This evening in London, 16-year-old windsurfer Emma Wilson from Christchurch in Dorset has been named by Sir Steven Redgrave as the winner of SportsAid’s coveted One-to-Watch Award 2015.
With former recipients including diver Tom Daley, sprinter Jodie Williams and Paralympian Hollie Arnold, Emma said it is an incredible honour to see her name alongside some of her idols.
“I’ve watched them for so many years on TV and hopefully I can become one of them,” she told SportsAid.
“It’s an amazing feeling. Out of all the amazing athletes put forward, I can’t believe that I’ve been chosen. It’s crazy. Windsurfing’s not that big so I really can’t believe it. To be recognised for my achievements out of so many other great achievements, I really can’t believe it.”
The award follows an exceptional 12 months for the young sailor who in 2014 won two gold medals at the youth world championships, one in the under-19 age group when she was still just 15 years old, with a performance described by coach Leo McCallin as one of the best he had ever seen in the sport.
“Last year winning the youth world championships was my biggest achievement so far and this ranks almost alongside it,” Emma added. “I just can’t believe it.”
More success has followed this year for Emma, winning a silver medal at the 2015 youth world windsurfing championships in Poland in July and the Yachting Journalists’ Association’s Young Sailor of the Year Award back in January.
Now preparing for the ISAF Youth World Sailing Championships, which take place in Malaysia next month, Emma was sadly unable to accept the award in person tonight due to ill health but had one of the nation's most successful sportswomen, cycling legend Victoria Pendleton, accept it on her behalf.
Emma says despite the frustration of having to take time out from training recently, she is looking forward to getting back on the water soon.
“I go to the ISAF youth worlds in December and that’s my big competition for this year,” she explained. “Next year I’ll do some more senior World Cup events and then it all builds up in the four-year cycle to 2020 and hopefully I can go to that Olympics."
She says the extra £1,250 of funding from SportsAid that comes with the award will be a big help as she continues to focus on her long-term aim of representing Great Britain at the Olympic Games. Emma is also benefitting from the charity’s partnership with Jaguar Land Rover having been selected for the Jaguar Land Rover Academy of Sport this year which recognises, celebrates and inspires the very best of British sporting talent.
“The funding [from SportsAid] is incredible, it helps so much, for my parents who fund me a lot and now I’m on the British sailing team it’s all come together so I can go to more events and get the experience.”
The runner-up for tonight’s One-to-Watch Award, who joined Steve Redgrave and Victoria Pendleton on stage at the SportsBall in front of 650 SportsAid supporters, is rower Joshua Armstrong. Joshua is 17 and from Glasgow and this summer helped Great Britain to its first ever junior men’s quad title at the world championships in Brazil. He said making it to the final three for the One-to-Watch Award, which earns him an extra £750 of support from SportsAid having already benefited from SportsAid Scotland's partnership with the Moffat Trust, has given him a big boost.
“It shows that my achievements are being noticed,” he said, “which makes all of the hard, cold mornings worth it. 2015 was always about being selected for the world championships in Rio and then putting myself in the position to go for gold. The elation I felt after winning the final is indescribable.”
In third place is another exceptionally talented young athlete: sprinter James Arnott from Plymouth who is one of 20 SportsAid athletes to receive support from the Elton John Sports Fund this year.
The 18 year old competed at his sport’s junior world championships this summer, the IWAS World Junior Games, where he won a gold medal in the T46 200m and a silver medal in the T47 100m. He also had the rare opportunity to compete against the world’s best at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium during this summer’s Anniversary Games in London. He said the recognition and £500 of additional funding that comes from being a One-to-Watch Award finalist will help him achieve his ambition of representing Great Britain at the senior level.
“It really makes me feel that my work hasn't gone unnoticed,” James said. “Over the past season I have had a couple of international encounters which are always a massive highlight for me with the excitement of going abroad and representing your country. The support from SportsAid has done so much for me over the past year.”
The One-to-Watch Award is presented every year at SportsAid’s SportsBall to recognise the achievements of the country’s most promising young athletes who rely on the charity’s financial support to become Britain’s next Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. In 2013 the award was presented by SportsAid’s patron Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.
The One-to-Watch Award criteria are as follows: