The Duchess of Cambridge revealed her sprinting ability and punching power when she put on a sporting display with some of Britain’s best future athletic hopes.
Kate burst out of the blocks as she went up against former Olympic heptathlon champion Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill and two promising para-athletes – then asked for a re-run.
And she left Olympic gold medal hopeful Lutalo Muhammad joking about her “mean right hand” after the taekwondo competitor showed the duchess how to throw a punch.
Kate’s sporting display came when she met young athletes and their parents at the London Stadium at the Olympic Park, for an event staged by SportsAid, a national charity helping the next generation of Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth champions.
Among the guests were past stars who have benefited from SportsAid support – double Olympic gold medal- winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington and former world heavyweight boxing champion David Haye.
Sprinter and para-athlete Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker, an 18-year-old A-level student, showed the duchess how to mark out her starting blocks and, before their sprint start, she joked: “No pressure!”
Kate and husband William are known to have a competitive streak, and after the first attempt at a sprint start the foursome lined up again and travelled further along the indoor track at the stadium.
Oyinbo-Coker said afterwards: “She’s not bad for a rookie”, while his coach, Coral Nourice, added of Kate: “She was quite excited, that’s why she wanted to have another go. I think she enjoyed it. You could see by her face, I don’t think she fazed by it at all.”
When Kate first arrived she was greeted by the sight of Muhammad putting some young hopefuls from his sport through their paces as they kicked pads he was holding.
The duchess, who wore a practical outfit of trainers, green trousers and a matching top, did not need to be asked twice when he offered to show her how to punch.
Kate asked about her technique and Muhammad replied: “Instructors will tell you ‘Punch through your opponent, not round them’.”
He added later: “She did well, actually, I must confess a lot better than expected. Her right hand is mean, I hope she never has to use it for self-defence but at least she’s got some skills now.”
The event celebrated the efforts of parents who support a young son or daughter in pursuit of sporting excellence.
Every year, SportsAid helps more than 1,000 athletes – the vast majority aged 12-18 – by providing a financial award to help with training and competition costs.
The Rio 2016 Games saw 150 medals won by Olympic and Paralympic competitors supported by the sporting charity.
Dame Jessica, who showed Kate the SportsAid application form she had completed as a 15-year-old, said later: “For me, at that stage, it was my parents’ support – they provided everything I needed but had very little anyway. So it was quite a strain at that age.
“I had no other sponsors or any financial support so to have a grant from SportsAid was a huge, huge thing for me at the time.”
She added: “There are so many talented individuals in this world, but if you’re not given the opportunities, financial support and all the other things that you need to bring that out of you then it can often be wasted.”
After sitting down to chat to the mothers and fathers of young athletes, the duchess gave a speech.
“The crucial role that parents and caregivers play in our children’s lives cannot be under-estimated,” she said.
“For all of you here, you go, and have gone, above and beyond the call of duty; you’ve committed your time and devotion to nurturing your children’s exceptional talents. And, as a parent, I have a huge admiration for you and I know just how complex and time-consuming your role is.
“You are simultaneously the transport and logistics managers, nutritionists, laundry service, psychologists, financiers, and, crucially, the ones that provide love, support and encouragement when things are tough.”
Haye said he is now ferrying his 11-year-old son, a promising tennis player picked for the national team, to events around the country.
Speaking about the benefit of receiving support from SportsAid, he added: “It makes a huge difference when you know a big organisation, out of all the kids in the country, has selected you for funding – it gives you confidence that you are on the right track and to keep going.
“It’s not just your parents who are saying you’re great, because that’s what parents say, it’s an independent charity.”