Young hockey star Harry Martin has been recognised as one of Britain’s brightest sporting prospects after being awarded the prestigious SportsAid One-to-Watch award.  The award recognises exceptional sportsmen and women who are supported by SportsAid and show great promise for the future.  It rounds off a memorable year for the Suffolk teenager in which he has made the jump from England’s under 18s to senior international hockey, culminating with a place in England squad for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last month. 

18 year old Martin, from Ipswich, came out on top ahead of more than 2000 athletes SportsAid has supported this year after being judged on his performances over the past 12 months, the strength of the sport and his potential as an athlete.  The announcement was made at a gala dinner in London on Thursday after the judging panel, comprising representatives from SportsAid, UK Sport, Sport England and the English Institute of Sport, selected the midfielder from a shortlist of 12 young athletes.
It has been a whirlwind year for the youngster, who plays for his school, Ipswich School, and England Hockey League club Old Loughtonians.  In early April, he competed for the England Hockey under 18 boys in a four nations tournament in Hamburg before playing for the under 21s at the end of that month.  Subsequently called up by England and Great Britain Head Coach Jason Lee, Martin made his senior international debut for Great Britain against Japan in July.  Further appearances against Olympic Champions Germany and New Zealand followed with his England debut coming in September against France.
Martin, who has won eight England caps and six for GB, said: “It’s a real honour to win this award.  SportsAid have been great over the last couple of years.  They have provided me with lots of funding for getting to the Games and for kit and this has given me a massive boost.  It’s an amazing feeling to be the One-to-Watch – especially when there are so many strong contenders out there.
“But there is a lot more work for me to do,” he continued. “The London 2012 Olympics is my next big aim and there’s still a long way to go before I get into the squad so I’ll keep my head down, keep improving, and hopefully start making my name on the world stage.”  
In October, Martin played in his first major senior international tournament when he travelled to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games, where England finished fourth. 
Jason Lee, England and Great Britain Head Coach said: “The Commonwealth Games was an exceptionally difficult environment in which to step into, whether you are an experienced international or someone at the beginning of what will hopefully be a highly successful hockey career.  Harry had done well over the summer and deserved his place in the squad.  Going to a multi-sport event like the Commonwealth Games is great preparation for the Olympic Games.  He coped very well with the conditions and environment and played like a man, not the 17 year old he was.
“Since joining the senior squad Harry has played exceptionally maturely.  His core skills are near faultless and he’s calm under pressure.”
David Faulkner, Performance Director at the EHB and Great Britain Hockey, said: “Over the past five years England Hockey has been totally focused on individual player development and on providing appropriate support for young athletes like Harry.  He is a great example of someone who, over the course of just 12 months, has made the transition from under 18s to under 21s and into the senior men's team.
"We also recognise and are grateful for the financial support and the role that SportsAid has played in supporting Harry through this transition, when difficult choices had to be made around lifestyle and education.  It clearly demonstrates for me that the right support, at the right place, at the right time can ensure an athlete's journey is both good and rewarding.  We are all delighted that Harry's performance and journey has been recognised with this national award.”
Martin’s achievement is all the more laudable given that he is now in the last year of his A-level studies at Ipswich School and is setting his sights on a place at a top University.  Away from the books, he will be hoping to secure a place in the England squad looking to defend its European crown next August, when the 2011 EuroHockey Nations Championships take place in Monchengladbach, Germany.
In being named SportsAid’s One-to-Watch, Martin joins a special group of young athletes.  Previous winners include World and European gold medal-winning diver Tom Daley, Paralympic javelin thrower Hollie Arnold and athlete Jodie Williams, the young sprint sensation.