Next Generation Olympic judoka meet Sir Chris Hoy MBE

By Donna Richardson

Three young judo players were among over 40 aspiring 2020 Olympic athletes invited to a two-day event organised by SportsAid and sponsored by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) in Loughborough to prepare them for the challenges of sporting life.

Arriving in the sporting town on Monday, judo athletes Lulu Piovesana, Eric Ham and Valentino Volante and their parents attended a drinks reception, dinner and sporting quiz hosted by SportsAid at Hollywell Park conference centre inside the Loughborough University campus later that evening.

Sir Chris Hoy MBE six-time Olympic gold medal-winner and 11-time world champion in track cycling was there as an ambassador of the SSE Next Generation programme and a former recipient of SportsAid’s support.

The budding Commonwealth and Olympic stars of the future were presented with cheques for £1,000 on behalf of SSE, who are supporting athletes from 16 Commonwealth Sports in their training.

On meeting the six time Olympic Champion, Valentino, from Scotland said: “It was pretty surreal meeting Sir Chris Hoy, he sat with us on our table and showed interest in us, which was nice. We asked him questions about training and advice too.”

Sutton Coldfield youngster Lulu added: “He used to do judo too up until the age of 10 too!”

The next day’s workshops, sponsored by SSE also took place at the same venue, also known as the Sir Denis Rooke building.

These were designed to equip the next generation of Commonwealth and Olympic athletes with the skills and knowledge to succeed.

In a mock athlete village environment, they attended workshops ranging from advice on anti-doping, nutrition to how to deal with the media.

Athens Olympic silver medallist in the 10 metre synchronised diving, Leon Taylor was also on hand to motivate and inspire the youngsters during a mentoring workshop.

A full media studio was also in operation where athletes were filmed and interviewed live by Sportsbeat agency reporters who conducted mock interviews for media training purposes.

They also helped athletes to complete in their own SportsAid profiles.

The training also included how to handle and control social media and advice on press interviews.

We caught up with them during lunch where they were bonding as a team over a game of table football.

“We learned about mentoring and how to balance schoolwork with judo,” said Lulu.

“There are athletes from a real mix of sports here today and we all face similar challenges, so it is great to hear others’ experiences too.”

Valentino added: “I really enjoyed learning about nutrition from experts who have told us how to replenish our energy and finding out all about slow release foods. The best thing is interacting with the athletes.”

Eric, from Derbyshire, added: “We had training in anti-doping and social media and what to say in interviews including what details we should go into and how to handle difficult questions and we had photo opportunities too.

“I really enjoyed this and completing my SportsAid profile.”

Eric’s father Geoff Ham said: “It has been really good to see SSE’s commitment to SportsAid and the Commonwealth Games. “It’s their first year of four working with SportsAid and as a parent I was very impressed with the whole two days.

“It is really valuable for Eric and the other players to listen to other athletes stories and to see what training regimes they have in place.”

Martin Piovesana, Lulu’s dad, was impressed with the support networks offered to parents too: “The assistance and advice for parents was amazing. They said if we had any problems with anything we can just call and they will do their utmost to help us, which I thought was fantastic.”