Megan Thorne has amazed even herself in transforming from a ‘shy girl’ to a fully–fledged England international setting out to inspire others.
Sport is a family affair for the 16-year-old from Deanshanger, who was brought up watching her mum, aunt and cousin play – her dad has even taken part in an exhibition match and her sister was an age–group star.
After uncertain beginnings, Thorne has outstripped the rest of her clan and now stars for Vitality Super league franchise Wasps Netball, as well as MK Dons Netball Club.
And the Elizabeth Woodvile School pupil doesn’t have to look far for inspiration with fond memories of getting up in the small hours to watch England snatch Commonwealth Games gold in 2018.
“I think my proudest achievement is how far I’ve come,” said Thorne.
“To take that journey from being shy to being a fully-fledged athlete, I needed to make a lot of friends and they really helped me. I’ve never wanted to let anyone down as a shooter.
“I worked really hard and always knew what I wanted to do. I train with England and my club but do a lot behind closed doors on my own, just to make sure I can keep following my dream.
“What the senior England team have done is incredibly motivating.
“I was waking up in the middle of the night to watch the Commonwealth Games – next door neighbours heard us screaming when we won.
“It’s inspired me so much, to know we’re a small country but can achieve so much. It makes me want to get involved. The girls gave everything and deserved it so much.
“The number of girls that picked the sport up, so many have started as a result.
“I play because I enjoy it and want to inspire young girls too. The young players at the club look up to me and I helped coach them because I want to do what the England Roses have done.”
Her cause is also being helped by SportsAid and the Backing The Best programme, which offers critical financial help to talented young athletes who would otherwise face difficulties progressing through their sport’s system.
Backed by £5.5 million of National Lottery funding, Backing The Best presents annual awards of £5,000 per athlete to help with essential costs such as travel, accommodation, kit, nutrition and medical bills.
Wicken siblings Eleanor and Oliver Butler are also benefiting from the programme, who both play badminton for England and are pupils at Stowe School.
Thorne and the Butler siblings were just three of dozens of SportsAid athletes who attended workshops at Nottingham Racecourse earlier this month, offering media training, nutrition advice, performance lifestyle guidance and support for parents.
The youngsters from all over the country were joined by Winter Olympian Elise Christie, who sung the praises of the scheme for helping
“It was a really great day in Nottingham. It’s amazing to be a part of something that gives young adults the chance to shine,” said the triple short track speed skating world champion.
“I think that’s what is important about SportsAid – they don’t just give money, they help you develop skills.
“If I could have gone back and learnt that stuff before what happened to me, then I’d have been so much better prepared.
“I’ve come to SportsAid events four times and I always learn something new each time.
“SportsAid is a special charity because there are a lot of people who will support successful athletes, but SportsAid search for talent who can’t make it on their own.”
Backing The Best is helping talented young athletes facing the greatest financial pressure to pursue their sporting ambitions. The programme, managed by SportsAid for Sport England, is supported by National Lottery funding. Visit www.sportengland.org/our–work/talent/backing–the–best/ to find out more.