Tavistock College's Saskia Sills shocked to be in running for top award
TAVISTOCK College pupil Saskia Sills can hardly believe she is in the running for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year Award.
The 16-year-old windsurfer is one of 10 finalists for the prestigious prize, which has previously been won by Wayne Rooney, Tom Daley, Theo Walcott and Andy Murray.
Although Sills has had a stunning 2012 – a year in which she became a double world champion and a European champion – she never expected to find herself in the running for the country's top junior sports award.
"I am really, really amazed and excited to be nominated," Sills told Herald Sport.
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"I did not think I would be considered at all this year with it being Olympic year and there being so many talented athletes around."
Sills, who is studying for A levels in physics, biology, PE and geography, was at school when she found out she had made the shortlist.
"I got a phone call from the person who had nominated me but I was in a physics class and so I just ignored my phone," she admitted.
Sills was just about to start a biology lesson when she played the message left on her phone.
"My best friend could tell there was something up and it was hard not to tell her," said Sills, who had to keep the nomination quiet until it was officially announced this week.
"When my best friend found out she could not believe it either."
She added: "Another friend texted me the other day saying 'are you seriously on the sports personality shortlist'.
"It is insane.
"But it is really good for my sport, which generally does not get a lot of media coverage."
Sills is now waiting to find out if she will make the final cut and take her place, alongside Olympic gold medallists, Premiership footballers and Ryder Cup heroes, at London's ExCel on Sunday, December 16.
"Only the top three get to go," she said. "I would love to have the opportunity to get into the top three, but I'm just honoured to have been recognised in the top 10. It is really nice."
Sills, whose biggest rival is her twin sister Imogen, admitted 2012 had surpassed her expectations.
The youngster went into the year with a completely open mind as she was just moving up to the RS:X class.
"This year I had decided to just take everything as it went," she admitted.
"But when I did my first regatta I was like 'whoa! my training has been going well'."
Although she was spoilt for success, Sills admitted winning the Under-19 RS:X class at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships in Dublin as a 15-year-old was her highlight.
"The ISAF World Championships are seen like the Youth Olympics," said Sills.
"Only one girl and one boy from each country gets to go.
"I had only been competing (in the class) for a few months, so to qualify for the event was massive. Everything just clicked for me.
"But the whole year has been really, really fun.
"I will always look back at 2012 and remember it as a massive sporting year for everyone and for me."
Sills, who only turned 16 in July, admits she owes a lot to her twin sister and older brother Sam, who are also champion windsurfers.
She was particularly keen to thank her sister, whom she describes as 'the most talented windsurfer in the family', for helping her move up a class.
"We train together," she said: "In training at the start of this year I was really bad and my sister picked it up straight away.
"She helped me and then somehow I overtook over.
"But I am so grateful to her.
"My brother is also really supportive."
Sills insists she and her twin sister never let their rivalry get between them.
"We are best friends and we never put where we come (in an event) before our friendship," she said. "If someone is going to win we prefer it to be one of us."
Sills, who does conditioning work in Plymouth with Albion head physio Paris Payne, is now dreaming of competing at an Olympic Games.
However, in the summer it looked like windsurfing did not have a future in the Olympics.
It was initially dropped from the 2016 Rio Games in favour of kite-boarding, but last month that decision was overturned and windsurfing will be on the programme in Brazil.
"It was a really weird time as no one really knew what was happening," said Sills. "When it was announced it was going to be dropped everyone was speechless, but everyone came together more as we thought it would be the last time so we'd make it good."
But now that is going to be on the 2016 programme, Sills is aiming to be there, even though she will have just turned 20.
"I was inspired by this summer's Olympics," she said. "I knew vaguely it was something I wanted to do, but seeing it this year I just know I want to do it now.
"I'll just be 20 in 2016, which is still quite young for a windsurfer, but that does not exclude me wanting to try.
"It's not impossible, so we'll just have to see how it goes."
Sills could boost her hopes of making the next Olympics by competing in February's Senior World Championships in Brazil.
The teenager and her sister have the chance to compete against the world's best in the Olympic host country.
"I would love to go to Brazil," she said. "I would be competing against current, past and future Olympians. It would be a really good experience.
"But I'm not sure if I can go unless I can find some money from a sponsor."
But while she tries to find a sponor and keeps training, Sills is also busy with her first year of A Levels at Tavistock College.
She said: "It is really difficult studying A Levels anyway, but when you have not got a lot of time at weekends and evenings it is even harder.
"I am managing. Sometimes I just have to put schoolwork first."
Sills' achievement in making the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year shortlist has delighted her governing body, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).
Duncan Truswell, RYA youth racing manager, said: "It's great for Saskia and the sport as a whole to see one of our talented young windsurfers commitment and achievements recognised by being short listed for this prestigious award.
"It has been an unsettling year for our young windsurfers but they have remained committed, focused and determined despite the uncertainty around the Olympic pathway.
"Saskia's results have been the icing on the cake for RYA Team GB's windsurfing programmes and testament to the depth of talent in our programmes and the hard work of not just the young sailors but also coaches and volunteers working tirelessly within the sport.
Truswell added: "Saskia is an extremely capable young windsurfer and a great ambassador for the sport, with an easy going personality but a reputation for delivering determined performances when it counts, she has been a real asset to our programmes this year and I wish her the very best of luck for the award."
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