RYA Volvo National Youth Squad sailor Saskia Sills was yesterday (Sunday 2 December) announced as one of the 10 contenders on the shortlist for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award 2012.
Sills, 17 from Launceston, has made a huge impact in her first full season in the Under 19 Youth RS:X windsurfing class with her biggest achievement coming at the 2012 Four Star Pizza ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships in Dublin where she claimed the gold medal by an emphatic margin.
The windsurfer was also crowned 2012 RYA Volvo Youth National Champion, finished third overall in the RS:X Youth European Windsurfing Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, winning the Under 17 category.
The Tavistock College star quickly followed that up with another gold at the EUROSAF Youth Europeans, and then went onto claim the under 17 world title in addition to overall silver, at the RS:X Class Youth Worlds in October, earning her nomination for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards alongside Olympic and Paralympic medalists.
"I feel really honoured to have been shortlisted for this award; I never thought that I would be considered, so when I got the phone call I was pretty excited," enthused Sills.
"I’ve had a really good first year on the RS:X which was completely unexpected. I would just like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has helped me this year. Being shortlisted means a lot to me as the windsurfing community has had pretty tough year regarding ISAF's decision on whether windsurfing would be in or out of the future Olympics.
"Sometimes it was quite tough to carry on training when I knew my sport had been initially dropped and I didn’t know which direction I was going to go in so I'm happy that both myself and the sport of windsurfing have been recognised for such a prestigious award,” said Sills.
London 2012 Olympian Tom Daley has scooped the BBC annual accolade three times since 2007 but is too old to win it this time around as it is only open to those who were aged 16 or under on January 1, 2012.
Past winners also include Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Ellie Simmonds and Andy Murray who have all taken the award over the past decade. Last year's winner was golfer Lauren Taylor who claimed the award after becoming the youngest winner of the Ladies' British Open Amateur Championship.
Alongside Sills on the ten-strong shortlist are Paralympic medallists Jessica-Jane Applegate, Olivia Breen and Josef Craig, tennis player Kyle Edmund, golfer Georgia Hall, BMX champion Quillan Isidore, Olympic swimmer Siobhan-Marie O'Connor, gymnast Rebecca Tunney and canoeist Kimberley Woods.
Duncan Truswell, RYA Youth Racing Manager, added: “It’s great for Saskia and the sport as a whole to see one of our talented young windsurfers commitment and achievements recognised by being short listed for this prestigious award. It has been an unsettling year for our young windsurfers but they have remained committed, focussed and determined despite the uncertainty around the Olympic pathway.
“Saskia’s results have been the icing on the cake for RYA Team GBR’s windsurfing programmes and testament to the depth of talent in our programmes and the hard work of not just the young sailors but also coaches and volunteers working tirelessly within the sport.
Truswell concluded: “Saskia is an extremely capable young windsurfer and a great ambassador for the sport, with an easy going personality but a reputation for delivering determined performances when it counts, she has been a real asset to our programmes this year and I wish her the very best of luck for the award.”
The shortlist was drawn up from nominations made by a panel of judges chaired by BBC Sport's John Inverdale. The panel also selected their top three and their winner by secret ballot.
The top three will be announced later this month and the winner revealed live at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony, taking place at London's ExCel on Sunday 16 December.