THEY say you never meet your heroes – try telling that to Sam Heppenstall-Batty. 

The Halifax taekwondo star was singled out as one of three young athletes to take part in a 90-minute Zoom mentoring session with 2014 Commonwealth judo champion Nekoda Davis last month.

Both martial arts have major crossovers and Heppenstall-Batty, who successfully trialled for the Great Britain Fighting Chance squad in 2018, revelled in learning first-hand from one of Britain’s shining lights.

The session was set up as part of Entain and SportsAid’s Pitching In initiative –  which financially supports Heppenstall-Batty – and the 19-year-old said: “It was good to see – sports like running or cycling aren’t that physical, but judo and taekwondo are similar.

“It was good to see how she felt after suffering her concussion, and how that affected her.

Oxford Mail: Heppenstall-Batty's career on the mat is fuelled by a partnership between Entain - owner of Ladbrokes and Coral - and SportsAidHeppenstall-Batty's career on the mat is fuelled by a partnership between Entain - owner of Ladbrokes and Coral - and SportsAid

“You hear about your mates and people you train with and how they dealt with lockdown, but you don’t know what it’s like from an athlete’s perspective.

“It was good to see how it was a struggle for athletes as well.

“She also felt pressured into training and she lost a bit of motivation – it’s good to see that it’s not just me.”

Heppenstall-Batty’s taekwondo career is fuelled by Entain – owner of Ladbrokes and Coral – and SportsAid’s partnership that helps him access funding for training, travel and equipment.

The martial arts ace lives in Halifax with his mum, Catherine, and younger brother Oliver, 17, and works full-time at Yorkshire Water during his time away from training.

The Great Britain star was hitting the mat hard in Manchester before lockdown when the coronavirus pandemic put the date of his next competition on hold.

And lockdown also presented struggles for 2018 world silver medallist Davis, 27, who was forced to withdraw from this summer’s Olympic Games because of the long-term effects of a concussion suffered in 2019.

Heppenstall-Batty and Davis were joined on the call by cycling star Georgia Holt, 20, and para table tennis player Craig Allen, 26, who are also supported by Entain and SportsAid’s innovative partnership.

Oxford Mail: The Halifax fighter reckons learning from a Commonwealth champion can fire him to gloryThe Halifax fighter reckons learning from a Commonwealth champion can fire him to glory

All three athletes were given the chance to ask Davis a range of questions and engage in a memorable Q&A, covering topics such as setbacks, preparation, social media and dietary advice.

Davis, a former Sports-Aid supported athlete herself who competes in the -57kg category, said: “It was really nice to meet the athletes and I wish them all a massive good luck.

“I was a SportsAid athlete myself, and I feel like SportsAid was the start of my professional elite career.

“It was a real privilege to be there and I’m excited I could show them all my progression and journey.”

Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. As part of this three-year partnership, Entain are supporting a diverse group 50 of UK athletes per year from a variety of spots and para-sports. Visit to find out more