as there is some amazing talent out there. To have been shortlisted has also given me a big boost as it shows that my achievements are being noticed, which makes all of the hard, cold mornings worth it. 2015 was always about being selected for the World Rowing Championships in Rio and then putting myself in the position to go for gold. The elation I felt after winning the final is indescribable.
“To then be told it was a historic first ever quad gold for Great Britain made it even more special. It was a day I will never forget and the memories I have of it keep me pushing harder to achieve more world and Olympic titles. Attending GB Trials, competing throughout the UK and in Germany and going to Rio meant 2015 was a very expensive year. The support from Sportsaid was invaluable in allowing me to do all this and I want to say a big thank you.”
Emma Wilson (sailing – windsurfing)
16 from Christchurch. SportsAid Award from Jaguar Land Rover Academy of Sport
- Gold at the 2014 Youth World Windsurfing Championships (Under-17s and Under-19s), and silver at the 2015 Youth World Windsurfing Championships (Under-17s)
- Winner of the Yachting Journalists’ Association’s 2015 Young Sailor of the Year Award
- Competed at Senior European Championships and was third highest-ranked British athlete with a 22nd-placed European finish overall (gold fleet)
- SportsAid’s athlete of the month in November 2014
“It feels really cool to have made the top 10 shortlist out of so many amazing athletes - I never expected it. It shows that all those freezing cold winter days are starting to pay off. My main achievements have probably been competing at my first senior European Championships and coming 22nd out of 60 as the level was super high and I was one of the youngest competing. The support I have received from SportsAid has been great as it has meant that I can travel to more competitions and compete against the best women in the world.”
Layla Black (swimming)
15 from Leeds. SportsAid Award from SportsAid Yorkshire
- Bronze at European Games in 200m breaststroke and the 4x100m mixed medley relay
- Broke British junior record in 200m breaststroke at Standard International Cup in Italy
- Two golds, one silver and one bronze at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa
“It feels amazing to be recognised for all my hard work over the past season. The support from SportsAid has helped towards the costs of my trip to Samoa to represent England at the fifth Commonwealth Youth Games - without this money I may not have been able to attend and bring home two gold medals, a silver and a bronze for my country. The support from SportsAid has also helped with training costs and travel to other competitions.
“I have had several highlights this season, as in addition to winning the medals I did in Samoa for England, I also won two bronze medals at the European Games in Baku for Great Britain. It feels fantastic to stand on the podium to receive a medal knowing that you have worked as hard as you possibly could to get the rewards. I have also broken six British age group records this season. It’s a real honour to have been shortlisted for the One-to-Watch Award.”
Katie Swan (tennis)
16 from Long Ashton. SportsAid Award from Elton John Sports Fund
- Runner-up at the 2015 Australian Open Juniors
- Reached quarter-finals at the 2015 Wimbledon Juniors
- Winner of ITF Pro Circuit $10,000 adult event in Egypt aged just 15
- Fifth in the ITF Junior World rankings and 617 in the WTA World rankings
“I am so happy and honoured to have made it to the shortlist of the One-to Watch Award. This is an amazing achievement for me and to think that I have been chosen out of 1200 SportAid athletes is incredible. I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me - SportsAid, the Elton John Sports Fund, the Lawn Tennis Association and my brilliant coaching team. I have had such a great year and one of my stand-out performances was making the final of the Australian Open Juniors in January which helped me reach my highest world junior ranking of 4.
“I also won my first professional ($10k) titles in March and September which were great achievements. The support I have received from SportsAid and the Elton John Sports Fund has enabled me to travel to more international tournaments and to increase my junior and professional ranking. Everyone is always so nice and helpful and SportsAid supports so many fantastic athletes. I am really honoured to be part of such a great organisation.”
Ben Dijkstra (triathlon)
16 from Burton on the Wolds. SportsAid Award from Elton John Sports Fund
- Bronze at the European Junior Triathlon Championships in Geneva and member of the winning youth relay team
- Winner of two European Junior Cups and top-ranked male junior in Europe
- Eighth at the World Junior Triathlon Championships
- SportsAid’s athlete of the month in July 2015
“My stand-out performance this year was placing third at the European Junior Triathlon Championships in Geneva. It was a very difficult race, especially with a challenging and technical bike course, but it was one of my main targets for the season. It was my first test against the best of Europe, and I am over the moon that I came away with a bronze medal. I have every intention of continuing with my long-term athlete development and making the successful transition to elite racing our number one priority.
