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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 January 2007, 17:45 GMT
Stars for 2012
Paul DrinkhallAaron CookLouis SmithTom DaleyGabrielle WhiteLouisa Sawers

A host of young athletes dreaming of Olympic gold showcased their talents at this month's Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney.

For the first time, Great Britain were represented at the event and the squad of more than 100 athletes contested 11 Olympic sports.

With the London Games five years away, many of the British contingent are already on the path to a place on the senior team for 2012.

Here BBC Sport shines the spotlight on six of Britain's brightest hopes - and finds out how they got on in Sydney.

LOUISA SAWERS - CANOEING

Louisa Sawers showed she can go the distance by claiming double gold at the junior marathon world canoeing championships last summer.

The 18-year-old triumphed in the women's kayak single and kayak doubles class in France.

Sawers, from Walton-on-Thames, has just finished a BTEC in health studies and plans to combine that knowledge with a strict training regime as she sets her sights on 2012.

"I am hoping to go to the 2012 Olympics, it really is my ultimate goal," says Sawers. "I would be so happy to race in my home country."

Sydney verdict: Teamed up with Rachel Cawthorn to win silver in the WK2 500

PAUL DRINKHALL - TABLE TENNIS

It is no bad thing finishing as runner-up to England and Arsenal striker Theo Walcott as the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year, but Drinkhall is not the sort of athlete who stands in anyone's shadow for long.

The Middlesbrough-born player's progress has been rapid.

In 2005 he captured all the junior titles at under 21, 18 and 15 levels and a year later he was the senior British number one at the age of just 16.

Drinkhall is so focused on the sport that he has given up school to train six days a week with his Chinese coach Jia Yi Liu.

"I've started to realise that if I put my mind to it, train my body hard and keep my mind strong then hopefully in 2012 I will get some medals," said Drinkhall.

Sydney verdict: Claimed men's doubles gold with partner Darius Knight and silver in the men's singles.

AARON COOK - TAEKWONDO

Taekwondo became an Olympic sport in 2000 but Britain already have golden prospects in 16-year-old Aaron Cook.

The Dorchester athlete took gold at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games before claiming a bronze at the Junior World Championships in Korea.

Cook said after his bronze: "It keeps me on course to realise my Olympic ambition."

And that Olympic dream could be realised before 2012 with Cook keen to do well at the Beijing Games next year.

Sydney verdict: Battled through the heat to win taekwondo gold in the men's 63-73kg category.

LOUIS SMITH - GYMNASTICS

Louis Smith proved he is made of stern stuff when he snatched Commonwealth gold on the pommel horse on Australian soil last March - despite suffering from a wrist injury.

The 17-year-old from Peterborough started taking gymnastics seriously when he was eight and now practises an average 26 hours a week while studying for two A-levels.

The two-time European junior champion finished 2006 with an impressive fifth place and a career-high score at the gymnastics World Cup finals in Brazil.

Smith has only just received government funding but says of gymnastics: "It's what I want to do, what I enjoy. It never seems like a sacrifice."

Sydney verdict: A bounty of medals for Smith; pommel horse gold, silver in the all-round competition and then a bronze in the high bar.

THOMAS DALEY - DIVING

They call him "Diver Boy" at school but Thomas Daley is already building an impressive reputation outside the schoolyard.

In fact, the 12-year-old from Plymouth, has been given special dispensation by the Australian Olympic Committee to compete at the Youth Olympics where the minimum age for divers is 15.

Daley is already achieving beyond his years, he is the British Under-18 champion in the highboard and springboard and came second in the 10m platform at the 2006 senior British Championships.

"It is strange that I'm 12 and the people I will be competing against are up to the age of 18, it is quite scary," says Daley.

"I want to be able to go to London in 2012 and get a gold medal there but also I would like to go to Beijing to have that extra Olympic experience."

Sydney verdict: Hopes were undone by a persistent thumb injury but he salvaged silver with Callum Johnstone in the 10m synchronised diving final.

GABRIELLE WHITE - BADMINTON

Gabrielle White started playing badminton aged seven and has gone on to win all the national singles, mixed and doubles titles from under 11 to under 17 level.

The 16-year-old from Leeds, who is also studying for 11 GCSEs, has already faced some of the world's best at the junior World Championships last November.

White teams up with another rising badminton star, Chris Adcock, in the mixed doubles in Australia and has her heart set on replicating the success of Olympic silver medallists Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms.

"I want that Olympic medal, especially if I'm going to be at home to win for Great Britain," said White.

"It's my long-term goal and when I train now it's all I want to train for."

Sydney verdict: Pair of bronzes for White as she teamed up with Chris Adcock in the mixed doubles and Sam Ward in the girls doubles.



SEE ALSO
Sporting hopefuls set for Sydney
19 Dec 06 |  Other Sport...
Tweddle & Smith win Glasgow gold
13 Nov 06 |  Other Sport...
Smith keeps European Junior title
08 May 06 |  Gymnastics
Gymnastics glory for England team
20 Mar 06 |  Commonwealth Games


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