VOTING is now open for Young Scotswoman of the Year 2021, run by the Glasgow Times.
To register your vote, visit www.glasgowtimes.co.uk/young-swoty/ and simply click on the box beside the name of the young woman you would like to win. Voting is free, and the winner will be announced on March 31, along with the winner of our Scotswoman of the Year award.
Don’t miss tomorrow’s Glasgow Times for details of the six spectacular women who are on the shortlist.
Here are the remaining two finalists for Young SWOTY – inspirational athlete Meghan Porterfield and tireless charity campaigner Abby Lang.
CHAMPION athlete Meghan Porterfield is one of Scotland’s brightest up-and-coming stars in field athletics.
The 16-year-old, from East Kilbride, has a clutch of achievements in shotput, discus and hammer under her belt, including gold and silver medals in the discus and shotput respectively at the under-20 Scottish championships, a bronze medal in the UK school games and a shotput gold at the England Athletics Junior championships in Sheffield.
More recently, in the Scottish schools over-17 championship, she achieved a silver medal and a new Scottish under-17 indoor shot put record.
“It’s been great, and really hard work – moving up an age group is difficult because things get much more competitive,” she says. “I think Sheffield was my biggest achievement so far – going in to it I was ranked second so to get a huge personal best, a Scottish record and the gold medal made me so happy.”
The pandemic made training all the more challenging, as competitions and events were cancelled, as Meghan explains.
“It was hard to stay motivated without goals to aspire to,” she admits. “I tried to keep working hard – we even went down to my gran’s to train as she has a big empty field near her house, and you need a lot of space, obviously, for the discus and hammer.”
She grins: “Although one time my hammer got stuck in a tree, which wasn’t great. One of the lovely bonuses of training in the park was getting to meet all the dog-walkers – I absolutely love dogs.”
Meghan was inspired to take up throwing events by her mum Mhairi, herself a successful field athlete and Scottish champion, who reached the hammer final at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
“I was born into this, you could say,” smiles Meghan, who trains four times a week on top of studying for her Highers. “It’s not that common, being a young girl in field athletics, so to have someone so close who has done it and who I can look up to is really great.
“When people think about athletics, they usually think about running, and that can overshadow the throwing events a bit. I think young women can sometimes be put off because they are scared of looking strong or masculine, but there has to be fair and equal opportunities for all and getting more girls into sport is really important.”
She adds: “I just love sport, and I love helping other people enjoy it too.”
Meghan, whose sporty family also includes her keen sprinter dad Graham and her nine-year-old brother Rhys, who also trains with a local athletics club, says she is delighted to be nominated for Young Scotswoman of the Year.
“I’m so happy, it’s really amazing to be described as a role model for other people,” she says. “As a young person in sport, you always have people you look up to, who you find really inspirational so to be that for someone else when I am so young is really special.”
Meghan is focussing on the next competition – and her long-term goal of getting to the Olympics.
“I’d like to be a professional athlete when I leave school, that’s the aim,” she says. “I hope to be able to find sponsorship to do that. I’d love to go to the Olympics and bring home the gold.
“That’s my biggest goal, and I intend to work my hardest to achieve it.”
Medical student Abby Lang, from Longforgan in Perthshire, is a leading young voice in the campaign for a national heart screening service.
The 21-year-old, who is also an IWill social action ambassador, persuaded all 59 Scottish MPs to pledge their support for the programme, which will prevent young people from dying of undiagnosed heart conditions.
Despite the challenges of Covid, and her busy study timetable at Dundee University, Abby continues to support national charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) and local memorial fund #4Pete, set up by the family of Peter McAvoy, a 22-year-old footballer who died of an undiagnosed heart condition.
It was Peter’s dad, also Peter, who inspired Abby to research Young Sudden Cardiac Death (YSCD), and organise fundraising activities, including a charity fun run attended by Dundee and Dundee United football players.
Her incredible efforts were recognised in June 2018, when she was invited to deliver the Time for Reflection speech at the Scottish Parliament on YSCD and CRY’s work.
With only one Scottish MP pledging support for a national strategy to prevent YSCD, Abby actively promoted the CRY campaign and secured the backing of the remaining 58 MPs in Scotland. She went on to be a keynote speaker at CRY’s parliamentary reception at the House of Commons, where she met parents whose children had died of YSCD.
Abby, who believes age is no barrier and no issue is too big for young people to tackle, says she was surprised to be nominated for Scotswoman of the Year.
“It is a real honour to be on the shortlist,” she said. “Even though the pandemic has made it difficult to campaign and fundraise, I am still keen to raise awareness of this issue, and to keep fighting for a national heart screening service.”