Millfield School pupil Joel Leon-Benitez has got his sights firmly set on bigger and better things after winning pole vault gold at the Sainsbury’s 2014 School Games.
Leon-Benitez was among more than 1,600 talented athletes from across the UK to descend on Manchester to compete in 12 sports across four action-packed days at the annual event.
And the 16-year-old was one of the brightest talents on show as he cleared 4.60m to finish on top of the podium by ten centimetres ahead of England South East’s Nathan Gardner.
Leon-Benitez chose to switch to pole vault from gymnastics and, following his success in Manchester, is now targeting a spot on the British team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“You can never complain with a gold medal – I would have liked to have got a personal best or a championship record but I’m happy. I was always aiming for a gold medal,” he said.
“The Games were amazing. I didn’t get the chance to do them last year. The next step for me now is winter training.
“Next season I want to go to the World Youth Championships, the Commonwealth Youth Games and long-term the Olympics.
“I’m looking at 2020. Pole-vaulters have a longer life span than most athletes so I’ve got plenty of time. This is just my third year competing.
“I was a gymnast at quite a high level and then switched to pole vault. It was strange when I first did it but I enjoyed it, kept it going and I’m good at it now.”
Leon-Benitez was not the only Millfield School pupil to leave Manchester with a medal, with swimmer Emma Cain winning 200m breaststroke gold and cyclist Lauren Dolan claiming bronze in the 15km points race.
Cain, pictured, clocked a time of 2mins 36.17secs to win gold by almost 1.5 seconds and she too believes success in Manchester can lead to impressive performances on the world stage.
“It was a great experience – I went to the European juniors earlier in the summer and this event was a great way to set me on the road to the world juniors in 2015,” she said.
“I haven’t done a training session since my summer break yet, so this really was the start of my season and it was a great start. The School Games was a great experience.
“Being part of a multi-sport event is where I want to be and meeting the multi-classification disabled athletes was brilliant.”
“Qualification for GB juniors is my first aim this season and then I really hope to get two more British records in the 100m and 200m breaststroke.”
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