FOUR Olympic hopefuls have been given a helping hand to reach the top in London 2012 - thanks to Trinity Mirror Southern's (TMS) Search for an Olympic Hero competition, in conjunction with Renault London West.
Eighteen-year-old Wembley sprinting sensation Junior Ejehu scooped the £1,000 top prize as a reward for a superb 2009 that earned him a number two national ranking for the 200m with an impressive time of 21.19 seconds.
The Brunel University student, who claimed the national indoors U20 200m and English School Championship titles last season, came so close to making his mark on the international scene when he missed out on the European Junior Championships Final by just one hundredth of a second.
Ejehu has high hopes of making the London 2012 senior team under the guidance of top coach Ayo Falolo, who coaches 100m women's British record holder Montell Douglas.
"The last season was a stepping stone for me to get a place at London 2012," said Ejehu, who has also been awarded a Renault hire car. "Winning this prize means a lot and will help with training costs to reach my goals," he added.
Ealing Steeplechaser Martha Reynolds, 17, came in second behind Ejehu, winning £400, after a fantastic debut season in the 2,000m event that achieved a fifth placed national ranking for her age group.
Both Hampton Hill's Jonathan Boyton, 21, and Brunel University Emma Pallant, 20, received £300 for coming third and fourth respectively.
Pallant crowned a superb campaign in 2009 by winning a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships in the 1500m, while Boyton, a member of the Great Britain flat water kayak team, clinched two national titles and an eighth place finish at the European U-23 Championships.
TMS's Search for an Olympic Hero competition had an amazing response with more than 60,000 nominations and Renault London West general manager, Martin Wilcock, said: "We started out by offering a top prize of £1,000 to the winner, but because of the unbelievable response to the competition, we doubled the prize fund and decided to give four prizes. We hope our support will take them all the way to London 2012."
TMS group sports editor Paul Bishop said: "We look forward to following the progress of these four promising athletes, who have shown amazing dedication and potential in their bids to reach London 2012."