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Kate meets budding sports stars

The Duchess of Cambridge celebrated some of Britain's most promising Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls tonight as she attended a glittering gala ball.

Kate looked chic and stylish as she arrived for the SportsAid fundraising dinner wearing a black patterned Alice Temperley dress - having left baby George at home.

The Duchess became the organisation's patron earlier this year and in October visited the former Olympic Park to see young sportsmen and women taking part in workshops run by the charity at the Copper Box arena.

She wowed the young athletes when she stepped on to a volleyball court and played in a pair of towering wedges.

Among the sports guests at the black-tie do held at a venue overlooking London's Victoria Embankment tonight were former Paralympic wheelchair racer Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Dame Tanni, who recently became a SportsAid trustee, told Kate about some of the funds she had received from the charity: "I had £250 back then, which was a huge amount of money."

She added: "It was the first time anybody other than my parents had believed in me so it's nice to be back."

The Duchess also met three outstanding young athletes nominated for the SportsAid One-to-Watch Award, which will honour a young British sportsman or woman who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to their sport and career.

Those shortlisted are 16-year-old shooter Amber Hill, from Bracknell, Berkshire, pole vaulter Harry Coppell, 17, from Wigan, and 18-year-old rower Jess Leyden, from Todmorden in West Yorkshire.

Jess told Kate she was competing this weekend.

She was overawed after meeting the Duchess and said: "She was just so amazing, so graceful - she was just a lot more down to earth than I imagined and normal."

Harry, who will be competing in the World Junior Championships next year, said they were all honoured to be shortlisted for the award: "It's just a great achievement for all three of us to be picked out from 1,300 athletes - it's just amazing."

SportsAid is a charity which gives young athletes a financial boost and other practical help as they emerge on the international stage.

During London 2012 it helped 20 of the 29 Olympic gold medallists and 27 of the 34 Paralympic gold winners.

Sport stars supported by the charity in the past include cyclists Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy, heptathlete Jessica Ennis, diver Tom Daley, wheelchair racer David Weir and Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds.

Kate and her fellow diners sat down to a meal of chicken and cranberry wellington, followed by slow-cooked shoulder of lamb and an indulgent pudding called "a taste of chocolate" which featured the sweet treat in various guises.

The guests watched a promotional video celebrating SportsAid and one contributor joked about the Duchess's efforts at the Copper Box arena, saying you have "got to give respect to anybody who can play volleyball in wedges".

Tim Lawler, chief executive of SportsAid, said: "For the Duchess to be our number one special guest tonight is a validation, recognition - and also she's part of the team.

"She's been to the Copper Box, met the athletes, knows exactly what we do, the fit is superb - the sports ball wouldn't feel right without her involved even though it's her debut trip."

The dinner also featured a fundraising auction where items up for sale included the signed yellow Tour de France jerseys of the event's champion Chris Froome and last year's winner Sir Bradley Wiggins, a luxury break in the Swiss Alps and a signed framed photo of Wimbledon winner Andy Murray.

Kate caused a stir a few weeks ago when she was seen out in public with her grey roots on show.

Her locks have been dyed in the intervening period but tonight appeared to be a darker shade than normal.

Before the evening was over Kate presented the One-to-Watch Award to Amber Hill, 16, who already competes with the senior British shooting team and is ranked fifth in the world.

This year at the world championships she smashed a junior world record with a score that equalled the senior world record.

BBC sports presenter John Inverdale presented Amber to the guests and joked about how shooting was not the "sexist sport in the world" but the teenager joked "I'm sure I can make it," to laughs from the guests.

After the presentation the teenager said the Duchess liked her reply to the BBC broadcaster: "She said she loved my comments."

She added: "It's just so nice she recognises young and upcoming sportswomen and gives us the backing and the recognition. Its definitely good that she's patron - a great role model."

Kate's time at the dinner over ran by almost half an hour and she left after honouring the 16-year-old shooter.


From Belfast Telegraph