Aaliyah Powell became Great Britain’s youngest senior World Championship medallist in May and her impressive achievements have seen her nominated for SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award. Huddersfield’s Aaliyah, 17, won the Junior World -46kg title in 2018 and competed in front of a home crowd at the Manchester Arena to claim -53kg bronze.
The taekwondo practitioner also claimed gold at the Luxembourg Open later in the year while Aaliyah has stepped up from the Development Squad to the World Class Performance Programme thanks to the support of SportsAid. SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award was launched in 2006 with double Olympic medallist and diving world champion Tom Daley the inaugural winner.
Paralympic champion Hollie Arnold MBE claimed the accolade in 2008 with para-athlete Sally Brown, hockey player Harry Martin, heptathlete Morgan Lake and sprinter Jodie Williams among the previous victors. Aaliyah is now in line to join such illustrious company as one of 10 nominees selected from around 1,000 rising British stars supported by SportsAid across more than 60 different sports.
Dame Katherine Grainger, Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, and five-time Paralympic champion Natasha Baker are among the panel of judges for the annual award. Aaliyah believes representing taekwondo is important and was delighted to be recognised by SportsAid again after being nominated for the award 12 months ago.
“Being nominated is something I am proud of, I find it difficult to accept responsibility for things that I do, and I don’t think I deserve them,” Aaliyah said. “But when I do get recognised it reminds that I am doing good things and on the right track. I’m very honoured and proud to be nominated for the second time.
“My highest point this season was definitely the World Championships, it was my first senior competition and for it to be the worlds was pretty nerve-wracking but exciting. I wanted to perform my best and because it was at home, my family were watching and I wanted to do well.
“At first I was quite upset because I had lost and hadn’t done nearly as well as I wanted to but afterwards everyone reassured me. Once I got the medal, I felt a lot happier about it and prouder. It’s always cool to be the first person to do something that no-one has done before and that’s something I’m very proud of now.”
SportsAid, who offer funding and recognition to young athletes at a crucial, early stage in their careers, began supporting Aaliyah back in 2017. The 17-year-old knows how important education is and completed her triumph in Manchester while coping with taking her GCSEs.
“It was quite tough because I did my GCSEs around the World Championships, I did a few exams the week of the competition," Aaliyah, who is supported by SportsAid through the Backing The Best programme this year, added.
“Then the day after I got my medal, I had a GCSE the next morning and it’s been difficult to balance training, revising and doing work but it’s important for me to get my education. My dream is to be Olympic champion and have a medal at every major competition – European, World and Olympic level.
“I’ve moved to the Academy now and it’s very different to before. The biggest thing was moving to Manchester and starting to do everything by yourself. I’m training five times a week instead of two weekends a month and the intensity that the athletes train at here is a lot higher.
“It’s great being around them because they’re very knowledgeable, approachable and training around them makes you want to push yourself further in training.”
The winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award will be revealed at the charity’s Celebrate the Next event, sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, in London on Tuesday 19 November. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk for further information.