England teenage internationals Marco Penge and Emma Allen received a right royal boost for their Olympic ambitions when they met the Duchess of Cambridge.
They were among 30 young athletes who were invited by the charity SportsAid to attend a workshop designed to help them on their journey to the Olympic or Paralympic Games.
The Duchess, who is patron of SportsAid, joined them at the event which was hosted by GSK at its cutting-edge Human Performance Lab in west London.
She watched as they took part in a series of scientific assessments on respiration, temperature, power, cognition and body composition – and spoke to both England golfers. Or she tried to!
Emma Allen, 17, was pedalling on a bike and wearing a face mask when the Duchess started chatting with her. “She was asking if I was ok because I’d been pedalling for a long time and someone had told her I was going in the humidity chamber next. She wished me good luck – and I mumbled through my mask!”
Emma, who plays at Meon Valley in Hampshire, added: “She was brilliant, she engaged well with everybody and was genuinely very interested. It was an amazing day and a great experience which will really help me with my golf.”
The Duchess had a more successful conversation with Marco, who plays at Golf at Goodwood in Sussex (pictured top). They met as the 16-year-old ran on a treadmill in an environmental chamber set to the heat and humidity of Tokyo, which will host the Games in 2020.
“She asked me about my sport and we had a chat about my golf – I explained that you don’t really run in golf but that stamina is important at the end of a tournament,” said Marco.
“We had a bit of a laugh because she said she was being cruel talking to me while I was trying to run! She was really nice, everyone had said beforehand that she was very sporty and really relaxed and that was what she was like. It was a really good day, a good experience and I enjoyed meeting the other athletes and hearing about their goals,” said Marco.
Emma was a member of the England team which won the Girls’ Home Internationals for the seventh successive year and was also in Hampshire’s winning team at County Finals. Marco helped England win the Boys' Home Internationals and was the England U15 and U16 champion in 2013. He has won the Fairhaven Trophy for the past two years.
Both golfers have ambitions to play in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and both were spurred on by yesterday’s experience. Both are members of England Golf U18 training squads and receive awards from SportsAid which helps young disabled and non-disabled athletes to achieve their ambitions.
The athletes at the workshop also had the chance to join a mentoring session with Olympic swimmer Keri-anne Payne and to meet Paralympic wheelchair athlete David Weir.
David Weir said, “It’s been a privilege to meet the athletes here today and share their achievements and challenges with the Duchess. It’s a long road to Tokyo but her support will make a big difference and with the right approach, it’s achievable. It’s exciting to think these athletes could be part of the next generation of British sporting heroes and I wish all of them the very best of luck.”
Images courtesy Nathan Gallagher/SportsAid. Top: Marco Penge, watched by the Duchess. Below: The Duchess learns about Emma's respiratory test.