dame kelly’s praise for jess

Jess Leyden at the Janguar Academy of Sport
Jess Leyden at the Janguar Academy of Sport

Double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes has sung the praises of Todmorden’s rising rowing star Jess Leyden.

The 18-year-old Leyden, ranked number one in the world in her age group, was this week named a Jaguar Academy of Sport ‘Star of the Future.’

She picked up a special recognition award at a glittering event in London and will now be assigned a British sporting legend as a one-to-one mentor.

She will also receive financial backing to meet costs associated with her sport, including travel, equipment and competition fees.

Fifty young stars were considered for the awards and Jess was one of five chosen.

Holmes, who won two golds in Athens in 2004 and is a Jaguar Academy of Sport patron, said: “Jess really has excelled this year, winning gold at the World Junior Rowing Championships in the single scull and is showing fantastic promise on all levels.

“She has completely engaged with the mentoring and education programme and I’m delighted she has been named our ‘Star of the Future.’

“I’m really looking forward to following her progress.”

Academy patron Sir Steve Redgrave, ambassador Katherine Grainger, Jaguar Land Rover MD Jeremy Hicks and Tour de France winner Chris Froome presented Jess with her accolades at the annual awards at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Jess has had a year to remember. She has dominated her age group at every domestic event and made history by claiming Britain’s first ever open weight women’s singles championship gold at the Junior World Championships.

She has often raced at elite level on the domestic circuit, completing three years with the junior team and has a possible four years in the Great Britain under 23 team ahead of reaching the senior squad.

British Rowing has praised her ‘total commitment, dedication, resilience and perfect attitude.’

She was also nominated for the SportsAid One to Watch Award and met the charity’s patron The Duchess of Cambridge at the recent Sports Ball.

Jess said: “Meeting the Duchess was amazing. She’s so elegant and down to earth.

“She asked about my sport and how I got into it. I think she’ll be a brilliant patron for SportsAid as she’s so genuine and cares a lot about sport.

“ I’d like to say thank you to the Jaguar Academy of Sport for supporting me this year - not just financially but in all the other aspects of my sport.”

As a member of the academy, Jess has received advice on dealing with the media, anti-doping procedures, nutrition and coping with injury.

She has also learned from Holmes, Denise Lewis, Grainger, Jade Jones, Rio Ferdinand and Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Jess added: “I’m so thrilled to have won this award. It’s completely unexpected and a fantastic end to 2013, a year in which I’ve enjoyed great success on the water.

“I have benefitted from all the workshops, especially at Eton Dorney where I had advice from Katherine Grainger.”