Holly Dunford’s sensational 2017 could be set to get even better after the Tadworth rowing starlet (positioned right in the photo above) was shortlisted for SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award. The 18-year-old, a pupil at Heathside School in Weybridge, claimed gold in the women’s double sculls at the World Junior Rowing Championships in August.
She and partner Zoe Adamson edged Germany in a thrilling race, winning by just over a second, at the championships in Trakai, Lithuania. The victory, Holly said, was a moment she will cherish forever and huge shot in the arm for her as the Molesey Boat Club aims to establish herself a senior athlete.
“It was pretty amazing, it still hasn’t really sunk in yet but it’s something I’m going to remember for a long time,” said Holly, who also set new British under-18 women’s records on the ergometer for both 5km and 2km distances in the past 12 months. "The Germans were coming back quickly at us, but we both thought we had worked so hard to get ourselves back into that position that we weren’t going to let them take it at the end.
“It was pretty surreal – you always think that it could happen but you never really think that it will. It wasn’t until they were giving us the medal, we thought, ‘yeah, this is actually happening’. It showed that the whole season paid off – all the hard work I put in even in previous years is coming together now.
SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award was launched in 2006 with double Olympic medallist Tom Daley the inaugural winner. In addition to Daley, five of the other previous recipients of the award represented Great Britain across the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016.
Holly, who benefits from receiving financial assistance from SportsAid, is now in line to join such illustrious company as one of 10 nominees selected from over 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 award.
The winner will be presented at the charity’s annual SportsBall on November 23 and Holly couldn’t be more shocked to see her name on the shortlist. “It’s a confidence boost knowing other people are aware of the hard work I’ve put in,” she said. “SportsAid has definitely helped me pay for competitions – we went to Munich earlier on in the season and it helped cover the cost if that so it meant I could go out there and race.
“It was the first international experience I had and it helped me understand how tough the worlds were going to be. If I hadn’t had that, I may have had a few more days to get used to the standard of racing.”
The winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award will be revealed at the charity’s annual SportsBall in London on Thursday 23 November. All the funds raised from the SportsBall help to support the next generation of British athletes. Please visit www.sportsball.org.uk for ticket information.