Cassie-Ann Pemberton has been busy building up her modelling portfolio during lockdown - but it's the young Birmingham sprinter's performances on the track which have garnered most of the attention in her short career so far.
The 19-year-old - who works part-time for London-based agency W Model Management - stumbled across her talent for running aged 12, having attended an after-school athletics club simply to support her teacher.
After initially pursuing the middle distances with Birchfield Harriers, Cassie soon realised she was better suited to sprinting and first took real notice of her ability when she claimed English Schools 200m silver at Under-15s level.
A quick rise in the ranks followed, and Cassie donned the GB vest for the first time at the European Athletics Under-18s Championships in Hungary back in 2018, where she finished agonisingly short of the podium places in the 100m.
A year later at the European Athletics Under-20s Championships in Sweden, Cassie claimed gold medal glory as part of GB’s 4x100m relay team – and she insists success on the international stage has fuelled a belief she can now go on to make her mark in the senior ranks.
“I was about 15 when I started to notice I had potential, and being selected to compete internationally two years ago was a huge boost for me,” said Cassie. “I’d seen similar events on TV, but you don’t understand how amazing it is until you get there.
“I went to Hungary not knowing what to expect, but I won my heat and my semi-final and at that point I realised I was in a position to challenge for a medal. Coming away with fourth was bittersweet, but I think that competition taught me a lot.
“I learnt how to deal with the pressure of representing your country, and it was brilliant to spend time away with the team and get to know everyone. Lining up against all the other countries was amazing, and I think it really motivated me to keep wanting more.
“The Under-20s Europeans was an insane experience, and to win gold with three other girls who I get on really well with was incredible. Being around a successful team is really inspiring, and hopefully I can start climbing the senior ladder now.”
The COVID-19 pandemic provided a huge blow to Cassie as she saw her hopes of challenging for medals in her last year at Under-20s level disappear. A step up to the senior stage is on the horizon in 2021 and she recorded a new personal best over 60m at the Loughborough Indoor Elite meeting in February.
Having maintained her hectic training schedule as best she can despite the gyms being shut for large parts of the year, the former Sutton Coldfield College student made waves on social media last April as the mastermind behind a video collaboration with her fellow female British athletes that so far has over 480,000 views on Twitter.
Her burgeoning social media presence caught the attention of W Model Management last year, and Cassie - who completed her studies in the summer - is enjoying exploring the industry.
She said: “The big challenge for me last year was to compete at the World Athletics Under-20s Championships in Kenya, but they had to be postponed and I’ll be too old this year.
“It’s been hard as I got injured and I’d not actually competed at all in 2020. But everyone’s in the same boat, and the thought of getting back out there this year is the one thing that’s been getting me through these tough times.
“Besides binging Netflix and doing some drawing, I’ve been trying to establish myself as a model over the past few months.
“I’m going to think about further education over the next couple of years, but my main priority at the moment is athletics, and I’ll see where the modelling goes. It’s mainly work for sports brands with a bit of fashion as well. It’s a good opportunity and it’s been good fun so far.”
Cassie’s bid to challenge at the top level of international athletics was aided by her selection for SportsAid funding in 2019, and she has recently benefited from additional support as a result of a new partnership between the charity and Gateley - the leading legal and professional services group.
Having already travelled across Europe for athletics competitions, Cassie knows there are a number of financial and logistical costs involved with following in the footsteps of the likes of reigning world 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith.
And as she bids to reach the heights of SportsAid alumni such as Dina and Jessica Ennis-Hill, Cassie also acknowledges the psychological benefits of being backed by such a prominent organisation.
She added: “SportsAid funding has been a huge help because it’s taken some of the pressure off me and my family. My mum and dad have always been the ones to take me to training and to competitions, and without them - and my amazing coach Sharon Morris - I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“The money has paid for travel to meets and warm-weather camps, and now I’m moving up to senior level I’ll be training more often and there’ll be more costs associated with accommodation and equipment.
“Knowing that SportsAid believe in you definitely keeps you motivated. Seeing some of the names that have been in my position before is really inspiring and it makes you feel like you can eventually get to where they are now.”
Gateley is a legal and professional services group working with forward thinkers and new talent, in both business and in sport. They are proudly partnering with SportsAid to give additional support to promising young athletes across the country in a variety of sports.