WHITTON schoolgirl Tara Crank got the best early Christmas present she could wish for this week.
The 16-year-old has been called up to the Great Britain U17 fencing squad in the epee discipline for a big international tournament in Grenoble on December 12-13.
It is a massive step forward for Crank, who has been fencing for just over four years for the Tiger Swords Club in Sheen under coach Neale Thomas.
But according to mum Jayshree Crank, unlike presents which fall into our lap every December 25, Tara's selection is a reward for much blood, sweat and tears.
"It's a dream come true for Tara and we are all really proud of her. The fencing really started as just an interest she was enjoying, but then she decided to try and get selected to the GB squad.
"Everyone who knows her realises when she puts her mind to something, she sees it through. She's been rewarded with a steady rise through the rankings and now her selection."
The journey to the Great Britain squad began on a primary school activity holiday to Devon where Crank first encountered fencing and 'caught the bug', as her mum puts it.
The ultimate goal is to fence in the Olympics, though London 2012 may come too soon.
Mrs Crank added: "Tara can see herself fencing for the rest of her life and is keen to represent Britain at whatever level. It's her dream to fence at the Olympics, though she'll only be 19 in 2012, so maybe a bit young. We could be looking at Rio in 2016, but we'll take it one step at a time."