OXTED hockey starlet Catherine Ledesma has already revelled in a year to remember, but now she is determined to go one better at next month’s School Games.
The 17-year-old spent the last year training with the focal point of hockey’s next generation, working with the under-18 side who would later go on to claim a Europeans Championships bronze medal – with the School Games the next step on a hectic schedule.
The School Games will see around 1,600 of the nation’s finest young sports stars compete across 12 current and future Olympic and Paralympic sports – seven of which include disability competition – at Loughborough University on September 1-4.
A high-performance event for elite youth athletes and a key step on the road to senior success for Team GB’s next generation of athletes, the School Games is supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England and delivered by the Youth Sport Trust.
And for Ledesma, on the periphery of the competition three years ago, 2016 will see her grasp the opportunity with both hands in her first appearance in action.
“I went on a talent inspiration programme in 2013 where you watch the athletes, now to actually be competing there is amazing – it’s great that the hard work has paid off,” said Ledesma, who plays for Wimbledon Hockey Club and will represent England Blues at the School Games.
“I’m so excited for it, it’s such a big event, one of the largest multi-sport events that hockey players can do so it’s such a privilege just to be selected.
“The School Games is right at the start of the season, so it’s a great way to be able to get underway, getting you really into the hockey before it begins and showing what you can do, getting back into fitness really early.
“Being part of a big team and supporting all the athletes representing England will be really special, having the chance to be able to cheer them on is quite unique.”
The School Games is supported by a range of partners including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Sport England, Youth Sport Trust, Department of Health, British Paralympic Association and Leicestershire and Rutland Sport, with the multi-sport event seen as one of the annual highlights for school-age elite athletes.
And for Ledesma, a Reed’s School, Cobham, student, the chance to build on her experiences to date is something she is more than looking forward to.
“I’ve represented England before but it’s such a great chance for me and I can’t wait,” she added.
“I was called up a year young to do some training with the under-18s which was amazing, hopefully a great preparation for next year which would be an even better experience, especially considering that they went to win bronze at the European Championships.
“To step up a year early was really nerve-wracking, I hadn’t played with many of them before but to play with really good players helped me a lot and I think I improved quite significantly because of it.”
The 2016 School Games tickets are now on sale. To book your place to support the athletes and the Games please head to http://www.2016schoolgames.com/tickets
Picture (manipulated) courtesy of Jalan’s Place via flickr.com with thanks