Sports review of the year - In the champions' league

2nd January 2009 at 00:00
Roddy Mackenzie profiles some of Scotland's rising stars in a variety of sports from Nordic skiing to girls' football. They all have their hopes pinned on taking part in an Olympic, World or Commonwealth competition where they can shine for their country


Andrew Young

The Gordon Schools, Aberdeenshire

Andrew is tipped for a big future in the sport. Aged 16 and 6ft 4in tall, he has already achieved the World Cup qualifying standard and has been training with the Great Britain development squad in Norway and Sweden this winter.

His school has been fully supportive of his skiing and, although he missed the first World Cup race of the season in Finland at the end of November because of exams, he has been given December and February off school to concentrate on his skiing.

"He's something of an anomaly as, by my reckoning, he's the youngest male ever to have qualified for a World Cup race," says coach Al Dargie. "It's always a fine balancing act with sport and education at this age, but the school has been very good. Andrew works hard and has a great attitude."

As part of his training, Andrew (pictured above) attended a two-week Swedish training camp which has a 1.3km ski tunnel developed at a cost of Pounds 13 million.

He keeps fit during the summer by roller skiing at the Huntly Nordic Ski club and has a tough gym programme to keep his fitness going.

Andrew is targeting the World Junior Championships at the end of January and hopes to do well in the European Youth Olympics.


Calum Stewart

Golspie High, Highland

Calum, 15, has been a member of the Scottish Golf Union national Under-16 squad for the past three years. He cut his handicap dramatically in 2008 from 3.3 to 0.8, and was selected for the Scotland squad on four separate occasions.

He won the North of Scotland boys' matchplay competition and progressed through the Nick Faldo series, winning the Scottish Qualifying at the Carrick golf course and, last August, the regional final over the Roxburghe course. That meant he qualified for the final competition in northern Brazil, with golfers from more than 15 countries, where he finished a respectable ninth in the Under-15 competition.

His trip included a clinic with Faldo and he has been working hard over the winter on strength and conditioning with the Highland Institute of Sport.

"When he started as an 11-year-old (at the SGU Highland Academy in 2004), he was 4ft 6in and struggling to find a pair of golf shoes to fit him," says his coach Stuart Morrison, the professional at Tain Golf Club. "He's almost 6ft, size 12 shoes and is thumping the ball as well as anyone. He's the leader of the group rather than the young guy who's just started. To see the difference in development has been tremendous and, as his body changes, he's been able to evolve his golf with it."


Douglas Scott

Strathaven Academy, South Lanarkshire

There is no doubt about the highlight of 2008 for Douglas. In Pune, India, in the autumn, he struck gold, not once, but twice, at the Commonwealth Youth Games. He set a new Games' record and equalled his own personal best and Scottish junior record when he touched first in the 50-metre breaststroke final in a time of 29.54 seconds. His swim was all the more remarkable as he woke up on the morning of the race feeling unwell.

A member of the West of Scotland Institute of Sport, Douglas went on to win the 100-metre breaststroke in a time of 64.59 seconds, beating the Australians, Kenneth To and Liam Kennedy, into second and third places.

The 18-year-old trains nine times a week at the Aquabaths in East Kilbride and has two sessions a week in the gym at the Palace of Arts in Glasgow as part of the West Institute. Coached by Andy Figgins, he has the potential to win a medal at the full Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010. "Douglas has an amazing work ethic," Figgins stated. "I've worked with him for a few years and he was very much a one-stroke swimmer when we started. As part of a swimmer's long-term development, it's important to swim the other strokes and through hard work and determination, he has done a fantastic job."


Callum Skinner

James Gillespie's High, Edinburgh

Callum is keen to follow in the tracks of Chris Hoy and at 16, he is regarded as one of Scotland's best young talents. The recipient of the inaugural Chris Hoy Trophy in October - an award to acknowledge the most promising cycling talent in the country - he is set to make news for himself. After making his mark on the rugby field and getting to selection trials for Edinburgh for his age-group, he took up cycling four years ago and has rarely looked over his shoulder.

He was accepted into the Scottish Cycling Talent Team in 2007, which hooks into the Scottish Institute of Sport to give him the back-up he needs. He works under coach Marco Librizzi, a cyclist of note and, in 2008, set two new Scottish records (at 200 metres and 500 metres) for his age-group on the track. He also broke the British 200-metre record.

