Para swimming sensation Ellie Challis, 15, from Little Clacton in Essex, was named as the winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award at the charity’s Celebrate the Next event, sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada, yesterday evening (19 November).
She was presented with the award, previously won by the likes of Tom Daley and Hollie Arnold, by Dame Katherine Grainger after an outstanding year which saw her win bronze in the women’s S3 50m backstroke at the IPC World Para Swimming Championships and set one world and two European records at the British Para Swimming International.
Ellie edged out canoeist Daniel Atkins, 18, and sprinter Amy Hunt, 17, as they finished in second and third respectively. The remaining top 10 shortlisted athletes - taekwondo practitioner Aaliyah Powell, squash player AbdAllah Eissa, goalball athlete Antonia Bunyan, cyclist Charlie Aldridge, boxer Enriko Itauma, para long jumper Karim Chan and swimmer Katie Shanahan - also had their achievements celebrated.
“I was so shocked when I heard my name read out as the winner of SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award,” said Ellie, who has been helped by SportsAid through the Backing The Best programme, at Sea Containers House. “It's blown me away to hear about all the amazing achievements of the other athletes and then realise I'm the one who has won the award!”
The One-to-Watch Award has gained a strong reputation for identifying the best up-and-coming prospects in Britain since its launch in 2006. Previous winners have already amassed 43 senior medals from Olympic and Paralympic Games, World and European Championships, as well as Commonwealth Games, to establish themselves as household names.
“SportsAid is really important because travelling around the country costs a lot,” added Ellie. “Without it [SportsAid], it would be very difficult to do what we do. Europeans and Tokyo 2020 are high on my priority list for next year – the aim is to qualify. I’m going to go to qualifiers and then just get out what I can from the experience, and if I qualify then great!”
Each of the top 10 shortlisted athletes will be provided with a kit allowance by global sportswear brand Nike thanks to an ongoing partnership with SportsAid. Ellie’s support will be to the value of £3,000 while Daniel and Amy will receive £2,000 and £1,500 respectively. They will also be presented with a cash boost as Ellie is awarded £1,000 and Daniel and Amy are each given £750.
Aaliyah, 17, AbdAllah, 13, Antonia, 19, Charlie, 18, Enriko, 14, Karim, 19, and Katie, 15, will each receive £500 in their kit allowance from Nike. The kit allowance is a great introduction into how such a partnership could work, particularly for the athletes who do not already work with or have a sponsorship deal in place, as well as an opportunity for them to learn more about this area of the industry.
SportsAid alumna Katherine was delighted to be able to present the One-to-Watch Award to Ellie at the Celebrate the Next event and predicted a bright future for each of the top 10. Katherine is Great Britain’s most decorated female Olympian having won one gold and four silver medals across Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016. She is now the Chair of UK Sport.
“The One-to-Watch Award is fabulous because we get to have a look at what the future might hold,” said Katherine. “I’ve been on the judging panel a few times now and every year it’s so hard. We really struggle to make the decision – they are outstanding athletes who are as young as 13 and have already had international success.
“SportsAid is often the first hand to reach across that gap to say they believe in you and your future,” continued Katherine. “That confidence that SportsAid gives - and the extra support and recognition - makes a huge difference to the lives of young people at that point of their career. It is quite game-changing for those who have made the top 10.”
The top 10 shortlisted athletes were selected from around 1,000 rising British stars supported by SportsAid across more than 60 different sports in 2019. Each year, athletes are nominated by their sport’s governing body on the strength of their talent and potential, as well as their recent achievements, before a judging panel identifies the winner, second and third place.
Daniel claimed gold in the men’s K1M 200m at the ICF World Junior Canoe Sprint Championships and the ECA European Junior Canoe Sprint Championships this year. He has recently been invited to train alongside Olympic champion Liam Heath - and his coach Eric Farrell - which has given him an insight into life competing at the elite level.
“Meeting Katherine Grainger was amazing – she’s done everything you can do in a sport and gone on to achieve all her goals and that’s inspiring,” said Daniel. “This gives me the confidence to go on and do exactly what I want to do. I’m being recognised for my efforts and that gives you a bit of grounding and allows you to realise you’re doing something substantial.”
Amy enjoyed a truly exceptional year as she took gold in the women’s 200m and 4x100m relay at the European Athletics Under-20s Championships. She also clocked a blistering time of 22.42 seconds in the 200m at the Mannheim Junior International to set a new Under-18s world record and go third in the UK’s all-time senior rankings.
“We know how much sacrifice and hard work we put in as athletes - so to come third and be recognised by SportsAid is incredible,” said Amy. “My family go through everything with me - the emotional times, the lows, the late nights. They cook me food and drive me because I don’t have a licence. It’s not just an award for me, it’s for my family and the whole support team that surrounds me.”
