Having been singled out personally by hero Dame Kelly Holmes, Hallamshire Harrier Tilly Simpson is determined to go as far as she can in the world of athletics.
Like her running rivals, Simpson’s ultimate aim is to appear in an Olympic Games – something her source of inspiration Dame Kelly managed to do and in some style too, winning 800m bronze at Sydney 2000 before completing the middle distance double at Athens 2004.
The latter is an achievement that acts as a source of motivation for Simpson who, like Dame Kelly, has had to contend with a number of injuries in her own comparatively short career.
The list includes a stress fracture of her tibia, a calf strain, toe flexor problem and other growth related issues.
And while this season is one of getting back to full fitness, 16-year-old Simpson is not short of determination, driven on by a video sent to her by her idol who connected with her through Twitter.
“All athletes have role models and aspirations and I think any athlete’s dream is to go to an Olympic Games,” said Simpson, who attends Eckington School in Derbyshire.
“I’d love to go, and I don’t just want to go, I want to contend for a medal. My role model is Dame Kelly Holmes and that double gold at Athens 2004 was amazing.
“They’re my two favourite events and I would love to replicate what she did. I know it’s a long shot but I’m prepared to put in the work to get there.
“It’s amazing what she did, especially with all the injuries she overcame.
“She’s a great example that you have to take the knockbacks, because if you keep going you might just get there.
“And she actually sent me a video, which was really inspirational.
“I’ve got it on my computer and I watch it whenever I’m a bit stressed. She could do it, so I can do it as well.
“She had more injuries than I’ve ever had, and other people have had, and still did it.
“There’s no real plan this season, though, we’re just taking one step at a time. It’s just about getting my overall fitness back and my stamina up there - but it takes a while because of all the time I’ve had away from running.”
Simpson’s cause is now being aided by support from The Nottingham Building Society, who are teaming up with charity SportsAid to support 50 local athletes on their journey with their ‘time to shine’.
She is not the only athlete from the area being supported either with Sheffield diver Richelle Houlden, Dronfield cerebral palsy footballer Billy Lee Dixon and para-athlete Jayden Saberton also benefitting.
The latter, who studies business at Sheffield College and competes for Sheffield Athletics Club, is also aiming big, this time in the 400m.
“Getting to London for the senior IPC World Championships would be insane. You know your plans and you know that everything is for 2020, but if it happens before then it would just be a shock,” said the 17-year-old.
“If I do a worldy time this summer and get a PB then I’ve got a chance to go to London for the seniors, but most likely it’s going to be the World juniors in Switzerland - which wouldn’t be bad with mountains in the background!
“It’s juniors this year, Commonwealths next year, and British Athletics’ plan was for me to be in the seniors in the Commonwealths, so if I could make seniors a year early, then amazing.
“I was always a better runner than a walker, and because Sheffield is a very hilly place, walking up a hill was harder than running up a hill.”
* Nottingham Building Society and Harrison Murray teamed up with SportsAid in 2013 to help future sports stars get their time to shine. Visit thenottingham.com to find out more.