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Tuesday, Nov 19th

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Some Young Scottish Stars

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As a part of our build-up to the Commonwealth Youth Games, we're looking at some superstars to keep an eye on for the next decade. Scotland's contribution to the global talent pool includes paddler Craig Howieson, 16-year old weightlifter Amy Hamilton, pugilist Josh Taylor, child prodigy hammer-thrower Myra Perkins & swim sensation Andrew Haslett.

craig_howieson.jpgScotland's sports fans might be focusing on the lawn tennis progress of Andy Murray, but it is the recent exploits of a young table tennis player from Edinburgh - 18 year old Craig Howieson - that is hogging the limelight.

Starting at the prime age of seven, Craig trained till the age of 17 at the neighbourhood club before moving to Bristol's Filton Table Tennis Academy where he is currently mentored by former Scottish coach Kevin Satchell.

Spending six hours on the table each day doing different drills and exercises; some match specific work, footwork training, he follows it up with an hour in the gym with a specialised strength & conditioning trainer, Hence, it isn't surprising that Craig is racking up the wins in a highly competitive and well structured development program with the London Olympics in mind.

The highlights of his career include a bronze medal at the UK School Games and a gold medal at the under-18s in the British Schools International - both in individual events. In the World Team Championships in China, Craig won six of his 10 matches, helping Scotland gain promotion to Division 2. His hyper consistency helped Drumchapel Table Tennis Club finish second in the British Premier League, qualifying them for the European Club Cup.

Amy_Hamilton.JPGOne of Scotland's best young female weightlifters, 16 year old Amy Hamilton enjoyed a highly successful 2007. She represented Great Britain in the European Youth Championships and became British Champion at junior (under 20), under 18 and under 17 levels. So far this year she has defended her junior title and has become British Schools Champion.

Quite amazingly, her success has come just two years after she picked up the sport. She discovered weightlifting whilst training at the Glasgow School of Sport as an acro-gymnast. Inspite of a thriving career in gymnastics, her coaches felt she had better prospects as a weightlifter, and Amy did not disappoint them one bit.

Athletic and sleek of limb, she can lift astonishing amounts of weight. Her best Snatch (throwing the bar from floor to above her head in one movement) is 60kg. Her Clean and Jerk (a two part lift from the floor to shoulders then overhead) is up to 71 kg. She, herself, meanwhile weighs in at just 55kg! With her focus firmly on a medal at Pune, Amy works really hard; putting in two training sessions a day, six days a week.

Josh_Taylor.jpgA British Champion in Taekwondo, Josh Taylor turned to boxing only to get better at the Martial Art he learnt at the age of five. During his first session in a boxing ring, Josh felt a natural affinity with the sport, and within two months had fully transferred his allegiance.

Taylor, who competes in the 51kg Flyweight category, has won the Youth Multi-Nations event in Finland, backed up by bronze medals in the Croatian and Russian stages of the Multi-Nations competition.

In the morning, he runs and does pad work and circuits; at night he goes to his training club and does bag work and exercises. An unforgettable experience for Taylor this year was meeting and sparring with WBO super-featherweight champion Alex Arthur. With the Olympics and Commonwealth Games just stepping stones to what could be a great career, Josh sees himself competing one day at the grandest stage of them all - as a professional boxing world champion.

Myra_Perkins.jpgAnother 16-year old sensation, Myra Perkins is a AAAs Under-20 Championships silver medalist. In the Under-17 category, she strolled away with a gold. In a similar vein to some of the other athletes featured in this piece, she, too, is a novice to the sport having just started it a couple of seasons ago. In a hurry to make up for lost time, she bettered her Youth Championship qualifying attempt seven times, this year alone.

Not surprising, however, is a little known fact that a large number of hammer throwers were actually dance specialists once upon a time. Maybe, it has something to do with balance or technique, she muses...trained in the piano, theatre and Scottish country dance, Myra, unlike some of the other athletes, struggles to find a permanent practice ground near her home where she has done everything from denting holes in football grounds to scaring the neighbours' sheep!

Andrew_Haslett.JPGAndrew Haslett, at the tender age of 18, has already had to overcome adversity to break into the top flight of amateur sport. While undergoing routine surgery on a groin injury, doctors discovered he had a hernia which, too, required urgent care. Left out of the pool for eight months, Andrew went to the British Youth Championships with no match practice and little training... and left with three gold medals and four personal best performances after swimming the laps of his life.

After the Commonwealth Games in Pune he moves to Australia where he will train for a year in an effort to break into the top tier of swimming with the Delhi 2010, London 2012 and, maybe, most importantly for all the Scottish athletes at the games - Glasgow 2014, firmly in his sight.

If winning medals for the nation wasn't incentive enough, Team Scotland's major sponsor Clydesdale Bank is throwing in a special Athlete of the Games award and two runners-up awards amounting to £500 and £250 respectively.

Once again our thanks to Rob Eyton-Jones for sharing so much of his time with us to bring us upto speed with Scottish Sport, and we look forward to bringing you coverage live from Pune as we head over to cover the Commonwealth Youth Games!