Alicia Blagg awarded Youth Sports Trust scholarship

16 Mar 2010

Record-breaking City of Leeds diver Alicia Blagg has been awarded a STARS Beckwith Scholarship worth £3,000 by the Youth Sport Trust.

The fund aims to help talented young sports people to achieve their potential.

The money can be used to pay for kit and equipment, training costs, travel expenses, sports science and medical support or certain dietary requirements.

Previous recipients have included Olympic swimming finalist James Goddard.

At 13, Blagg recently became the first product of British Diving’s talent identification programme to win a senior national title.

In fact she won two in the same weekend – something not even her role model Tom Daley had achieved at that age.

At the recent British Gas National Diving Cup in Sheffield, she won the women’s 1-metre springboard and, with Olympian Rebecca Gallantree, in the 3-metre synchro.

Only Daley himself has won one senior national title at a younger age, and that by only a few weeks.

Less than six years ago Blagg was the youngest of 25 primary school children selected from 2,000 youngsters who took part in talent identification tests run by British Diving in conjunction with Leeds City Council.

Within six months she had won her first medal at the Thistle Trophy Cup in Edinburgh before being crowned national novice champion in April 2005 and winning her first medal at the ASA Elite Junior Championships the following month (in the 1-metre synchro with Hannah Starling).

By then she was a member of Leeds’ top squad (and, at the age of eight, its youngest member by far), training alongside Gallantree and fellow Olympian Tandi Gerrard.

An invitation to join British Diving’s elite talent programme soon followed.

Her progress since then has been rapid and consistent. After competing in individual events at the elite juniors for the first time in 2006 and finishing in the top eight in all her events, she returned a year later to win four gold medals in the 11 and under age group. At the 2008 elite juniors, she won silver the 12-13yrs 3m springboard and in February 2009 she beat Olympian Hayley Sage and European junior medallists to claim a fifth place in the senior British championships.

This was especially impressive given that, at 12, she was the youngest competitor and had learnt some of her complicated skills only six weeks before.

Around the same time she became one of only a handful of British girls – and the youngest – to perform the complex three-and-a-half somersault dive.

Leeds coach Edwin Jongejans believes qualification for the Commonwealth Games and other international championships is within Blagg’s reach for 2010.

“That would be an amazing achievement in her first eligible year,” says the Dutch former world champion. ‘She has achieved these results on only 14 to 16 hours of training a week and she’ll be against divers doing 30 hours.

“Alicia is very talented but it’s still early days and there is a lot of work to do in an event in which you need to be an adult.”

Alicia herself is hoping 2010 will bring her first experience of international competition at the top level, starting with this month’s FINA World Cup in Moscow, where she is due to partner Gallantree in the 3-metre synchro.

“I’m hoping we might be able to do the 2012 Olympics – that would be exciting,” she said.

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