JESSICA ENNIS-HILL'S inspirational influence is fuelling Melissa Coxon's pursuit of Team GB glory.
Coxon, 18, is about to finish studying at Rotherham's Wales High School and aims to juggle her burgeoning athletics career with a Biological Sciences degree at Loughborough University.
She specialises in the 400m hurdles and says memories of watching Sheffield's 2012 Olympic champion Ennis-Hill are catalysing her rise to the top.
Coxon, who first started out in pentathlon with Rotherham Harriers at just nine years old, said: “I remember when I was younger, I used to see Jessica Ennis Hill train at my track. I have a photo with her when I was about eight.
“She had injuries before the 2008 Olympics, and then she overcame that, did 2012 and was obviously amazing. She then had a kid and then went on to Rio and still medalled after that, which was incredible.
“It's very much ingrained in her routine which I can very much relate to.”
Coxon's athletics career is powered by a partnership between Entain — owner of Ladbrokes and Coral — and with SportsAid, set up in 2019 and supported by Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.
The investment promotes grassroots sport and the funding provided for training, travel, equipment and mentoring is helping Coxon realise her running potential.
Coxon also has the help of her supportive family, however, with her dad, Ian, being her No.1 fan.
“He comes to every training session, to every competition that I do, whether it's London or Scotland — he will always come,” she added.
“He works in a convenience store but gets up at 4.30am every morning just so he can finish at 2:30pm to take me training after school.
“The main reason why I want to do well in the sport is to give back, because I know the sacrifices that my family have made for me, so I just want to make them proud.”
Coxon, who was born in Worksop, burst onto the athletics scene in 2018 with a silver medal in the 300m hurdles at the English Schools Championships, which also earned her an England vest.
Melissa has managed to maintain her prowess by setting up some on-loan hurdles in her garden and can't wait to fly the flag at the British Championships later this year.
“It's hard because I'm still young and I don't like to put a lot of pressure on myself,” she said.
“I think representing your country is just such an honour, whether that's in a relay or an individual event.
“And travelling, getting to go to different places in the world to do something that you love is something that really attracts me.
“Obviously, I love to win races and get medals but representing Great Britain is my main goal.”
Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid.
Visit entaingroup.com to find out more.