Record-breaking para swimmer Ellie Challis has been named SportsAid’s One-to-Watch following a year of success in the pool.
The 15-year-old, from Little Clacton, Essex, receives funding from our Backing the Best scheme, which sees financial awards administered to talented young athletes by the charity SportsAid.
Ellie was one of 10 shortlisted for the prestigious award, which has previously been won by the likes of Tom Daley and Hollie Arnold.
The judging panel, which included prominent former Olympic and Paralympic athletes, as well as journalists and a representative of the GB Olympians’ Association, decided her S3 50m backstroke bronze at the senior IPC World Para Swimming Championships, as well as two European and one world record in 2019, were enough to see her win the award.
Ellie also received a £3,000 kit allowance and £1,000 cash boost for winning the award
“I was so shocked when I heard my name read out as the winner,” said Ellie, who was presented with her award on Tuesday by Dame Katherine Grainger at SportsAid’s Celebrate the Next event in London.
“It's blown me away to hear about all the amazing achievements of the other athletes and then realise I'm the one who has won the award.
“SportsAid is really important because travelling around the country costs a lot. Without it, it would be very difficult to do what we do.
“Europeans and Tokyo 2020 are high on my priority list for next year – the aim is to qualify. I’m going to go to qualifiers and then just get out what I can from the experience, and if I qualify then great.”
Ellie was one of five Backing the Best athletes to make the 10-strong shortlist, which had been selected from around 1,000 athletes, covering more than 60 sports, that SportsAid support every year.
Our Backing the Best programme began in 2016 and makes annual awards of up to £5,000, to more than 100 talented young athletes to pay for essentials such as equipment, travel, coaching and competition entry fees.
Managed by SportsAid, the athletes also receive support with non-competition aspects of their life like nutrition, time management and dealing with the media.
Dame Katherine Grainger, the UK’s most decorated female Olympian, is a former recipient of SportsAid support and she highlighted the importance of their work.
“The One-to-Watch Award is fabulous because we get to have a look at what the future might hold,” she said. “I’ve been on the judging panel a few times now and every year it’s so hard.
“We really struggle to make the decision – they are outstanding athletes who are as young as 13 and have already had international success.
“SportsAid is often the first hand to reach across that gap to say they believe in you and your future.
“That confidence that SportsAid gives - and the extra support and recognition - makes a huge difference to the lives of young people at that point of their career.
“It is quite game-changing for those who have made the top 10.”
Canoeist Daniel Atkins and sprinter Amy Hunt finished second and third, respectively, with the top three each receiving a kit allowance of at least £1,500 from SportsAid partner Nike, and a further cash boost of at least £750.