“I am tremendously grateful for the support SportsAid has given me over the last 12 months. It has enabled me to purchase essential kit to keep up with the ever increasing standards of triathlon and athletics such as a new helmet for cycling, entrance fees and accommodation for racing and also covering the cost of my annual training camps. I feel privileged to have made the shortlist for the One-to-Watch Award – it pays testament to the hard work which myself, my family and my coaches have put in to get this far in my sports.”
Ross Cullen (cycling – BMX)
14 from Preston. SportsAid Award from SSE
- 2015 BMX World Age Group champion (Under-14s)
- 2015 British Champion (Under-15s) – sixth time he has won the British championships in eight years
- Second year on the British Cycling Olympic Development programme
- Competed in the World and European Track Championships
“It feels amazing to have made the shortlist from all the talented people supported by SportsAid. It makes my achievements this year even more rewarding and I feel so grateful that it has been recognised. My stand-out performance was at the UCI BMX World Championships in Belgium. I felt so confident all day and focused on making the final, which is only 8 riders from over 130 from around the world. I made the final, and that was as close to a perfect lap as I have ever ridden and winning that final was an amazing experience not to be forgotten.
“The mentoring and workshops have been a massive help to my 2015 race season helping me focus towards my major goals and how to prepare to get there. The funding allowed me to compete in more races in Europe, giving me more experience with international competition. Being able to mix and share experiences with young athletes from other sports, supported by SSE and SportsAid and meeting the mentors at the SSE workshops in Wembley was inspirational and extremely beneficial. It helps encourage the belief that you can become an Elite athlete too.”
- Please contact Richard Bates at SportsAid on 020 7273 1978 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- SportsAid is the only national charity of its kind (#1111612), helping young British sportsmen and women who aspire to be the nation's next Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth or world champions.
- The charity's Patron is Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge.
- At the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games almost two-thirds of the British team were former recipients of SportsAid's support, winning 20 of Team GB's 29 gold medals and 27 of ParalympicsGB's 34 gold medals.
- At the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games more than 450 of the athletes competing were previously supported by SportsAid, with 241 of them winning medals.
- For more information, please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk, follow @TeamSportsAid on Twitter, contact the charity on Facebook, connect on LinkedIn, or sign up to receive its monthly newsletter.
- The SportsBall is SportsAid's flagship annual event: a gala dinner which raises money for and shines a spotlight on the next generation of British athletes.
- In 2014, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, SportsAid's Patron, presented the charity's prestigious One-to-Watch Award at the SportsBall to heptathlete Morgan Lake.
- Previous One-to-Watch Award winners include diver Tom Daley, gymnast Courtney Tulloch, skeet shooter Amber Hill and sprinter Jodie Williams.
- Other notable SportsBall attendees in recent years include Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir Matthew Pinsent, Baroness Grey-Thompson and David Weir CBE.
- You can find out more by visiting www.sportsball.org.uk.
- The One-to-Watch Award criteria is as follows:
- Must be recommended by their sport’s national governing body.
- Must be one of the 1,200 British athletes supported by SportsAid this year.
- Excellence in results at the international level.
- Excellence in results at the domestic level.
- British/European/world rankings.
- Membership of national squads/teams.
- Age group status, standing and years left.
- Commitment, dedication, promise (comments received from their sport’s national governing body).
- Likelihood to improve in following years – performance and ranking.
The One-to-Watch Award judging panel is as follows:
- Sarah Winckless (Olympian, SportsAid alumna)
- John Wood (UK Sport)
- Matt Slater (BBC Sport)
- Simon Wergan (Sport England)
- Joslyn Hoyte Smith (English Institute of Sport)
- Laura Eddie (National Awards Manager, SportsAid)
- Ian Braid (British Athletes Commission and Trustee of SportsAid)