Girl power! ... Thai boxing champ inspiring Hull school kids to go the distance
AS WORLD Thai boxing champion, Rachael MacKenzie knew how to pack a punch.
Now, the ex-women's world champion is encouraging talented youngsters to go the distance in their chosen sports.
Rachael has teamed up with Wolfreton School to inspire sporting youngsters.
She is leading regular sessions with pupils as a Sky Sports Living for Sport athlete mentor.
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Rachael said: "The Sky Sports Living for Sport project gives students the opportunity to develop life skills which can help them achieve their aspirations in all aspects of their lives, not just sport.
"Athlete mentors are here to support the PE staff in schools who do such an amazing job, inspiring their students to succeed, day in day out."
Stacy Macleod, a PE teacher at Wolfreton School, said it was Rachael's second visit to the Willerby secondary.
She said: "Rachael came in before Christmas and did an assembly to all of our students from Years 7 to 9.
"She talked about what she'd achieved in her career and encouraged them to continue to follow their sporting dreams.
"She has now come back again to run practical sessions with our Talented In Sports students.
"They are at an age when it is common to start to disengage with sport so we have been aiming to encourage continued participation."
Living for Sport aims to boost young people's confidence, achievement and skills and has won the backing of Wolfreton's pupils.
Gymnast Sophie Frederick, 13, said Rachael is an inspiring role model.
Sophie said: "Rachael has taught us a lot about what you need to do to be successful, her determination is amazing.
"She's definitely encouraged me to continue with gymnastics, which is my sport."
County badminton player Elle McCann, 13, was also motivated by the sports sessions with the ex-world champion.
She said: "Rachael's talk really encouraged me to take sport seriously.
"I play badminton for Yorkshire and this has helped motivate me to be the best that I can be."
Netball player Chloe Proudlove, 13, who represents her school and Hull Chevrons Junior Netball Club, said: "This project has been really interesting as, over the last few weeks, we have been able try new sports which we have never played before, such as Tchoukball."
Kevin Marshall, Talent in Sport co-ordinator, said: "Rachael worked with all of our Talented in Sport students from years seven to nine.
"She put them through vigorous practical sessions which covered basic skills in Muay-Thai boxing, along with fitness training.
"Students have been building up to her return visit and over a six week period they have been able to try a number of new sports including Tchoukball and trampolining."
Mr Marshall said Wolfreton has many students who are talented in sport.
He said: "It has been amazing for them to be able to meet a world-class athlete. She has been able to share with them the levels of training that are necessary to perform at the top of your game.
"She explained what is required as an athlete but also what is available if you're looking at a career in sport.
"She has been supported by numerous nutritionists, sports therapists and physios and this gave our students a great insight into career opportunities that may be available in the future."
Rachael topped the women's Thai boxing world rankings in 2006, just six years after taking up the sport.
She said: "The young people I meet through the project are so inspiring. It is amazing to see so much enthusiasm. By learning new skills and disciplines they can apply to all aspects of life, youngsters can strive to achieve their aspirations."
Sky Sports Living for Sport ambassador Darren Campbell said project aims to team up sports stars with young people.
He said: "We're using sport stars and sport skills to improve the lives of thousands of young people.
"Sport helps people think, helps people listen, helps people to speak up and helps people work together."