DESPITE her age, rower Jess Leyden already possesses an experienced head when it comes to competing at world level.
And the Todmorden teenager is adamant this will come in handy when she pulls on the British vest once again at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival which begins this week.
Leyden, 17, who is a member of Hollingworth Lake Rowing Club, has competed at the last two World Junior Championships – finishing seventh as part of the women’s quadruple scull last year.
But she faces her biggest test yet after earning selection for the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, a competition where 1700 athletes from 30 different countries compete across 17 sports.
And, with aspirations of appearing in a British boat at the Rio 2016 Olympics and beyond, Leyden believes the experience of the whole event will stand her in good stead for the future.
“It is so exciting to be going to such a great event,” said Leyden. “I think this will be a great baseline for us to learn from. As we go up in class it is important to experience events like this.
“I have already been to two World Junior Championships which was great experience and we won the ‘B’ final last year in Bulgaria.
“When we go to Sydney, Australia and New Zealand will be there and they are always really strong. We tend to compete against them a lot and it is usually close.
“Australia will be broken up into different states so it will be interesting to see how strong each boat will be but they will have home advantage and we want to go and try and upset them.
“I don’t really get that nervous about competing for Britain. The biggest thing for me is when I pull my sunglasses down and that is when I get focused and I think to myself I just need to get the job done.”
Having had the chance to witness Britain’s stellar summer on the water at the London 2012 Olympics at Eton Dorney, Leyden insists it has motivated her to achieve her own goals at junior level.
And she wants to follow in the footsteps of London 2012 women’s lightweight double sculls gold medallist Kat Copeland, who won a gold and bronze at the 2009 Australian Youth Olympic Festival. “It was amazing to see Britain do so well in front of the home crowd,” she added. “Hopefully I can one day achieve the same thing and this is a good stepping stone.
“We will go out there and do our best and hopefully we can improve on our seventh-place finish at the worlds as well as gain some valuable experience.”
n The British Olympic Association prepares and leads British athletes at the summer, winter and youth Olympic Games. It works in partnership with sport National Governing Bodies to enhance Olympic success and is responsible for championing the Olympic values. www.olympics.org.uk