Sprinter and long jumper Polly Maton is maturing into a medal contender sooner than expected

Only 17 years of age, Polly Maton was originally identified by Britain’s para-athletics programme as a potential medallist in Tokyo 2020.

Yet such is the rate of her progress, she could step on to the podium as soon as this year when the world’s top athletes gather in London.

Not that Maton is taking things for granted. “First I have to earn selection, which won’t be easy,” she says. “The standard of para-athletics is getting higher year on year.”

The talented Wiltshire athlete has several options when it comes to qualification, though. She combines the 100m with long jump and so far it’s been hard to tell which her best event is.

In 2015 the teenager was eighth in the long jump at the IPC World Championships in Doha but in 2016 her sprinting was slightly more impressive as she finished fifth in the T47 100m at the Rio Paralympics and seventh in the long jump at the same Games.

“It’s hard to say what my best event is,” she says. “In long jump I enjoy the technical side of it and it’s not as gruelling training- wise. But you don’t get quite the same buzz in long jump as you do when you’re actually winning a sprint race.”

She adds: “Initially I thought I had more potential in long jump but now after Rio it’s maybe the 100m.”

Maton is talking to AW at Mossbourne Riverside Academy, where she is giving an inspirational talk with fellow Paralympic athlete Kylie Grimes to youngsters. The school is situated in the Olympic Park area and only a few hundred metres from the Olympic Stadium itself.

“Hopefully some of the children will be at the World Para Athletics Championships in July,” says Maton. “It’s amazing that the school is right on their doorstep and there’s a real buzz starting to happen around the championships.”

Polly-Maton-London-2017

Maton is an amputee athlete who was born without part of her right arm. She was spotted at a talent ID event at school and aged 14 showed her ability in 2014 by taking three gold medals at the IWAS Junior Championships when she was just 14 years old.

The following year she finished eighth in the long jump at the IPC World Championships on her 16th birthday. But more was to come in 2016.

After qualifying for Rio, she finished seventh in the long jump before improving three days later to come fifth in the 100m with a time of 13.09 as the USA’s Deja Young took gold.

“I’ve been here for experience and it’s been amazing,’’ said Maton after her 100m final at the Games. “The Brazilian crowd has been amazing. I’ve never experienced a stadium like this. It’s been pretty overwhelming.

“I knew I had a shot at a medal but I didn’t push off right at the end, but it was a really enjoyable race anyway.’’

Due to her age, Maton was expected to be a contender in 2020 and not as soon as 2016. Her coach, Colin Baross, said: “She’s had a few internationals, she’s on an upward learning curve and we are hopeful that 2020 in Tokyo she can bring medals back because she will be the right age by then.

“Genuinely she reacts better to a big stage, she does get nerves but normally the bigger the competition the better Polly performs, it’s a good omen we are very excited.”

The Devizes athlete adds: “The World Para Athletics Championships is going to be brilliant this year and I really hope I make the team and get the opportunity to perform.”

» The 2017 World Para Athletics Championships from July 14-23 and the IAAF World Championships from August 4-13 will bring together 3300 athletes from more than 200 countries. It will be the first time the two events will be hosted by the same city in the same summer. Buy tickets at paraathleticschampionships.com and iaafworldchampionships.com