11 Oct 2007

Young Welsh athletes have bagged three of this year’s prestigious OCS Young Sports Person Awards.

Fifteen year-old Newport cricketer Imran Hassan has been named Regional Winner for Wales, and he is going to be joined on the podium by wheelchair tennis champion Philip Cochrane (13) from Cwmbran and rhythmic gymnast Laura Halford (11), who competes internationally for Wales.

Philip is winner of the disabled athlete category, and Laura is this year’s OCS ‘Young Star’.

The OCS Young Sports Person Awards celebrate sporting achievement and support young athletes across the UK. This year is the tenth anniversary of the scheme, and the three youngsters will be travelling to London to collect their Awards at a celebratory event in the OCS Stand at the Brit Oval on Thursday 22 November.

Imran, as a regional winner, and Philip, as disabled award winner, will each take home a cheque for £2,500, and Laura’s ‘Young Star’ Award comes with a cheque for £500.

On the day, OCS will announce one overall winner out of the regional and disabled categories, who will receive a further £10,000-worth of support over three years – with £2,500 of that going to their club or school.

Previous OCS Young Sports Person Award winners will be at the event, such as Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle, alongside previous Welsh regional winners including future double Paralympic hopeful Nathan Stephens, Robert Parry and Non Stanford, and many more top sporting stars.

Imran Hassan is the youngest of the nine UK regional winners. His potential as a cricket star of the future is evident from his selection as the youngest member of both Glamorgan CCC's Cricket Academy and Newport Cricket Club's 1st XI.

Philip Cochrane started playing wheelchair tennis competitively at just ten years-old, and has already progressed through Novice, Men’s C and B Divisions and into world-ranked Men’s draw events. He is the youngest winner of the UK National ‘B’ and Men’s Second Draw Singles titles.

He also turns his hand to wheelchair basketball. Last year he was awarded the ‘Rookie of the Tournament’ award in Sweden, playing for Cardiff in an International Basketball tournament.

Laura Halford has been a member of the British Gymnastics World Class squad for the last three years and a member of the Welsh National squad for four years, representing Wales in Russia, Poland, the USA and Portugal. In Russia she won an award for gymnast with most potential, and in the USA won the award for most elegant gymnast, both voted by an international judging panel.

Philip feels the Disabled Athlete Award and the £2,500 of support it brings will make a real difference: "The additional funding will cover my strength and conditioning training – and it helps with all the travel too. It’s come at a really good time, as I’m currently number eight in the World Junior Masters rankings, and with two 18 year-olds leaving, I could be number four or five next year. But it’s going to be hard work!"