Young athletes in full swing

7th January 2011 at 00:00
In 2010, Scottish stars of the future were working hard to show their promise. We catch up on their progress in our sports review of the year


Sara Hamilton

Mackie Academy, Aberdeenshire

The Stonehaven swimmer's highlight of 2010 was getting to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, where she was the youngest member of the Scottish swimming team at the age of 16. Not only did she gain selection, but she went on to reach the semi-finals of both the 50m freestyle and the 100m freestyle. She narrowly missed out on a medal in the 4x100m freestyle, where the Scottish quartet came fifth.

Sara started swimming at the age of nine and went on to join South Aberdeenshire Swimming Club. She showed her potential by winning a bronze medal in the 50m freestyle at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, India, in 2008, setting a British age-group record in the process.

In 2010, she won her first Great Britain call-up when she competed in the European Junior Championships in Finland, where she helped the team win a silver medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay. Competing at the Olympic Games in 2012 is now a realistic target.


Ben Miller

Kinlochleven High, Highland

The teenage cross-country mountain biker was originally intent on making a name for himself in football, but gave up the game to concentrate on cycling after surprising himself with his progress.

After beating many of the adults he raced against when he first took up the sport more seriously a couple of years ago, he started to compete in Scottish national races. Consistently finishing in the top three, he was encouraged to go further afield and went on to finish third in the British Championships in Innerleithen in 2009, and then won a leg of the British Mountain Biking Series in Plymouth later that year.

Ben, who is supported by the Highland Institute of Sport, was selected for British Cycling's Olympic Talent Team last year, a squad that targets medals at the 2016 Olympic Games. He has also set his sights on the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 but he knows that, based in Duror near Appin, he has to travel more than most to competitions to increase his profile.


Jamie Henderson

Thurso High, Highland

Jamie knew when he first picked up a squash racket that this was a game he wanted to play. After playing on the Scottish badminton circuit, he switched to squash with immediate results, reaching the semi-finals of the Scottish National Championships at Under-15 level.

He joined Thurso Squash Club at the age of 12 and has made rapid progress. He won his County Championship at Under-15 and Under-19 level and his play earned him recognition at national level.

He was selected for the Heriot-Watt University National Squash Academy, under national coach Roger Flynn, where he trains once a month, including six weekend training sessions, and uses the Highland Institute of Sport for strength and conditioning.

The 16-year-old is currently ranked third in Scotland at Under-17 level and fourth at Under-19 level, and is looking to broaden his horizons further in 2011.


Grace Reid

George Watson's College, Edinburgh

There is no question 2010 was the breakthrough year for Grace. At 14, she was the youngest member of the Scotland team for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, after surprising herself by finishing fourth in the three-metre springboard event at the European Championships in Budapest in August, her first major senior international event. In 2010, she also won silver and bronze at the European Junior Championships.

At the Commonwealth Games, Grace was seventh-best qualifier but went on to finish with a personal best of 303.15 in the three-metre springboard, the first British junior to break the 300-point barrier.

Due to the refurbishment of the Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh, she has to make a 300-mile trip to Leeds twice a month to use the facilities there.

"It's a huge honour to have the next Commonwealth Games in Scotland," she says, "and I am just going to keep on working hard, learn some new dives and see where that takes me".


Alex Dickenson

Kelvinside Academy, Glasgow

The sixth-year pupil was a member of the Scotland West team at this year's UK School Games in Newcastle and, at 17, has already been playing for a year in the Su Ragazzi team which is challenging for the women's Scottish League title this season.

Currently studying for Advanced Highers in physics and chemistry, the power hitter has been invited to train with the Scotland senior women's team and is seen as one for the future.

Tommy Dowens, her club coach, says: "Alex is a fierce competitor, with a clear focus on the development process. She is a very confident athlete who understands the link between ambition and hard work.

"Alex definitely has the potential to make the Scotland national team and to make the grade as a top player. I think she is the best prospect I have seen in the women's side at the club for a while."


