Twickenham’s rising short track speed skating star Olivia Weedon admitted it was a once in a lifetime opportunity as he received invaluable advice from the vice-captain of the England football team, Gary Cahill, writes Frank Smith.

Weedon was one of the lucky athletes selected to meet the Chelsea star at Thursday’s launch of this year’s SSE Next Generation programme at Surrey Sports Park.

The 14-year-old showed her potential by winning the British Championship’s Juvenile title in January, having claimed the national Pee Wee Girls crown last year.

And St Catherine's School pupil Weedon said: “Meeting Gary Cahill was great because we spoke to him about what it was like growing up for him and how he balanced school and sport.

“He also told us about how much training he does now and what it is like to be an elite athlete.

“It is so inspirational to talk to someone like that, and it makes me determined to get to the top of my game just like he has. He’s got to the top of football and I want to be the person that does that in speed skating.”

The SSE Next Generation programme was set up in 2013 and with the help of charity SportsAid, provides funding and support to young athletes who have been identified by their respective governing bodies as having the potential to reach a high level in their sport.

The programme provides support to more than 100 athletes in 36 different sports and along with the £1,000 grant, offers media and social media training, advice on nutrition and mentoring.

One of those taking time out from their busy schedule to offer advice to a select group of SSE Next Generation athletes was 30-year-old Cahill, who has represented England 41 times and is expected to line-up for the Three Lions in this summer’s European Championships in France.

Cahill said: “I enjoyed seeing the SSE Next Generation athletes and I was really impressed with what I’ve learnt about the scheme and the support these athletes are getting.

“Things like social media training and advice on nutrition is important and it is something that when you are in a big set-up or at a big club then you take it for granted, whereas those starting out on their career maybe don’t so that is why the SSE Next Generation scheme is so important.

“All this sort of training is great for them and gives them a chance to really excel in their respective sport.

“It helps you along because while ultimately it’s up to you to dedicate yourself to your sport, you do need people around you to support you and give you the right guidance. If you take that onboard and listen to it then I’m sure they’ll go far.”

*SSE’s Next Generation programme partners with SportsAid to provide financial support and training to the sports stars of the future. Keep up to date with the latest @SSENextGen