By Tom Harle
Para-swimming prodigy Poppy Maskill got an almighty kick out of beating her idol at the World Championships.
The Middlewich star has won multiple national titles but hit the international scene like a train in 2022, culminating in an appearance at a home Commonwealth Games.
Maskill brought back a full set of medals from her World Championship debut in Madeira in June.
She was crowned world champion as part of the British 4x100m medley relay squad, taking silver in the 100m backstroke and bronze in the 100m butterfly.
The 17-year-old touched the wall in the backstroke just ahead of Jessica-Jane Applegate, a stalwart of the British team for a decade, who has been her inspiration in the sport.
“I was quite shocked to beat Jessica-Jane, actually,” said Maskill, who competes in the S14 category for the intellectually impaired.
“She has always performed so well and won medals at the Paralympics, it’s really weird to be on a team with someone I’ve watched on TV so many times.
“I got the chance to speak to her and she was really nice - we both have dogs so we spoke about that, not swimming!
“My first World Championships was a great experience, it feels different to a normal swimming gala because there are so many different countries there. It feels bigger.
“I was really happy with my performance.”
Maskill, who trains with Alsager Swimming Club, showed her potential with her first senior gold in February’s World Series event in Aberdeen and did it again in Lignano in March.
She revelled in combining with Bethany Firth, Reece Dunn and Scott Quin in winning the world title.
Maskill said: “I haven’t done any relay racing before and it feels different when you’re part of a team. You don’t want to let the team down.”
The teenager then earned a dream selection for Team England at Birmingham 2022 with S14 races included in the limited Games programme for the first time.
She might have narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing fourth in the 200m freestyle, but cherished the memories of her experience on the big stage.
“It was really cool being there,” she said. “The crowds were so loud every night.
“I was excited but also very nervous. I learned that it doesn’t make a difference how many people are watching, you have to swim in the same way.”
SportsAid is delighted to reveal the 🔟 talented young athletes on the shortlist for the One-to-Watch Award 2022 🏆
The annual award shines a spotlight on the incredible achievements of Britain’s brightest sporting prospects 👏
▶️ https://t.co/tpJfiUVWAr #CelebrateTheNext pic.twitter.com/gvwJJ8fCvn
— SportsAid (@TeamSportsAid) November 1, 2022
Maskill already has eyes on another chance to compete on home soil with next year’s World Championships set to be staged in Manchester.
Her superb 2022 has been rewarded with nomination for SportsAid’s annual One-to-Watch Award, shortlisted in the top 10 from a raft of 1,000 young athletes supported by the charity across 60 different sports.
The award was launched in 2006 to shine a spotlight on the outstanding achievements of Britain’s brightest young prospects, with Tom Daley, Hollie Arnold, Courtney Tulloch, Amber Hill, Morgan Lake and Alex Yee among the former winners.
Maskill, who received her SportsAid support from Aldi this year, said: “I was very surprised to be nominated. It means a lot.”
The winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award will be revealed at the charity’s Celebrate the Next event, supported by Royal Bank of Canada, in London on Thursday 17 November. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk for further information.