Three is the magic number for Craig Boardman, it is his world ranking and the number of World Championship golds he won this year. So it is little wonder the Thruxton wheelchair racer has been shortlisted for SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award.
Craig won the T34 100m, 200m and 400m races at the World Junior Para Athletic Championships in Switzerland three months ago, setting a new European 100m record of 15.25 seconds in the process. The 17-year-old is number one in Europe for the T34 100m, beating athletes twice his age, and the only way is up for Craig now that he has teamed up with new coach Richard Chiassaro – a Rio Paralympian.
SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award was launched in 2006 with double Olympic medallist Tom Daley the inaugural winner and five fellow recipients competing at the Rio Games, so being shortlisted is the perfect way for Craig to cap off a vintage year. “I felt so happy when I was shortlisted because I do a lot of training and I’m glad it’s not gone unnoticed, I’m glad it’s all paid off,” said Craig.
The Harlow Athletic Club racer, who receives his SportsAid support from Realbuzz, added: “It’s probably been one of the best years of my life, I got a European record and in one training session with Richard Chiassaro, I went faster than the top speed I’ve ever done.
“I don’t know any of the other athletes’ stories, but I think I was shortlisted because I went from being nothing in the world or UK to being number three and a record holder in my first two years of doing it. The reason I’m happy about it is because it meant my work was noticed, it takes a lot to wake up in the morning and go and train, even when it’s raining, so it’s good to know that people are watching.”
Craig is 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, whether he wins or not, the future is bright for this Hampshire teenager.
“I’m going to Australia for pre-season training with some of the other athletes like Hannah Cockroft and my new coach Richard Chiassaro,” he added. “I train with him in Essex, he’s a Paralympic athlete so me and him are going to go to the Europeans and hopefully be the first coach and athlete to win gold medals.
“We take it one thing at a time, I’ve got the Europeans coming up and, because I got the European record, I’m hoping to prove myself there. It’s winter training now, so we can’t really train outside that much because you cause a lot of injuries to your arms when you slip. I bought a new pair of rollers with my SportsAid funding - that helped me so I can train inside when it’s raining.”
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.