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Danetree track star aims to teach the world a lesson in Tokyo

Our pupils and staff will have more reason than most to be glued to their screens during the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games – as one of ourr teachers is taking part. 

Miss Knight, or Jessie Knight as she is known in athletics circles, is a Year 4 teacher, and has been selected for the Great Britain team in the 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay at the Games, which start on Friday July 23. 

She has already overcome COVID-19 and a torn hamstring this year to clinch her place in the team, and now she says nothing will prevent her from focusing fully on the chance to fulfil her childhood ambition. 

 “I’m over the moon to be an Olympian,” she said.  “It would be amazing to walk around Tokyo and soak it up but for me, being on the starting line is everything and the time I’m running is all that matters to me.” 

This last term, a combination of an intense athletics schedule and measures to reduce any risk of COVID-19 have kept her away from school, only working one day a week, remotely, and she will be leaving Danetree at the end of term to focus fully on her athletics – for a while, at least. 

“We’ve been told to limit unnecessary interaction, so I've just been going to the track and home, as nothing would have been worse than to get picked for Tokyo but then not be able to go because of COVID,” she explained. 

“I would have loved to go into school in all my Team GB kit for the children to see, but it was too much of a risk, so I can’t wait to go back to see them in September when hopefully I will have had a good Games.  

"Teaching is my career so I will definitely go back to it in the future, but I’m 27 so this is my athletic peak and I want one year away from it, to see how my life changes with time for those extra things I can’t do now, to see if I’ve got more to give on the track. 

“After the Games, I definitely want to go into schools to talk, to show the children and to inspire them. GLF is a big network so it’s not just Danetree, I'd love to go into lots of schools.” 

Fortunately, the scheduling of the competition has done her a favour. “We fly out on Thursday 15th but I don’t compete in my race until 31st and the relays are long after that, right at the end, so we’ll have a lot more time than usual to practice, and hopefully when our time comes, we’ll be ready,” she said. 

“In the 400m hurdles, I’m ranked 10th or 12th in the world so my aim is to get to the final, which I really do believe I can do, and once you’re there, anything can happen. 

“I’m not thinking about the relay too much yet as that’s later, so let’s focus on one thing at a time, but we definitely have the potential to win a medal.  USA and Jamaica have strong teams, but we've not competed with our strongest four yet, so we’ve definitely got a chance.” 

Miss Knight will have the whole country cheering her on when she steps on the track in Tokyo, but in West Ewell, the support will be particularly strong – and she said after so much unhappiness for so many people, including the Olympic Games being delayed by a year, she hoped she could put a smile on people’s faces. 

“The world has been so negative for so long I hope the Games will give everyone something to smile about, and also the one year delay means it’s only three years until the next Games in Paris,” she said.  

“I'd love my family to be in Tokyo to see me but it would have cost them a fortune, so in way I’m almost relieved that they won’t be able to be there, but for Paris, if I’m selected they can all come on Eurostar, so that’s a real goal.”