Heptathlete Niamh Emerson has undoubtedly enjoyed a year to remember, and her 2016 could get even better after being nominated for SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award.
Having finished 13th in the heptathlon at last year’s World Youth Championships in Colombia, Niamh was keen to progress on the big stage this season.
And the 17-year-old Belper School pupil did exactly that, winning bronze at the European Youth Championships in Tblisi in July, amassing a total of 5,919 points along the way.
That total saw her set another new British youth heptathlon record, having already beaten the mark set by two-time Olympic Katarina Johnson-Thompson when scoring 5,815 points at the Meeting Internacional Arona Pruebas Combinadas in Tenerife a month earlier.
Niamh’s success in Georgia saw her named SportsAid’s Athlete of the Month for July, but now the teenager is in line for an even more prestigious award.
SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award was launched in 2006 with double Olympic medallist Tom Daley the inaugural winner, with six of the 10 recipients competing at the Rio Games this summer.
And Niamh is now in line to join such illustrious company as one of 10 nominees selected from over 1,100 rising British stars supported by SportsAid across more than 60 different sports.
The winner will be presented at the charity’s annual SportsBall on November 24 and Niamh admits taking the gong home would be the perfect end to a dream season.
“It is really good to be nominated for such an amazing prize, and I had no idea such big names like Tom Daley had won it before,” the Amber Valley AC star said. “Getting recognition is really good and it has been such a good year for me – this would be the icing on the cake.
“SportsAid’s support has been a massive help from the financial side of things. But it’s also inspiring because people are investing time and money in you and it encourages you to keep training hard.
“I am really happy with how I have done this season and I had such a good indoor season where I got a new high jump PB that I wasn’t expecting at all, and that set me up and gave me the confidence to carry that over into the summer.
“It was really amazing to break the British heptathlon record, and to do it twice was unbelievable. I didn’t expect it all at first but everything went perfect and it was actually Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s coach who told me I could break it!”
It isn’t just her peers that Niamh has been showing what she can do as she won the women’s high jump at the Loughborough International back in May, as well as finishing third at both the Senior Indoor and Outdoor British Championships.
On each occasion she was up against Morgan Lake, who went on to reach the final of the event at Rio 2016 – and also won the SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award in 2014.
But while Jessica Ennis-Hill, who won heptathlon gold at London 2012 and silver in Rio, has since retired, Niamh insists she is no rush to move up the ladder. “It is always so inspiring to compete against the seniors and to beat a record set by Katarina is great as she has been to two Olympics,” she added.
“I look at Katarina and Jessica Ennis-Hill and I think it would be amazing to be like them but I know I have a long way to go so we will see what happens. I need to take it step-by-step and next year I am looking at the European Under-20 Championships in Italy – that’s the main goal.”
The winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award will be revealed at the charity’s 40th anniversary SportsBall in London on Thursday 24 November. All funds raised from the SportsBall helps to support the next generation of British athletes. Please visit the SportsBall website for tickets.
PHOTO CREDIT - Mark Shearman