The night may not have ended in silverware but Kenilworth’s AbdAllah Eissa believes being nominated for SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award will take him to even greater heights in 2020.
After claiming the British Junior Open under-13 title, Eissa was one of ten nominees for the annual One-to-Watch Award, selected from around 1,000 rising British stars supported by SportsAid across more than 60 different sports.
The 13-year-old attended the ceremony in central London alongside SportsAid alumni such as Christine Ohuruogu and Leon Taylor but just missed out on the award to para-swimming sensation Ellie Challis.
Although the night did not end in ultimate success for Eissa, he admitted the whole evening had been one to savour.
He said: “It means a lot to have been nominated because I know all about the other athletes’ achievements and they’re all amazing.
“SportsAid has helped me gain some amazing experiences and I was never expecting to be recognised like this.
“I had a really good year and that’s largely down to the support network I have around me.
“My dad got me into the sport and to be able to share this moment with him has been great.”
Launched in 2006, the One-to-Watch Award has gained a strong reputation for identifying the best up-and-coming prospects in Britain.
Diving world champion Tom Daley was the inaugural winner, with the likes of Courtney Tulloch, Amber Hill and Morgan Lake following in his footsteps.
For Eissa, the nomination is just the beginning.
He added: “I’m playing in the US Open next month, which is a huge tournament on the calendar and then next year I’ll be going to retain my title at the British Open but at under-15 level.
“It will be harder but I’m excited. In five years’ time I’d like to be competing at world senior level competing against the very best.
“I’d love to get a world ranking and become one of the highest-ranked players.”
Dame Katherine Grainger, Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, and five-time Paralympic para-equestrian champion Natasha Baker were among the panel of judges casting their eye over the nominees, and Grainger was blown away by the array of talent on show.
“The One-to-Watch Award is fabulous because we get to have a look at what the future might hold,” she said.
“I’ve been on the judging panel a few times now and every year it’s so hard. We really struggle to make the decision - they are outstanding athletes who are as young as 13 and have already had international success.
“That confidence that SportsAid gives - and the extra support and recognition - makes a huge difference to the lives of young people at that point of their career. It is quite game-changing for those who have made the top ten.”
Visit www.sportsaid.org.uk for further information.