Celebrate the Next was attended by over 150 guests, including several Olympians and Paralympians who previously received SportsAid support, as the charity celebrated the achievements of young athletes throughout the last year while also raising funds to help support the next generation of British sport stars coming through.
NOTES TO EDITORS
- SportsAid is the only national charity (#1111612) of its kind – providing financial support, recognition and personal development opportunities to young British sportsmen and women aspiring to be the country's next Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth and world champions.
- HRH The Duchess of Cambridge became the Patron of SportsAid in 2013 and has met many young talented athletes helped by the charity, as well as Olympians and Paralympians who were previous beneficiaries, at fundraising events, training days and performance workshops.
- Each year, SportsAid will support over 1,000 athletes – the vast majority aged 12 to 18 – by providing a financial award to help with training and competition costs. This is often the first recognition an athlete receives from outside their support network and acts as a real motivational boost.
- These athletes are the UK's brightest sporting prospects. They are nominated to SportsAid by the national governing bodies of more than 60 sports. Most of them receive no funding, other than that from SportsAid, which means they rely heavily on their parents for support.
- The typical value of a SportsAid award is £1,000. The awards are generated through a combination of commercial partnerships, trust and charitable funds, and fundraising activities. The latter includes challenge events such as the London Marathon and RideLondon.
- SportsAid also manages the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) and Backing The Best (BTB) programme on behalf of Sport England. TASS helps athletes (16-plus) balance their sporting and academic careers, while BTB supports the most financially challenged young sports stars.
Here’s the list of the previous One-to-Watch Award winners since the charity launched the accolade in 2006….
2006 – Tom Daley (Diving)
2007 – Andrew Brown (Sailing)
2008 – Hollie Arnold (Para Athletics)
2009 – Jodie Williams (Athletics)
2010 – Harry Martin (Hockey)
2011 – Sally Brown (Para Athletics)
2012 – Courtney Tulloch (Gymnastics)
2013 – Amber Hill (Shooting)
2014 – Morgan Lake (Athletics)
2015 – Emma Wilson (Sailing)
2016 – Alex Yee (Triathlon)
2017 – Holly Dunford (Rowing)
2018 – Caroline Dubois (Boxing)
Here’s the criteria for the One-to-Watch Award….
· Must be recommended by their sport’s national governing body.
· Must be one of the 1,000+ 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.
Here’s the judging panel for the One-to-Watch Award….
· Chaired by Sarah Winckless MBE (Chef De Mission, Commonwealth Games England)
· Dame Katherine Grainger (Chair, UK Sport)
· Natasha Baker MBE (current Paralympic equestrian athlete)
· Nick Hope (Olympic and Paralympic Reporter, BBC Sport)
· Joslyn Hoyte-Smith (Chair, GB Olympians’ Association)
· Ian Braid (Managing Director, DOCIAsport)
· Alice Radford (Backing The Best Awards Manager, SportsAid)
· Adam Murphy (National Awards Manager, SportsAid)
Here’s further information on each of the top three….
17, from Newark, Nottinghamshire
SportsAid awards in 2018 (Nottingham Building Society) and 2019 (Mo Farah Foundation)
• Gold in the women’s 200m at the European Athletics Under-20s Championships 2019
• Gold in the women’s 4x100m at the European Athletics Under-20s Championships 2019
• Set women’s 200m world record at Under-18s level with a time of 22.42 seconds at the Bauhaus Gala 2019
18, from Pangbourne, Berkshire
SportsAid award in 2019 (Thompson Trust)
• Gold in the men’s K1M 200m at the ICF World Junior Canoe Sprint Championships 2019
• Gold in the men’s K1M 200m at the ECA European Junior Canoe Sprint Championships 2019
• Gold in the men’s K1M 200m and K2M 200m at the National Junior Championships 2019
15, from Little Clacton, Essex
SportsAid awards in 2017, 2018 (Girdlers’ Charitable Trust) and 2019 (Backing The Best)
• Bronze in the women’s S3 50m backstroke at the IPC World Para Swimming Championships 2019 (senior)
• Set one world and two European records at the British Para Swimming International 2019 (senior)
• Finished fifth, eighth and 10th in multiple classifications at the IPC World Para Swimming Championships 2019 (senior)
Here’s the seven athletes who made the top 10 alongside Amy, Daniel and Ellie this year….
Aaliyah Powell, 17, from Huddersfield – Taekwondo (shortlisted for a second consecutive year)
AbdAllah Eissa, 13, from Warwick – Squash
Antonia Bunyan, 19, from York – Goalball
Charlie Aldridge, 18, from Crieffs – Cycling
Enriko Itauma, 14, from Chatham – Boxing
Karim Chan, 19, from Coalville – Para Athletics
Katie Shanahan, 15, from Bishopbriggs – Swimming