10 July 2009
Young athletes from across England are set to compete in this weekend’s Aviva English Schools Track and Field Championships in Sheffield. They will be cheered on by Double Olympic Champion Dame Kelly Holmes, who is attending as Ambassador of the Championships.
The countries most promising young athletes will battle it out at the Grand Prix style event of the School athletics calendar, having qualified to represent their county. On Friday 10 and Saturday 11 July, these talented athletes will be hoping for medal glory at Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium.
The Aviva English Schools Track and Field Championships is part of Aviva’s wider sponsorship of the Home Country Schools Championships until 2012, bringing the country’s very best school athletes to the national stage.
Many current members of the Aviva GB & NI Team competed in the English Schools Track and Field Championships as youngsters, including Olympic silver medallist Phillips Idowu, Olympic gold medallist Mark Lewis-Francis, and Olympic bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton.
Aviva English Schools Championships Ambassador and junior girls 1500m winner in 1983, Dame Kelly Holmes said: “I have some great memories from my days participating in the English Schools, and it was fundamental to my progression within the sport.
“The event provided me with the confidence and encouragement I needed on my journey to becoming an elite athlete. The competition is the pinnacle of grassroots athletics, and now with the investment from Aviva will be sure to continue unearthing more future champions.”
Speaking exclusively to www.uka.org.uk she spoke passionately about her time in schools athletics. Dame Kelly said: “At my school, we always did athletics on a Wednesday afternoon. We were lucky, we had a PE teacher who was really enthusiastic about athletics.
“I think it’s a great sport for schools, because it is so diverse, there is something for everyone to do. It’s an individual sport and I think that’s important too because it gives people the opportunity to see their progression much easier.
“Aviva do a great job with the grassroots of the sport through sports:hall and star:track and the Aviva English Schools gives youngsters something big to go for. It’s a big challenge and is a great preparation for even bigger challenges in the future.
“I ran my first English Schools when I was 13 and I was a bit of an unknown. The atmosphere was brilliant. I used to run for Kent, we all had the kit and all the other athletes in the team would be cheering for each other. When I won it was a feeling of ‘oh my gosh!’ For me, it was a big learning experience.
“We were held in pens before the start of the races so you were really close to your opposition. I don’t think there’s any other sport where that happens. It was really nerve-wracking, but really exciting too.”
Tanya Veingard, Head of Sponsorship, Aviva said: "The English Schools event is a great British sporting tradition and Aviva are delighted to be sponsoring it through until 2012.
“This sponsorship is part of our continued commitment to giving every child in the UK the opportunity to get involved in athletics through the Aviva UKA Academy. As the team behind UKA, Aviva is making it easier for athletes of today and tomorrow to reach their sporting goals.
“The Aviva Home Country Schools Championships gives young athletes the chance to measure their performance against their peers and gives them the opportunity to earn a National 'Vest' for the very first time. We look forward to sharing the successes of these future stars."
Aviva is committed to ensuring that every child in the UK gets the opportunity to participate in athletics, whilst creating a long-term legacy for the sport and unearthing more champions along the way.
The Aviva Home Countries Schools Championships sits under the Aviva UKA Academy - a whole new approach to grassroots sport, designed to provide opportunities for every child in the UK to get active by 2012.