Local Commonwealth stars remember their roots

Laura Massaro

Sophie Hitchon from Burnley who won a wonderful bronze medal for England in the hammer throw

First published in Sport Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter

YOU only have to look at the England team completed in the Commonwealth Games to realise what can be achieved with hard work, talent and – just as importantly – the backing and believe of a club coach or official when you first start out on that sporting journey.

Squash star Laura Massaro and hammer thrower Sophie Hitchon both ended up on the podium yesterday.

But it was a journey that started out in the schools and clubs of Chorley and Burnley.

Massaro, world number two and current world champion, added a Commonwealth Games silver medal to her collection.

Hitchon bagged the greatest prize of her career to date, a bronze medal under the lights of Hampden Park last night.

They are at the pinnacle of their respected sports and are household names.

But they have never forgotten their roots and the importance of their grounding in amateur sports.

Both are more than happy to support local clubs and sporting events and have again give their backing to the Grassroots Heroes Awards which were launched last week.

“Amateur sport is hugely important in the development of young kids and keeping people healthy,” said Massaro. “Coaches who help kids have another passion in their life are so valuable and they fully deserve to be awarded for the time and effort they put in.”

Hitchon also understands that she would not be where she is today had it not been for the work of her coaches.

She said: “It is a huge importance without the people that give their time for free, to help coach or officiate people wouldn't be able to do the sport, very one has to start at the bottom level and without those people we wouldn't be able to progress to the next level.

Here, as part of a Remember Your Roots series, they recall where it all started....

What is the earliest memory you have of your particular sport?

Sophie Hitchon: I remember the first time I tried hammer it was at my first club witch was Pendle AC where I also did other events like sprints and shot putt, it was quite scary at first, I couldn't let it go!

Laura Massaro: Watching my dad at my local leisure centre. I remember I just wanted to get on the court and hit the ball as hard as my dad was!

Who helped you the most when you first starting playing?

SH: My family have always been a huge help in my athletic career they took me all over for training and competitions, I can't thank them enough, I wouldn't be where I am without their help.

LM: My dad for sure was always there. He helped me realise how important commitment and dedication was. He taught me how to win and to always give my best.

How important is the role played by those involved in local amateur sport?

SH: It is a huge importance without the people that give their time for free, to help coach or officiate people wouldn't be able to do the sport, very one has to start at the bottom level and without those people we wouldn't be able to progress to the next level.

LM: Really important! I grew up wanting to beat the players at my club. They gave me a goal and a target to try and catch.

What is your greatest achievement/honour as a youngster?

SH: Winning the world junior championships in 2010 I feel was my best achievement, it is the best feeling standing on the podium hearing you national anthem.

LM: Winning the world junior team championships in Malaysia

Is it good to have awards to acknowledge and reward the work that goes on in amateur sport?

SH: Yes defiantly, like i said before these people give their spare time for free, They normally have other full time jobs and do the sport around that. Most of the time the light is always on the athletes but, with out these people that put their time into sport we couldn't do it.

LM: It's amazing and a great opportunity for those involved to get the acknowledgment they deserve.

What is your advice to anyone wishing to pursue a career in sport?

SH: I can only comment from an athlete point of view. Its not easy and there is set backs, it doesn't always go smoothly, in fact it hardly ever goes smoothly, but you have to keep going and when it does go right its the best feeling ever! you just have to remember that when it not going as planned.

LM: Try your best every day, never give up and give full dedication to what it is you want to achieve.”

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