SHE has enjoyed a record-breaking 2019 in the pool and now para-swimmer Ellie Challis has another potential award on the horizon – but this time, it’s away from the water.

The 15-year-old was catapulted into the sporting limelight in April when she broke the SB2 class 50 metres breaststroke world record, touching the wall in 1:05.42 to scoop world series gold at the British Para-Swimming International Meet in Glasgow.

But it was at the World Championships in London where the Clacton-born hotshot’s burgeoning career so far peaked, winning bronze in the S3 50m backstroke and finishing fifth in the SB3 50m breaststroke.

As a result of her successes, Challis has now been nominated for SportsAid’s One-to-Watch award, shortlisted in the top ten from a raft of 1,000 young athletes supported by the charity across 60 different sports.

The award was launched in 2006 to shine a spotlight on the outstanding achievements of Britain’s brightest young prospects, with Tom Daley, Courtney Tulloch, Amber Hill and Morgan Lake among the former winners.

Dame Katherine Grainger, Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, and five-time Paralympic para-equestrian champion Natasha Baker are among the panel of judges casting their eye over the nominees.

And having been financially supported by the charity for three years now, Challis knows just how special it is to be recognised for the prestigious prize.

“It’s lovely to be recognised for the One-to-Watch Award and for all my achievements,” she said.

“It’s really nice and it’s that recognition at such a young age that makes it so special for me.

“It’s been a really quick rise for me over the last eight months.

"I just take everything in my stride and don’t get nervous or overwhelmed about anything.

“The bigger the event, the bigger the swim, and I just take it all in and try to enjoy what I’m doing and never put too much pressure on myself.

“In London, when I won my medal, there was a school trip to come and support me and that was very special.

“I don’t know what my targets are if I get to the Paralympics just yet.

"I would love to win a medal but just to go there and get that experience is the main thing and I’d be absolutely thrilled if I got that chance.”

Challis, who received her SportsAid support through the Backing The Best programme this year, did battle with some of the globe’s elite para-swimming talent in front of her peers in the London water, storming to bronze in a memorable performance that is surely a portent of things to come.

She juggles her busy training routine at both Colchester Phoenix and Clacton Swimming Club alongside her studies at Tendring Technology College, also incurring considerable costs as she travels around the country to competitions.

But with SportsAid’s support behind her, stepping away from the pool has never been an option.

“The SportsAid funding has been really important as it’s allowed me to make more choices,” she added.

“Swimming started off as just local but now you can be travelling hours to events, so it gives you more options to choose from.

“SportsAid has supported me for the last three years now, so that does make being nominated for this award special as I’ve been recognised by someone who’s supported me for so long.”

The winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award will be revealed at the charity’s Celebrate the Next event, sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, in London on Tuesday, November 19.

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