Antonia Bunyan feared her goalball career was over before it had barely begun but is now celebrating a nomination for SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award.
York’s Bunyan, 19, began the year recovering from a fractured elbow but in her first competition back suffered a wrist injury. An operation on her throwing hand was followed by months of rehabilitation but Bunyan never gave up, playing a senior role in Great Britain’s bronze-medal winning performance at the Youth World Championships.
Since then she has gone from strength to strength, selection in her country’s European Championship team last month – an honour she believes is all thanks to SportsAid’s support to date.
“It’s absolutely amazing, I can’t believe that I was lucky enough to be nominated,” the massage student said.
“I honestly can’t even put it into words how enthusiastic and happy I am about this; I think it’s a privilege to be nominated. I’m speechless.
“I think at the end of Europeans, it was more overwhelming I think in terms of where I started the year and how I’ve ended it.
“Because at the start of the year I didn’t think I’d be able to play goalball ever again and now I was a starting player at a European Championships.
“So, I was really happy with how I’ve gone through this year and managed to get through it. I’ve had some amazing experiences and I’ll never forget this one.”
SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award was launched in 2006 with double Olympic medallist and diving world champion Tom Daley the inaugural winner. Paralympic champion Hollie Arnold MBE claimed the accolade in 2008 with para-athlete Sally Brown, hockey player Harry Martin, heptathlete Morgan Lake and sprinter Jodie Williams among the previous victors.
Bunyan is now in line to join such illustrious company as one of ten nominees selected from around 1,000 rising British stars supported by SportsAid across more than 60 different sports. Dame Katherine Grainger, Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, and five-time Paralympic para-equestrian champion Natasha Baker are among the panel of judges casting their eye over the nominees.
But the teenager, who is supported by SportsAid through the Backing The Best programme, isn’t just talented on the court. She has completed courses in massage, braille and an EPQ while studying at the Royal National College for the Blind, laying the foundations of future careers in and out of sport.
“I want to be successful in my career as an athlete but also as a normal person,” explained Bunyan.
“I want to have my own massage business and I want to expand that massage business one day. I have ambition and dreams to do things outside of goalball too.
“My ultimate ambition with goalball is to get to the Paralympics, we were so close this time – just one goal away from going – but it’s still my dream. I know that it’s possible because we were so close this time and next time hopefully, we’ll be the lucky ones.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do from a young age so hopefully I can pursue that but also I don’t want to get there half-heartedly. I want to be world class one day. I want to be at the top of my game and I want people to know who I am because of what I’ve done and how hard I’ve worked.”
The winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award will be revealed at the charity’s Celebrate the Next event, sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, in London on Tuesday 19 November. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk for further information.