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Teenage sprint star reveals gruelling effort to reach Olympic dream

PUBLISHED: 16:08 12 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:08 12 October 2019

Serena Grace, 16, with coach Mike Utting, at the International Federation for Catholic Schools Games. Photo: Submitted

Serena Grace, 16, with coach Mike Utting, at the International Federation for Catholic Schools Games. Photo: Submitted

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From revising trackside to talking to your coach about periods, a 16-year-old sprint star has revealed what it takes to go from teenage girl to world class athlete.

Serena Grace, 16, won two gold medals for team GB at the International Federation for Catholic Schools Games. Photo: SubmittedSerena Grace, 16, won two gold medals for team GB at the International Federation for Catholic Schools Games. Photo: Submitted

Serena Grace from Norwich is only 16, but has already been competing on the international athletics stage for nearly seven years.

The young athlete, who runs the 60m, 100m and 200m, was spotted while she was still at primary school, and joined the City of Norwich Running Club, who she still competes for.

In July, the Notre Dame High School student scooped two gold medals in Bucharest, Romania, while representing Team GB at the International Federation for Catholic Schools Games.

Currently ranked number one in the East of England in 100m and 200m, Serena's mother, Vanessa Butcher, describes her running style as "effortless", which is deceptive, considering the rigorous training regime the 16-year-old maintains.

Serena Grace, 16, won two gold medals at the International Federation for Catholic Schools Games. Photo: SubmittedSerena Grace, 16, won two gold medals at the International Federation for Catholic Schools Games. Photo: Submitted

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Racking up more than 10 hours training a week, alongside studying for A-levels, Serena has had to think outside the box to keep her busy life on track.

She said: "When I was studying for my GCSEs I revised while I was at competitions, in between races by the track. A lot of people end up dropping out of training while they do exams but it has a big impact even missing one week of training."

Serena believes the demanding schedule is one of the reasons many girls give up sport once they hit their teens.

Serena Grace, 16, won two gold medals for team GB at the International Federation for Catholic Schools Games. Photo: SubmittedSerena Grace, 16, won two gold medals for team GB at the International Federation for Catholic Schools Games. Photo: Submitted

She said: "A lot of people my age want to spend their time hanging out with their friends in the city or they get into relationships and that's hard to juggle."

For the 16-year-old, her coach, Mike Utting, is a constant source of motivation, and has supported the youngster and her mother since they met five years ago.

Serena said: "Your coach gets you through bad days and you have to be honest about it. If you're stressed, having doubts or on your period for example.

"It all has an impact on your performance. Mike is good at reminding me of the long game. I'm aiming for the Olympics and one race doesn't change that."

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