Callum trains daily but with no access to an indoor velodrome in Scotland, he has to travel regularly to Manchester and Cardiff. He is hoping to get on the Great Britain Olympic development programme, which would give him a further support network as he tries to carve his niche. Callum is targeting the London Olympics in 2012 and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow two years later, and the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010 if he makes progress in future months.


Lauren McMurchie

Perth Grammar, Perth and Kinross

The 16-year-old midfielder started out for her local side St Johnstone but signed for Glasgow City, the Scottish champions, last August. She showed potential from an early age and helped Perth Grammar win the SSFA Scottish Schoolgirls' Under-15 Shield in 2006.

Lauren played for Scotland's Under-17 team in its European Championship qualifying campaign in Croatia, and then played in the follow-up event in France. She played in all three matches - Scotland beat the Republic of Ireland 1-0 but then lost narrowly to Norway (0-1) and France (0-1).

At club level, she played for Glasgow City in its UEFA Women's Cup first qualifying round in Serbia and took part in all three matches in the next round in Norway. The Scottish champions acquitted themselves well against Frankfurt, the current European champions before going down 3-1.

Sheila Begbie, head of girls' and women's football at the Scottish Football Association, believes Lauren has all the attributes to do well and progress through the ranks to the full international team.

"Lauren is a centre midfield player and has great offensive qualities," she points out.

"She is a very creative player and is always active and wanting to be involved. Technically, she is very competent."


Alex Spence

Knox Academy, East Lothian

Alex has made a remarkable improvement in 2008 and captains his school along with his club side, Haddington Colts.

The 17-year-old was not part of the National Under-17 rugby programme in 2007-08 but played in the regional programme, where he continued to work on his game. He initially played as hooker but has changed his position to flanker and is now part of the Edinburgh Under-18 and the Scotland Under-18 national programme.

Grant McKelvey, senior performance development manager with Scottish Rugby, has been impressed with his progress. "He attended our national rugby camp at Struan as an Under-18 player and he excelled in all rugby activities, but also began to impress as a leader and role model for his peers and younger players," he explains.

"As part of this camp, we had input in team-building, strength and conditioning and nutrition."

Alex excelled in all three and it was obvious that his lifestyle management was of the highest order. Because of his improvement and his excellent club and school performances, he has now gained selection into the Edinburgh and National Under-18 programme and again is setting the standards for application, commitment and focus. "His improvement in less than 12 months is remarkable and is testament to this."


Alice Keddie

St George's School for Girls, Edinburgh

The 12-year-old, who describes herself as an aggressive baseliner, has had a breakthrough year. She has represented Great Britain at 12-and-under level and won the singles and doubles titles at the British National Clay Court Championships last May in her age-group. She was also a semi- finalist at the British Grass Court Championships later in the year.

Alice is starting to establish herself in the older age-groups and was runner-up in singles and doubles at the Waverley Junior Open at Under-14 level. She also reached the quarter-finals of the Under-16 event.

Coached by Mark Walker at Tennis Scotland's National Academy, she achieved some note-worthy results abroad in 2008. In December, she reached the semi-finals of a Tennis Europe event in Stavanger, Norway, which showed she has made excellent progress. In the singles she defeated Nerma Caluk (Bosnia), the third seed, 6-3, 6-4 to earn a semi-final clash but then lost to the favourite, Ireland's Sinead Lohan.

Currently ranked number two in Britain for her age-group, behind Leicestershire's Katie Boulter, she is also ranked 44th at Under-14 level but that will improve as she plays more events at the older age-group in 2009. Big things are expected of her in the new year.


Kay Wheatley

Prestwick Academy, South Ayrshire

A fourth-year pupil, Kay's volleyball has come on by leaps and bounds over the past year. After playing in the Junior National League and then Senior National League for the South Ayrshire club, she was selected to play in the 2007 UK School Games. Kay (pictured opposite) was in the South Ayrshire team which won the Scottish Junior National League last April and played in the final of the Scottish Plate for her club.

Spotted by Great Britain coach Lorne Sawula, she was invited to a Great Britain training camp in Sheffield, where she was the youngest Scot to attend. She was asked back for a week-long training camp with the GB team, culminating in a match against Sweden in July. She went on to represent Scotland West at the UK School Games and was selected to play for Scotland's Under-19 squad to face England in the Christmas internationals at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow.

"Kay is very dedicated at training, has a very good physical profile for volleyball and is aiming to be involved in the GB programme for 2012 and beyond," says club coach John Orr. "She shows a desire to progress and succeed in her chosen sport and happily commits to the travel and effort to be part of the junior Scotland squad and in making her first entry into GB squads."

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