Alex Yee, 18, from Brockley in south London, was named as the winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award by Olympic legend Mo Farah CBE at the charity’s 40th anniversary SportsBall yesterday evening (24 November).
Alex received the award, previously won by the likes of Tom Daley, Hollie Arnold, Jodie Williams, Harry Martin, Amber Hill and Morgan Lake, after a sensational year which saw him claim gold in the ITU World Duathlon Junior Championships and bronze at the Quarteira ETU Triathlon Junior European Cup.
"It feels amazing - I'm speechless,” said Alex, also a track and cross country runner, who is currently running a faster 5,000m time than Mo was at the same age. “To be named the one to watch and then to be presented it [the award] by Mo Farah is the greatest honour and I'm over the moon.
"It's surreal for Mo to praise my times,” added Alex – who ran 13:52.01 in the 5,000m at the IAAF World Junior Championships. “To have his backing and the backing of such a great charity shows that it's all going in the right direction. I'm ready for that next step and to push myself and hopefully in four years get to that Olympic Games.”
To be named the one to watch and then to be presented the award by Mo Farah is the greatest honour and I'm over the moon
Alex edged out skeleton slider Ashleigh Pittaway, 16, and swimmer Tom Derbyshire, 18, as they finished in second and third position respectively. Alex, who has been helped by SportsAid in 2013, 2014 and 2016 through the Dave Aitchison Fund, will receive an additional £1,250 in funding following the victory.
Mo, who received a SportsAid award in 1999 at 16 years old, completed the ‘double double’ at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as he retained both his 5,000m and 10,000m titles from London. Mo was pleased to be able to present the accolade to Alex and predicted a bright future for all three One-to-Watch Award finalists.
“It was great being able to present the One-to-Watch Award to Alex,” said Mo. “He clearly has a lot of potential both as a triathlete and particularly as a runner. Ashleigh and Tom have also had impressive years and did incredibly well to make the top three. They have all really benefitted from the support SportsAid has provided them.
"As an athlete or ex-athlete, to see that help that SportsAid offer, helping the next generation and continuing to support them all the way to 2020, is invaluable. I remember my first time ever getting support from SportsAid, how big it was and how far it went so it's important we see that.
Alex, Ashleigh and Tom were selected from over 1,100 rising British stars supported by SportsAid from more than 60 different sports in 2016. Each year, athletes are nominated by their sport’s governing body on the strength of their talent and potential, demonstrating why the award has gained such a strong reputation.
Six previous recipients of the One-to-Watch Award – Tom, Hollie, Jodie, Harry, Amber and Morgan – represented Great Britain in Rio this 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.
During this year, Alex has had the opportunity to train with senior triathletes, including Jonny Brownlee, Vicky Holland and Non Stanford. The Tokyo Games are very much on Alex’s radar and Olympic silver and bronze medallist Jonny has been impressed with the One-to-Watch Award winner’s displays.
“Alex has shown some great promise in 2016, putting in some world-class performances across the globe,” said Jonny – the 2012 ITU Triathlon world champion. “With his running strength, he characteristically claws his way up the field towards the end of a race and is a bright prospect for the future.”
The 40th anniversary SportsBall was attended by over 500 guests, including more than 30 Olympians and Paralympians who previously received SportsAid support, as the charity reflected on four decades of helping British athletes during the critical early stages of their careers, and celebrated the success in Rio this summer.
Established in 1976, SportsAid originally supported the country’s top athletes before focusing on the next generation coming through following the arrival of UK Sport in 1997. The vast majority of athletes supported by SportsAid, typically aged between 12 and 18, receive no other funding.
Young athletes rely heavily on their parents to help them cover training and competition costs including accommodation, transportation, equipment and nutrition. SportsAid is often the first external body to recognise the potential of young athletes as they look to progress in their sporting careers and achieve their ambitions.