ALTRINCHAM rhythmic gymnast Helena Stiles admits she has had to keep pinching herself ahead of making her Olympic bow for Great Britain later this month.
The 14-year-old was already toasting a job well done in 2012 as she claimed a silver medal in the junior ball event at the British Open.
But Stiles’ year was rounded off in style when in December she was named on Team GB’s 120-strong squad heading Down Under for this month’s Australian Youth Olympic Festival (January 16 - 20).
The festival will see approximately 1,700 athletes from 30 countries compete across 17 different sports, encompassing many of the venues used at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Helena, who attends Loreto Grammar School, couldn’t have asked for a better start to life in Team GB colours and admits she wants to soak it all up in Australia.
“I am really excited to be competing at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival and I can’t wait to get out there now,” she said.
“I have been aiming for it for about six months but only recently found out about getting in and I was so happy when I heard the news.
“2012 was a good year for me. The start of the year was a bit shaky but I improved throughout the year and then at the British Open I got a silver medal which was fantastic.
“That was in October so that has given me confidence to take to Australia and hopefully I can continue my good form.
“I don’t really know what to expect though because it is my first time representing Great Britain but I am sure it will be a great experience.
“This is a really good competition to start representing Great Britain and I am really happy it is this competition and I want to learn as much as I can so it can help me in the future.”
This summer saw Great Britain’s first-ever Olympic rhythmic gymnastics group finish 12th at London 2012, with Helena an avid onlooker.
And she admits her own Olympic debut has got her mind racing to what her future could hold.
“London 2012 was really inspiring because my dream is to compete at a senior Olympics and to know that other girls from Britain have done it is really inspiring,” she added.
“Hopefully this is just a start of what I can go on and do and being selected for this competition really does get me thinking about the future.”
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