FOR Amy Tinkler, sport is now about enjoyment and playing with a smile on her face.

The Bishop Auckland Olympian was at Belle Vue Sports Centre in Hartlepool yesterday to play dodgeball with the Hartlepool Mavericks.

She retired from the elite level of sport last month, aged 20.

And now she’s helping inspire youngsters across the North-East alongside Made By Sport, a campaign which champions the power of sport to change lives and help raise funds for kids in disadvantaged areas.

Miss Tinkler said: “We are here to help get young children involved in sport and Made by Sport are part of the Great North Run this year.

“To get people to run for them can only help raise funds for clubs like this to benefit the children involved because all the money raised will stay in the North-East.

“I’ve not quite agreed to run it yet, but my agent is pushing me towards it – I’m not sure running is my thing really!’’

Miss Tinkler, The Northern Echo's Local Hero of 2016, won a bronze medal in Rio four years ago. This time as her former Team GB teammates prepare for Tokyo, she has a different outlook.

“I’m enjoying retirement and trying new things – like dodgeball today,’’ she smiled.

“I’m dancing, really enjoying it, at Nadine’s in Hartlepool and she’s been great.

“I got my first award last night which I was proud of and taking new opportunities is good for me.

“I’m the sort who throws themselves into everything completely when I do something – I guess I’ve always been taught to give 100 per cent.

“I just get on with life now and my main thing is to go what makes you happy. Enjoy whatever you do is the message for the children here today.’’

And she added: “It was the right decision for me to walk away from the sport – I fell out of love with it, as simple as that.

“I knew it was the right time. Tokyo was coming up, I’d had injuries and wasn’t enjoying it as much as I was.

“If you aren’t enjoying it then you know it’s the right thing.

“It’s a big commitment, a very intense year in an Olympic year but I’m sure the girls on the team will tell anyone that.

“Leading into Rio we had a six-week prep camp at Lilleshall which was very intense and with all that’s gone on over the last few years I just needed a break from it all.’’

And as for the future? “I’m only 20 and don’t need to make any decisions right now. Let’s see what happens and I’m enjoying life to the full right now.’’


Dodgeball is popular in Hartlepool, with the Mavericks running a number of teams at various age levels.

They may soon have a new member after their latest session.

Miss Tinkler said: “Dodgeball is new to me – a new experience. I’m quite scared of the ball and I’m worried about my face! Some of the kids throw it about quite hard, but it’s always good to try new stuff and I’ve really enjoyed being involved.

“It’s half-term which is always a good time for children to enjoy themselves.

“I walked in and people say it’s nice for them to meet me as someone who has competed at the Olympics. Some of their faces lit up when I arrived, but for me I’m just a normal person and it’s nice to think that I can help inspire.’’


The need for Made by Sport to help local centres and groups was backed by Belle Vue Centre manager Alex Sedgwick.

The Belle Vue area of Hartlepool is amongst the most deprived in the North-East.

He said: “We have youth clubs and projects running four nights a week, a town-wide outreach project on the streets and working alongside the police.

“Our outreach project started 15 years ago, to stop kids drinking on the streets. They don’t drink now, but there’s an increase in drug usage.

“Ten years ago we were running activities on 15 different school fields, but we lost the funding for it.

“There’s no school youth clubs in the town now like there used to be. We have two council run ones.

“Having Amy here today is great for us all and it’s a real boost for the children to see an Olympian.’’