TikTok dancer, emu hugger and world record holder, Penny Healey, is carving out her own path to the Olympic Games. The 18-year-old from Telford, in Shropshire, is the newest and brightest member of the British archery team aiming for Paris 2024. And with the Games just one year away, she is setting her sights high.
"2022 was a pretty good year and I didn't quite expect it," she said.
"Some of my results were a big surprise and they helped give me a push in confidence for the rest of the year. I started 2023 off as world number 15 which was pretty crazy.
"I want to be at my peak in 2024 so I'm going to be basing my training around that this year.
"It would mean a lot to me to go to the Olympics. I remember watching London 2012 and turning round to my mum and saying that I wanted to go to the Olympics one day and that's what I've been working towards my entire career."
Penny is well on her way, with a fantastic start to 2023 seeing her win individual gold and mixed team silver at the European Grand Prix in April. That was followed by her first World Cup gold and becoming World No 1 later that same month in Antalya.
"I also want that Olympic medal," she said. "I don't think I will retire until I have done that as well as become world champion as I'm quite a determined person."
Healey is one of over 1,000 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing her to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering medical support – this is vital for her pathway to the Paris 2024 Games.
At the European Games in June, she got one step closer, winning GB their first Olympic quota spot for archery as well as becoming the Games champion. It was an incredible Games for Penny as she also won the gold medal as part of the women's team with Bryony Pitman and Jaspreet Sagoo.
Despite a meteoric rise, the animal lover finds solace in her new team-mates - and three feathery friends in the shape of pet emus.
"Speaking to my teammates has helped me a lot, learning from their advice and how to cope with success. They calm your nerves because you've got people you love and trust there to support you.
"I felt a bit of pressure going into 2023 as I was defending champion in the Indoor World Series, but I stuck to my process and still came away with bronze.
"Away from the sport, I have a lot of pets. We used to sell eggs and my stepdad in lockdown just decided to get a pet emu and we somehow ended up with three.
"They can be chill and the youngest one always comes along and wants cuddles."
With the Paris 2024 Olympics only one year away, the Games are set to inspire people and communities across the country. Penny hopes that by sharing her story it will give others motivation to get involved in the sport.
Her team-mates include world number two Bryony Pitman and Jaspreet Sagoo, with the trio winning team gold at the prestigious World Cup stage event in Antalya last year.
But away from the rigours of competition, the three archers are also hitting the mark on the dancefloor.
"Bryony, Jess (Jaspreet's nickname) and I are all close friends, and we do a lot of embarrassing TikToks," said Penny.
"The night before our team matches in Antalya, we basically spent the time from dinner until bed making really embarrassing dance TikToks.
"I never knew they were such good dancers. I think Bryony is the funniest, but Jess is definitely one of the best dancers out of us."
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