Sam Page

Bishopbriggs Academy, East Dunbartonshire

Sam forced his way into the Clydesdale side in the Scottish Premier League last summer, after being a dominant force in their Under-18 and Second XI teams. He scored a couple of centuries in the process.

He was a member of the Scotland Under-18 team that won the European Championship in Ireland last August and will play for his country in the final stage of the Under-19 World Cup next year. He played on in spite of not being fully fit, following a knee injury which prevented him from bowling for much of last summer.

Iain Stewart, the west community development manager at Cricket Scotland, says: "Sam is a class act with the bat, he has a certain `S factor' that other lads his age don't have.

"I think he has the potential to go a long way, though I am always resistant to publicly `big up' players."


Harry Leask

George Heriot's School, Edinburgh

The 15-year-old is following in the slipstream of older brother Jack, who is also making ripples in rowing.

Harry, who is from Heriot in the Borders, is a member of Clydesdale Amateur Rowing Club and was British champion at Under-14 single sculls and British Schools' champion at Under-15 single sculls.

He has been selected for Scotland at Under-18 level and for Great Britain at Under-16 level, underlining his undoubted potential.

Chris Phillips, his coach at the Clydesdale club, believes the rower has a big future. "Harry has had an excellent season, winning gold at the National Schools' Championships in junior 15 single sculls and at the British Rowing Championships in junior 14 single sculls," he says.

"Harry's hard work and determination ensured that he achieved his goals for the season and completed the 2010 race season by representing Scotland at the Home International Regatta in Cork, Ireland.

"This season has started well for Harry and he is determined to better his results from last year with selection for the Great Britain under-16 team top of his list."

Table tennis

Lucy Elliott

Hermitage Academy, Argyll and Bute

Lucy first played table tennis while on holiday with her parents and enjoyed it so much that she wanted to join a local club. There were no clubs in Helensburgh with children's sections, so she found out about a club in Glasgow's Scotstoun Leisure Centre on a Saturday morning. But when she turned up, the coach informed her it was a senior club only and passed on the name of Drumchapel Table Tennis Club.

The 12-year-old has Type 1 diabetes, so her coaches at the club have had to adapt to her special needs. Now, through her hard work, she has won the Scottish Primary Schools single and doubles titles twice. Coached by Terry McLernon at the Drumchapel club, she has represented Scotland at the Primary School International Championships, in which she reached the quarter-finals. She also represented Scotland in the Senior Schools International Championships.

Since the season started last September, Lucy has won both the Under-13 and Under-15 tournaments. She looks a fantastic prospect for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.


Hannah McCook

Grantown Grammar, Highland

In her final year at school, the 17-year-old is a priority golf athlete with the Highland Institute of Sport. She took up golf at the age of six and is now a member of the Scotland Under-18 team. Twice North of Scotland Girls' champion, she was runner-up in the Scotland Under-18 Order of Merit, also finished second in the Scottish Schools' Championships, and has reduced her handicap from four to one in the past year. She, too, has Type 1 diabetes and has found the institute's back-up a key to her progress.

Nairn Dunbar golf club PGA Pro David Torrance, says: "I started working with Hannah a year ago and she has come on amazingly well. Her handicap has dropped to almost zero and she has won her first international cap. Hannah is dedicated to becoming a top golfer which makes her very easy to work with. She is as talented a lady golfer as I have ever seen at her age."


James Shemilt

High School of Glasgow

Currently ranked sixth at Under-12 level in Britain, James has had a productive year. A member of the West of Scotland Institute of Sport, he won the Scottish Under-12 indoor title at the start of the year.

He went on to represent Great Britain at Under-12 level at a tournament in France in April and has since made strong progress in the game.

James reached the semi-finals of the Aegon Junior Masters for his age- group at Roehampton and also reached the final of the national Winter Tour event at Tipton in November. In September, he was part of the four-player Scottish team that won the Home International title in Cardiff, finishing just ahead of a strong England team.

Toby Smith, his coach at David Lloyd Glasgow West End, says: "James has been consistently in the top eight of national events, reaching quarter- finals regularly."

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