Stars of today and tomorrow vie for Young Personality prize
Herald Sport’s Phil Stoneham takes a closer look at the five outstanding prospects vying for Young Sports Personality of the Year 2012, sponsored by Plymouth University, at next month’s glittering Herald Sports awards at Plymouth Pavilions.
WHEN it comes to stars of the future, Plymouth has a whole galaxy of them.
Five of the city's ones to watch are finalists for Young Personality at The Herald's Sports Personality of the Year awards at the Plymouth Pavilions on Monday, December 3.
The world of football has thrown up one gem in the shape of Plymothian LLOYD JONES, whose career has developed so far with bewildering speed.
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Central defender Jones, just 17, was with Plymouth Argyle a year ago.
Now he's at Premier League club Liverpool, having been offered a three-year professional contract by the Anfield giants.
Dad Gareth Jones said the young player was pleased to get his nomination for the award.
He said: "He's really chuffed to get nominated, as I am.
"At 16, Lloyd was given a professional contract that will come into force next July.
"The highlight of his year has been getting the full pro contract, which will keep him at Anfield for the next three years, playing for Liverpool reserves a couple of times and appearing for Wales under-17s and 18s.
"He's also been playing in the NextGen Series (a Champions League for under-19s) and for the full Liverpool reserves."
Jones added: "It's all a bit surreal, somehow – I can't quite believe it.
"People say that he (Lloyd) has got a future, but you don't know what's around the next corner.
"I suppose 10 minutes in the first team would be Utopia, but we'll have to wait and see what happens."
Jones, who lives in Derriford with his family, said his son's original club, Argyle, had been 'fantastic'.
He added: "Lloyd's a dedicated young man. What he's doing has got its up and downs, but he's very mature."
Liverpool speak highly of the young Plymothian.
The official Liverpool website says: "A powerful centre-back, Jones is extremely talented in the air.
"Never one to shirk a challenge, the Welshman is also a cultured defender, who is confident enough to play the ball out from the back.
"His heading and aerial abilities mean Jones is a highly-rated member of the Reds' set-up."
Weightlifter RYAN BAUGH is a city athlete who has already made a big mark on his sport – and is aiming to do much more.
The last 12 months has seen the Year 11 Ivybridge Community College student blossom in major competitions.
In June, Baugh returned from the Fulda Cup in Austria with a British record, a title and also a best lifter award tucked in his belt.
He achieved that success less than two weeks after shattering a national record at the British Senior Championships.
Baugh, at the time just 14, broke British under-15 records which had stood for 10 years.
Had he managed to lift 110kg in Austria, he would have qualified for the European under-17 championships, held in August.
Baugh, now 15, conceded it had been a good year for him – but still regretted not reaching the Euros, something he wants to put right next year.
The teenager, who was coached by Ivybridge CC PE teacher and Olympian Michaela Breeze, who is also a Commonwealth Games medallist, was delighted about being nominated for the Young Personality award.
He said: "When my mum told me I had been nominated, I was over the moon. I was thrilled to be actually short-listed – it was really great news.
"I've been really pleased with my year, but I was quite annoyed to miss out on the Euros, because I was only 5kg away from qualifying.
"Next year, I'd like to qualify for the Euros and I also want to do well in the British national competitions.
"Further on, my aim is the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. To get through to those would be fantastic.
"The qualifying rounds are held on one day, so you only get one chance at it."
If there was one athlete who came from nowhere to superstardom during 2012, it was Lithuanian RUTA MEILUTYTE.
Meilutyte, who is a swimming scholar at Plymouth College and only 15, stunned the swimming world at the London Olympics this summer by winning gold in the women's 100m breaststroke.
En route to her victory, she broke the European record in the semi-finals.
Her win – the first Olympic medal of any kind in swimming for Lithuania since their break from the former Soviet Union in 1990 – catapulted the teenager onto the sport's radar in a big way.
Her gold gave her the status of a rock star in her native country and national recognition as she became Lithuania's most successful athlete almost overnight.
Meilutyte, who lives with her father in Plymouth, has already got her feet planted firmly on the road that will take her to the Rio Olympics in 2016.
The teenager, who is coached by Plymouth Leander supremo Jon Rudd, admits she is thrilled by the prospect of attending The Herald's Sports awards.
She said: "I am really excited. I can't wait to find out who's won."
Meilutyte's face when she won the gold was a picture of amazement, disbelief and raw emotion as she realised what she had achieved.
The teenager said: "Winning the gold medal, standing on the podium and hearing my national anthem was incredible.
"Now I'm back to my normal routine, which is never boring. I'm surrounded by friends."
On being asked if she felt she could achieve gold again in four years' time, Meilutyte said: "We'll see – it's unpredictable what will happen."
JOE PATCHING, a team-mate of Meilutyte's, is also on top of his world.
Teenager Patching reckons he's had his best year so far.
The 18-year-old won a gold medal at the European Junior Championships earlier this year and on the back of that, Patching has been selected by British Swimming as an official hopeful for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
The Plymouth College pupil was one of 24 talented young swimmers who were selected to attend a British Swimming Development Camp at Millfield School.
He is regarded as a world-class swimmer for the future.
Patching is one of a steady stream of talent from the Plymouth Leander-Plymouth College swimming programme who are expected to shine in national colours.
Alongside the already-established Antony James – a Commonwealth Games medallist and Olympic qualifier – and Great Britain international Steve Beckerleg, Patching is one of a Leander group who are regarded as possible members of the next generation of Great Britain swimming.
Patching said: "It's an honour to be nominated for The Herald awards – it's the first time it's happened.
"This year's definitely been a stepping stone – I've won my first international medal and shown some progress and potential.
"I've never been in first position before (referring to his gold at the European Junior Championships).
"I feel I've been improving year on year and there's more to come."
SHANICE LOBB was talent-spotted by Plymouth Diving five years ago and has not looked back since.
The 14-year-old was always regarded as a genuine prospect to follow in the footsteps of Plymouth Olympians Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow.
This year has confirmed the suspicion that Lobb might just be something special.
The city schoolgirl won gold in the British National Cup at Southend.
She repeated that result for Great Britain at a competition held in Dresden, Germany.
Then she won bronze at the World Junior Championships in Adelaide, Australia, making her the eighth-ranked platform diver in her age group in the world.
Lobb was actually in Beijing when she was told she was in the running for The Herald Young Personality of the Year award – though not on international duty, for once.
She was on a cultural trip with her school, Devonport High School for Girls, when her mum Denise contacted her to tell her the news.
Denise said: "As soon as she got home, she made sure she got her dress for the evening."
Lobb, who will be at the sports awards for the first time, said: "I was really surprised and honoured. I'd never really thought about the awards before.
"I've had one competition after another and ended up going around the world when I never thought I'd do that."