On a pathway to stardom

24th December 2004 at 00:00
Tennis player Andy Murray hit the headlines this year when he won the junior men's US Open and joined Tim Henman in the Davis Cup squad. So, what does next year hold? Roddy Mackenzie has an eye on the rising stars


Kim Skinner

Larbert High, Falkirk

This Commonwealth Youth Games double silver medallist is an athlete with a big future.

Kim won silver at the games in Bendigo, Australia, this month in the pole vault, clearing 3.60m, and just missed out on gold in the medley relay when South Africa edged out Scotland by 1.29 seconds.

A member of the Scottish Institute of Sport, the 17-year-old is the British pole vault champion in her age group since winning at the AAA championships last summer with a clearance of 3.65m. Her personal bests are 3.70m outdoors and 3.71m indoors.

Kim won the British Schools' under-17 pole vault in Chelmsford in July with a clearance of 3.50m - 30cm ahead of her nearest rival, Hannah Abraham of Wales - as she defended the title she won in Cardiff the previous year.

Coached by Eamon Fitzgerald, she took up pole vaulting only four years ago.


Gareth Lodge

Portobello High, Edinburgh

The 17-year-old point guard is emerging as one of the brightest talents in Scottish basketball. He has played for Scotland at junior level and was a key member of the team that played the Americans at their own game in the summer and won three matches out of six in New Jersey.

Coach Tom Campbell reckons Gareth is presently the best in the country at his age and has the potential to win senior honours.

He is already part of the City of Edinburgh Kings' senior squad, but has seen limited court time with the Scottish champions. He recently played for the final three minutes of the top-of-the-league clash with Falkirk and is highly rated by the club.

He also is making a valuable contribution to the growth of the game in Scotland, putting in time to help run events.


Janine Dickie

Selkirk High, Scotttish Borders

Scotland's under-16 canoeing champion and the Scottish schools under-18 champion is only 14. Janine is also ranked Britain's number one at under-14 level and has spent time training with the British junior squad in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and France.

She was short-listed for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award (won by tennis star Andy Murray) and the Scottish Sportsaid Foundation Sports Personality of the Year award (won by trampolinist Caitlin Thomson) and was named Junior Sports Personality of the Year by the Border Telegraph.

Janine, who has been canoeing since she was 8, comes from a family of canoeists. Her brother Kevin won the Scottish schools title in 1997 and her father, Allan, also paddles, He underlines the parental commitment required to become the best in age group. "We are away 30 weekends of the year at events and there is a lot of travelling involved, up to Grandtully in Perthshire or down to the national watersports centre in Nottingham," he explains. "We bought a new car about 18 months ago and it's already done 60,000 miles."


Ross Stott

Morgan Academy, Dundee

The 16-year-old younger brother of Niall Stott, who represented Britain at the Olympic Games in Athens, is regarded as a big talent in hockey. He has been playing since the age of 5, almost always for above his age group. He first played for an under-18 team when he was 11.

Ross is a member of the Tayside and Fife Institute of Sport, getting expert training and support services. He is the youngest hockey player to receive such back-up.

Having already become a regular in Dundee Wanderers' first-team in the Scottish League, and a member of Scotland's under-18 squad, although still eligible to play at under-16 level, Ross has impressed coaches by showing maturity and determination beyond his years. He is regarded as a strong team player who trains above and beyond the call of duty.

He recently won the RAF Careers Player of the Tournament at a youth competition even though his team did not reach the final.


Caitlin Thomson

Auchmuty High, Fife

The 15-year-old Scottish under-18 trampolining champion has been involved in the competitive sport for eight years and her achievements this year won her the Scottish Sportsaid Foundation Sports Personality of the Year award.

A member of the Flyers Trampoline Club based at the Fife Institute in Glenrothes, she is coached by Janice Grubb and has worked hard to raise her profile.

This year she was runner-up at the Scottish senior trampolining competition in Perth, won the under-18 girls' bronze medal at the British championships in Birmingham in July, won a silver in the youth trials for the European championships and won a junior gold medal at the world synchro trampolining championships with an English girl.


Neil McKenna

Mearns Castle High, East Renfrewshire

The 15-year-old son of former Scotland volleyball international Jim McKenna (75 caps from 1976 to 1990) has recently been brought into the Scotland junior training programme.

Neil, a swing-hitter, plays in the Scottish League third division for Kilmarnock II. He has played in the first division for Kilmarnock when the first team has been afflicted by injuries and has not looked out of place.

Standing 6ft 3in, he has all the attributes to do well in the game, says Scotland coach Tommy Dowens. "He has a great attitude and has a natural touch for volleyball, like his father.

"I have no doubt that if he continues to work hard, he will be a player who will represent Scotland at full international level," Mr Dowens says.


Jenna O'Neill

Greenock Academy, Inverclyde

This 17-year-old was another medal winning member of Scotland's Commonwealth Youth Championships team. Jenna won a bronze medal in the 58kg event in Australia earlier this month.

She has had a solid year. Having left her club, the Inverclyde Ironmasters, she has shown she can still achieve results by working independently.

Assisted by Stuart Yule, a strength and conditioning coach at the Scottish Institute of Sport, she is one of the most promising weightlifters in Britain.

Jenna has set records at under-18, under-23 and senior levels and in October finished fourth in the Fulda Cup in Austria, competing against 14 other countries. Having also won the British schools' weightlifting title and been voted Inverclyde's young sportswoman of the year, she is on course to compete at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Jenna is hoping to study medicine but would like to attend a university where she can pursue her weightlifting ambitions.


andy Murray, 17, not only made the back pages of newspapers this year but also the front pages. He gained national coverage after winning the men's singles title at the Junior US Tennis Open in September, beating the Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky in the final. He was the first Briton to win a junior title at the event.

Andy was also selected for a Davis Cup squad this season and has already drawn comparisons with Tim Henman.

Two weeks ago, his success won him another accolade when he was named the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.

Brought up in Dunblane, Andy has played tennis since he was 3, but only started taking it more seriously when he was 12. He left Dunblane High to spend the past two years in Barcelona completing his education at the Sanchez-Casal Academy, where he receives tennis coaching while continuing his studies.

He trains six days a week. His coach, Pato Alvarez, believes his protege can break into the world top 100 by this time next year (he is currently ranked around the 500 mark).

In 2005, Andy will defend his US Open title and play in Junior Wimbledon and the Junior French Open. His mother, Judy, has recently given up her position as the Scottish national tennis coach to help him.


Watch out for Lorna Smith. This Gleniffer High, Paisley, pupil has had a memorable year, winning medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Australia at the start of December to follow up her successes at the European Junior Championships in Belgium in July.

A member of the Ren 96 club, she specialises in backstroke and individual medley. In Bendigo, she was Scotland's top performer, winning gold in the 100m backstroke and 200m individual medley, silver in the 200m backstroke and bronze medals in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay and 4 x 100m medley relay.

At the European Junior Championships, just weeks before her 16th birthday, she was a creditable fifth in the 100m backstroke and won bronze in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay.

Lorna achieved her first break in swimming when she won a silver medal at the Scottish Schools' Championships for 50m butterfly and has since gone on to set Scottish senior records in 100m and 200m backstroke and 1,500m freestyle, as well as holding junior records at 100m and 200m backstroke, 200m and 400m individual medley and 800m and 1,500m freestyle. Now she has the Scottish Short Course Championships in Glasgow in April to aim for as well as 2006 Commonwealth Games qualifying times.

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