Para-Swimming sensation Ellie Challis, 15, from Little Clacton in Essex, was named as the winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award at the charity’s Celebrate the Next event yesterday evening (19 November).
She was presented with the award, previously won by the likes of Tom Daley and Hollie Arnold, by Dame Katherine Grainger after an outstanding year which saw her win bronze in the women’s S3 50m backstroke at the IPC World Para Swimming Championships and set one world and two European records at the British Para Swimming International Meet.
Ellie edged out canoeist Daniel Atkins,
18, and sprinter Amy Hunt, 17, as they finished in second and third
respectively. The remaining top 10 shortlisted athletes - taekwondo
practitioner Aaliyah Powell, squash player AbdAllah Eissa, goalball athlete
Antonia Bunyan, cyclist Charlie Aldridge, boxer Enriko Itauma, para long jumper
Karim Chan and swimmer Katie Shanahan - also had their achievements
“I was so shocked when I heard my name read out as the winner of SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award,” said Ellie, who has been helped by SportsAid through the Backing The Best programme, at Sea Containers House. “It's blown me away to hear about all the amazing achievements of the other athletes and then realise I'm the one who has won the award!”
The One-to-Watch Award has gained a strong reputation for identifying the best up-and-coming prospects in Britain since its launch in 2006. Previous winners have already amassed 43 senior medals from Olympic and Paralympic Games, World and European Championships, as well as Commonwealth Games, to establish themselves as household names.
“SportsAid is really important because travelling around the country costs a lot,” added Ellie. “Without it [SportsAid], it would be very difficult to do what we do. Europeans and Tokyo 2020 are high on my priority list for next year – the aim is to qualify. I’m going to go to qualifiers and then just get out what I can from the experience, and if I qualify then great!”
Each of the top 10 shortlisted athletes will be provided with a kit allowance by a global sportswear brand that is in partnership with SportsAid, in addition to the top three receiving a a cash boost, as Ellie is awarded £1,000 and Daniel and Amy are each given £750.
SportsAid alumna Katherine was delighted to be able to present the One-to-Watch Award to Ellie at the Celebrate the Next event and predicted a bright future for each of the top 10. Katherine is Great Britain’s most decorated female Olympian having won one gold and four silver medals across Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016. She is now the Chair of UK Sport.
“The One-to-Watch Award is fabulous because we get to have a look at what the future might hold,” said Katherine. “I’ve been on the judging panel a few times now and every year it’s so hard. We really struggle to make the decision – they are outstanding athletes who are as young as 13 and have already had international success.
“SportsAid is often the first hand to reach across that gap to say they believe in you and your future,” continued Katherine. “That confidence that SportsAid gives - and the extra support and recognition - makes a huge difference to the lives of young people at that point of their career. It is quite game-changing for those who have made the top 10.”
The top 10 shortlisted athletes were selected from around 1,000 rising British stars supported by SportsAid across more than 60 different sports in 2019. Each year, athletes are nominated by their sport’s governing body on the strength of their talent and potential, as well as their recent achievements, before a judging panel identifies the winner, second and third place.
Celebrate the Next was attended by over 150 guests, including several Olympians and Paralympians who previously received SportsAid support, as the charity celebrated the achievements of young athletes throughout the last year while also raising funds to help support the next generation of British sport stars coming through.
For further information on SportsAid and the One-To Watch award visit their website here.