Multi-talented teenager Qi-Chi Ukpai is looking ahead to the outdoor season after she became an indoor national champion.
The 13-year-old was first introduced to athletics while at Kent College Canterbury but has since moved to Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School.
Canterbury’s Ukpai primarily competes across high jump, triple jump and long jump, and enjoyed success at last month’s England Athletics Age Group Indoor Championships in Sheffield as she secured her first-ever national gold in the girls’ under-15s high jump - and was fifth in the long jump on the same day.
She also hopes to earn qualification for the English Schools’ Championships and the outdoor England Athletics Championship.
She said: “That’s, basically, the highlights of my outdoor season - the regionals, English Schools and then the outdoor English Athletics.”
Ukpai has reason to feel confident, as well, going into a busy summer period.
She won gold at the indoor championships on Saturday, February 12 with a second-time distance of 1.64m - 3cm clear of her rivals - having claimed three first-place finishes at the Southern Championships in January.
“I think it was a very good experience as a whole,” she reflected on her experience at the England Indoor Championships.
“We drove up to Sheffield the day before and then we stayed in a hotel.
"It wasn’t a new experience completely because I have been to some national events before, but I’d never been to that stadium before.
“It was a good experience to see everything and I was very happy with a gold medal.”
She trains at Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC - a club Orpington’s double Olympic bronze medallist Dina Asher-Smith is a long-time member of - on Saturdays, where she works with coach John Herbert. Her other training commitments are split between Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Ukpai, one of the younger second-year athletes in the under-15s category, explained: “It’s very good. He (Herbert) is an England jumps coach, so he’s very good.
"I get driven to London and see him on Saturdays, but I have various other coaches I train with on the weekdays because I can’t travel to London all the time.
“The maximum I will train is two days in a week because over-training is not a good thing.
"It actually does the opposite of what you want.”
Ukpai also enjoys playing netball for Canterbury Pilgrims and her school, which means a busy schedule when balancing athletics alongside her school work.
She’s got no plans to concentrate on one discipline just yet, though, saying: “I’m very happy doing different things because I’m still young.
“I don’t want to just focus on one thing and say ‘Okay, this is what I’m doing now’. I want to try different things out.”
On her long-term ambitions, she added: “In athletics, my dream is to become an Olympic champion and a world-record holder.
“That’s my long-term goal, but I know I’ve got to put in a lot more hard work to get there.”
In the meantime, she has a vital period at school to contend with as she starts her GCSEs, having recently been praised by her school for the work she has done there, too.
“I’m actually starting them this year next term because our school starts a bit early on it,” the Year 9 student revealed.
“I’m taking maths, triple science, English literature and English language, Spanish, history and PE.”