By Oli Dickson Jefford
Marfa Ekimova saw some of her biggest dreams come true in a year that culminated in recognition at a prestigious awards ceremony in London.
The Welling rhythmic gymnast, 17, was crowned Commonwealth all-around champion this summer after bagging national-level triumphs earlier in the year.
And a breakout season for the Londoner saw her named on a 10-person nominee list for the SportsAid One-to-Watch Award, which celebrates and recognises some of the nations’ most promising young athletes.
“It’s definitely amazing to have been nominated in the top 10 out of 1,000 athletes, but to then find out that I’m top three out of all of them is just incredible,” she said.
“It’s very special to be third - it means so much that all the work has been rewarded and it makes me want to keep on going.
“I’ve had an incredible year. I became the Commonwealth Games champion in the summer. I’ve also become British and English champion as well as qualifying for the final for a medal in the international. It’s definitely been a crazy year.
🏆 ONE-TO-WATCH AWARD 🏆
It’s time to #CelebrateTheNext with a video of our top 🔟 athletes and their amazing achievements throughout 2022 🤩
The winner of this year’s One-to-Watch Award will be revealed by @xxEbobxx….she won the accolade when it was last presented in 2019 👏 pic.twitter.com/tJM0KkptKO
— SportsAid (@TeamSportsAid) November 17, 2022
“I enjoyed every second of the Commonwealth Games. It’s been the biggest dream that I’ve had that’s come true. Having a home crowd was amazing, they pushed me to my maximum to show all that I can do.”
SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award has gained a strong reputation for identifying the best up-and-coming prospects in Britain since its launch in 2006.
Previous winners, including Tom Daley OBE, Hollie Arnold MBE, Courtney Tulloch and Alex Yee MBE, have already amassed over 50 senior medals from Olympic and Paralympic Games, World and European Championships, as well as Commonwealth Games, to establish themselves as household names.
And there is no doubt that following in the footsteps of previous nominees and competing at the Olympic Games is the ultimate goal for Ekimova.
She said: “I’m so excited for the future, lots of World Cups, hopefully qualifying for the Olympics - and I’m super motivated.
Powerlifting star Mark Swan is 'more motivated than ever' after being crowned winner of SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award 2022 🔥
Watch out for lots more exclusive content from each of the top 🔟 athletes in the coming weeks 👀
▶️ https://t.co/NmB2edW22T#CelebrateTheNext pic.twitter.com/jgoK3a9qDy
— SportsAid (@TeamSportsAid) November 18, 2022
“For the next 12 months I want to compete at all the World Cups, to secure my name out there and be able to qualify for the World Championships, and to be able to participate in the Paris Olympic Games.
“It is the biggest goal that I have.
“For me to achieve this goal would be the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I’ve been working so hard since the age of six and it would just be a dream come true for myself, my family, my coaches and for everyone supporting me.”
SportsAid’s Celebrate the Next event, kindly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, was hosted at Sea Containers House in London thanks to Hogarth Worldwide. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk to find out more.