Sporting stars of the future warm up for Olympic contest

School Games will be the last test event before London 2012

Richard Vaughan

In just 84 days' time it will play host to sporting heroes including Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and British heptathlete Jessica Ennis. But next week the Olympic Stadium will be invaded by a younger set of elite athletes.

In the last major event at the Olympic Park before London 2012, hundreds of the UK's best young sportspeople will take part in the School Games in front of thousands of spectators. In this final test event, participants will compete in a range of sports from athletics, swimming and gymnastics to fencing, cycling and wheelchair basketball.

Among the competitors is Ellie Greenwood, who will be taking part in the girls' hammer throw event. The Year 11 pupil from Hipperholme and Lightcliffe School in Halifax, West Yorkshire, said she was already nervous.

"There is quite a lot of pressure competing in front of so many people, and it is quite nerve-racking competing on such a big stage," said the 15-year-old. "It is the last event to be held there before the Olympics and the likes of Usain Bolt being there, which does make it exciting."

Ellie is one of the country's best competitors of her age in her discipline. She comes from a family of athletes, regularly competing for her local athletics club, the Halifax Harriers.

"There are quite a few talented girls competing from Ireland and Scotland, so I am hoping to finish in the top five," she said.

Taking place on 6-9 May, the event is the fourth and final level of a year-long tournament. The first level started with competitions between pupils at the same schools. The second level involved competitions between schools, and then the tournament progressed to a district and county level.

Ann Henderson, Hipperholme's sports partnership development manager, said that the athletes taking part in the event could be the British sports stars of the future.

"Once you get to level 4 of the School Games, it is really for those students of school age that have been identified by national governing bodies," she said. "They will be part of some talent pathway in their school.

"It is an absolutely fantastic opportunity for all the young people taking part, regardless of whether they are competing, volunteering or just supporting their friends and family."

As well as the athletes, the School Games will be attended by hundreds of student volunteers, who will help to keep the event moving.

More than #163;128 million has been provided by the government and through National Lottery funding to stage the School Games over the next three years, and it is hoped that the tournament will be held at the Olympic Park at regular intervals.

John Steele, chief executive officer of the Youth Sport Trust, said: "The Sainsbury's 2012 School Games is a very special sporting occasion for young people in this incredible year for British sport. We hope that all those taking part in the games will come away from the event with memories that will stay with them forever."

Sporting figures

1,600 - Athletes taking part in the School Games

12 - Sports represented across the four-day competition

6 - Events for disabled competitors

35,000 - Spectators expected on the last day of the games, 9 May

700 - Coaches, volunteers and officials

4 - Olympic venues being used

84 - Days to go until the London 2012 opening ceremony.

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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