SCHOOL GAMES: Jessica’s success is ‘lovely surprise’

Jessica Woodworth representing the East Midlands competes in the street sprint trials on day three of the 2016 School Games at Loughborough University.
Jessica Woodworth representing the East Midlands competes in the street sprint trials on day three of the 2016 School Games at Loughborough University.

Spalding’s Jessica Woodworth got to experience what it would be like to be an Olympian after topping the podium at the prestigious School Games.

The 16-year-old kicked off the three-day cycling competition by winning the team time trial alongside three other East Midlands riders on Friday.

We actually thought we had finished second so it was a lovely surprise when we found out we had won.

Jessica Woodworth

Woodworth then followed it up 24 hours later by finishing 23rd in the street sprint and came 26th in the road race on Sunday as their East Midlands team just missed out on an overall cycling medal by coming fourth.

The School Games is a major multi-sport competition for school-age elite athletes and over four days, around 1,600 of the nation’s finest young sports stars were competing across 12 current and future Olympic and Paralympic sports, seven of which included disability competition.

Woodworth said: “I was really pleased with our performance.

“We actually thought we had finished second so it was a lovely surprise when we found out we had won.

“We have a pretty close bond as a team so that helped us and we communicated a lot. We also played to everyone’s strengths.

“The School Games has been so good and being part of an opening ceremony was pretty cool.

“The School Games is a bigger level than we are used to and it is harder as well because it is over a full weekend, rather than the course of an afternoon.”

The event is supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England and delivered by the Youth Sport Trust.

With 15 of Team GB’s 67 medals at the Rio Olympic Games coming from School Games alumni, it has proven to be a great introduction to a multi-sport environment for the stars of the future.

Max Whitlock – who became Team GB’s first-ever gymnastics Olympic gold medallist by winning on both the floor and pommel horse at Rio 2016 – was on hand in Loughborough to officially launch the 11th edition of the event at the opening ceremony.

Whitlock, who was a School Games reserve back in 2006, insisted that experience helped him on his way to making history in Rio.

“I was a reserve for the School Games but I try to turn everything into a positive,” he explained.

“I learned a lot from the experience even though I wasn’t competing.

“As a reserve you’re training up until the day of competition and competing was the only thing I didn’t do.

“I watched the other boys and they did brilliantly so that spurred me on to go further.

“The people competing here are already ahead of where I was, so they too can achieve their dreams.”

The 2016 School Games is supported by a range of partners including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Sport England, Youth Sport Trust, Department of Health and British Paralympic Association. The Games took place in Loughborough from September 1-4. Visit www.2016schoolgames.com for more information.