May 20 2013 Latest news:
Sukran Sahin, Senior Reporter
Monday, February 6, 2012
A charming and “unassuming” teenager is hoping to join the Olympic team after winning a “senior” gold medal in a national Judo competition she entered to gain experience.
Junior judoka Hayley Willis has won the under-48kg category at the Senior British Championships in Sheffield at the weekend
The 16-year-old Junior World bronze medallist and Olympic squad team member took the title on Sunday.
She said: “I was actually quite shocked at first. I was not expecting much from the seniors other than a bit of experience. When I won, I was very pleased.”
Hayley, who goes to Jo Richardson School, Gale Street, Dagenham was only five years old when she first took to the mat. She knew at a very early age that she would take the sport further.
She said: “I felt quite natural on the mat. I was about nine or ten when I started doing more competitions and I will hopefully continue for as long as I can have success with it.
“Hopefully, I will be selected for the Olympic team.”
But the Year 11 students is also a star performer in academic terms.
Deputy head teacher Michaela Boller said: “She’s one of our top students. She’s so grounded and level headed - she’s an inspiration.
“She’s tiny and she’s unassuming - I think that’s part of her charm. You don’t need to be loud or brash in order to achieve.
“She’s also well-liked. She’s always been a student who has worked hard and who’s appreciated the fact that the more you put in, the more you get out of it.
“That comes from having a really supportive family. I think the sky’s the limit for her.”
Head teacher Ges Smith said: “To me it’s unbelievable that in the year of the Olympics we have got a potential Olympian at our school. Her dad and mum deserve huge amount of credit - they have given up an awful lot for her.”
Although she is preparing to take her GCSEs in the summer, Mr Smith believes that she will do well even if makes it in to the Olympic team.
He said: “Hayley has got a quiet dry and resilience that you don’t normally see in someone so young. If she gets in to the team there will be real pressure on her to prepare for the Olympics. I think Hayley can cope.”
The determined youngster believes the discipline she has learnt through the sport has helped her academic performance.
Hayley said: “It improves your mental strength. You have highs and lows. You have to be able to deal with the pressure.
“I don’t really struggle to do course work. I think I have good mental stability and I put the effort in.”