Millie Cavanagh’s brave fighting spirit has been hailed after her English Schools’ Championship victory.
The Fareham battler delivered a nailbiting and gutsy win on the national stage on Saturday – just seven days after her father, Irwin, lost his fight with cancer.
Cavanagh overcame an ongoing back problem to win gold in the junior girls’ shot putt.
That’s despite her turning her focus to the event only in February after she was sidelined from the pentathlon.
The Cams Hill student may be just 13, but there was never a question of her not competing at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium after her loss.
Cavanagh was determined to produce an emotional victory in her father’s name.
But she had to dig deep to do that when her rival, Oxford’s Luisa Chantler Edmond, threw 11m 11cm in the fifth round of the final to take her lead.
A fired-up Cavanagh vowed she wouldn’t be defeated, however – and then launched a whopping 11.42 effort to take the title.
Her proud mother, Vicki, felt the win showed the character of a special young athlete.
She said: ‘Millie’s dad passed away on Saturday last week.
‘He was desperate to hold on and hear the result. He’d been fighting since February and given weeks to live then.
‘Obviously, he couldn’t fight it any more.
‘It’s been an emotional time for Millie. She’s had a lot of ups and downs and a lot to deal with.
‘But she was determined to get that win for her father.
‘It’s been hard, but everyone has supported her. The Countess Mountbatten Hospice, who looked after her dad, were geeing her on to bring back that medal, too. She did it.
‘Millie has worked hard for everything – even with all that she’s had to handle with her dad being unwell.
‘She’s also done her GCSE in German two years ahead of time.
‘Millie has been injured since February with her back, too. It’s a growing thing.
‘Because she can’t jump or hurdle this season, she still decided to go to the English Schools and do shot putt.
‘She has taken it on since February when she told her coach that was what she wanted to do.
‘And now she has gone out and won the title for her father.’
Cavanagh’s coach at Southampton AC, Dave Callaway, paid tribute to her indomitable spirit in winning gold just days after her tragic loss.
Callaway said: ‘She’s awesome. Absolutely awesome. There were a lot of tears afterwards.
‘The other girl went ahead and Millie told me she wasn’t having it.
‘She then produced another 30cm on what she threw and was number one – that was the end of it. That shows her attitude.
‘It was an injury that made her take up shot, and she’s blossomed.
‘The injury stopped her from hurdling and knocked her back.
‘But the talent of the girl means she can turn her mind to anything.
‘She’s very adult for her age and strong mentally and physically.
‘Millie’s a very determined girl – and a winner.’