Teenage rower and junior world champion Holly Dunford has been named the winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award.
She received the award, previously won by the likes of Tom Daley, Jodie Williams, Harry Martin, Amber Hill and Morgan Lake – who have all gone on to represent Team GB at an Olympic Games – after a sensational year.
Dunford, just 18, began 2017 by setting a new British junior record over 2000m on an indoor rowing machine, before winning three races at the GB Rowing junior trials and going on to win junior gold alongside Zoe Adamson at the World Championships.
Dunford, pictured above, right, edged out junior BMX world champion Beth Shriever, 18, and junior wheelchair racer Craig Boardman, 19 and a three-time world champion, as they finished in second and third positions respectively.
Dunford, who has been helped by SportsAid this year through the GLL Sport Foundation, will receive an additional £1,250 to help with her sporting costs following the victory.
“I wasn’t really expecting it, it feels really good,” she said.
“It’s a privilege to be next to the names like Tom Daley and Morgan Lake, especially seeing what they’ve gone on to do.
“This is just the icing on the cake, all my achievements in rowing this year have led to this and it’s great to be recognised.
“SportsAid’s help has been great, paying for petrol, kit, lots of things, I wouldn’t have been where I am this year without them.”
Dunford was presented with her award by five-time Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds, who also received SportsAid funding in her early career.
The final three were selected from more than 1,000 rising British stars supported by SportsAid across more than 60 different sports in 2017.
Each year, athletes are nominated by their sport’s governing body on the strength of their talent and potential, before a judging panel identifies the winner from a shortlist of ten.
Five previous recipients of the One-to-Watch Award – Daley, Williams, Martin, Hill and Lake – represented Team GB in Rio last summer, while a total of 26 Olympic and Paralympic medals have been won across all the nominees who have been put forward for the award since it was launched back in 2006.
And Dunford’s fellow rower Jess Eddie – an Olympic silver medallist from the women’s eight in Rio and former recipient of SportsAid funding – has been impressed with Dunford’s displays.
“The sheer determination it takes to break into the competitive junior rowing team is the initial proof of Holly’s talent,” said Eddie. “Secondly, to then withstand the pressure of the World Championships final, to hold her calm and nerve whilst teetering on the edge of absolute physical exhaustion, is phenomenal.
“In such a closely fought battle, Holly, alongside her doubles partner Zoe, managed to have the grit and prowess to grab that gold medal.
“In doing so, she joined a very elite club of Great Britain Junior World Rowing champions. Holly has the proven ability to go right to the top of our sport.”
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