In this age of the endorsement deal, the life of the modern sports star is more complicated — you've got to be articulate and have the right image if you want to be a superstar and transcend the sport you're in. But these gifted young Britons are all equipped to succeed both on and off the field
Spoony presents the BBC Radio Five Live football phone-in show '606'
Henrietta Brockway, 17, Golfer
Managed by her father, this Dorset golfer was the under-23 England champion four years ago and this summer won the British Girls Amateur Championship, the first Briton to do so for 19 years. She aims to turn professional next year, after competing in the 2008 Curtis Cup. David Beckham is one of her mentors.
Brockway says: "I get to the course at about 10am after a couple of hours in the gym and stay there until some time between 5pm and 7pm, hitting balls and generally working on my game. After each tournament I sit down with my dad and my coach and we work out what needs more work.
"The only pressure I feel is what I put on myself: when I was nine my dad said that if I got down to a handicap of five by the time I was 11 I could have my own Powercaddy [an electric golf-cart trolley]; I got my handicap to four. Now I play off -3.
"The image of golf has changed a lot since I was nine and among women there has been a big improvement in the clothes. They're using pink and coming up with more fashionable styles; it has become a cool sport for girls.
"Tiger Woods' dedication and work ethic is something I aspire to. Annika Sorenstam is also one of my role models for being totally focused on winning."
Shanaze Reade, 19, Cyclist
As BMX-biking makes its Olympic debut at Beijing next year, all eyes will be on Reade. The teenager from Crewe was the Junior BMX World Champion in 2006 before taking the adult Elite BMX World Champion title this year. In 2006, she was the leading Brit – in the men's event. She is now making the transition to track-cycling; in her debut at the 2007 World Championship in Mallorca she won gold in the team sprint.
Spoony says: "Reade is a solid gold-medal prospect in 2008 and 2012."
Mo Farah, 24, Middle-distance runner
Somali-born Farah wanted to be a footballer when he was at school, until he realised he preferred individual sports. The European junior 5,000m champion in 2001, Farah won the Great North Run this year and took bronze in the IAAF 3,000m World Athletics Final in Osaka in September. He is the second-fastest Briton of all time over 5,000m (after David Moorcroft).
Spoony says: "He's shown potential but he's 24 and it is time to turn top-three placings into wins."
Luol Deng, 22, Basketball player
Born in Sudan, Deng arrived in Chicago in 2004 to play for the city's NBA team, the Bulls, by way of Egypt and South Norwood. Last season, he was the only Bull to start every game, and in May 2007 he won the league's sportsmanship award, voted for by his peers. He became a British citizen in 2006 and, at 6'9", has made his presence felt on the Great Britain team.
Spoony says: "He's got incredible natural ability and he comes from a tribe known for being very tall. He is a future superstar."
Lewis Hamilton, 22, Formula One driver
As a precocious 10-year-old, Hamilton told McLaren team owner Ron Dennis that he would be driving for him in the future. Twelve years on and Hamilton came second in a debut F1 championship that he had spent a long time leading.
Spoony: says "He's going to be unstoppable next year. He's ruffled a few feathers and he has something about him. He has to be careful not to let that confidence turn to arrogance."
Theo Walcott, 18, Footballer
When the Berkshire-born winger made the move from cosy Southampton, where he had scored in his first-team debut, to Arsenal in January 2006, there was disappointment when he failed to make the starting team for several months. However, he is now making his mark in the Premier League, and scored his first goal for Arsenal a year after signing for the club.
Spoony says: "It's one thing having potential, it's another making the most of it. Walcott has all the attributes to be a superstar."
Micah Richards, 19, Footballer
The youngest defender to pull on an England shirt, the Birmingham-born Richards, nicknamed "The Hitter", has a talent for robust tackling, but is also capable of scoring goals, bagging his first for Manchester City in an FA Cup tie against Aston Villa.
Spoony says: "He's great in the air and very strong. His form means Gary Neville will struggle to get back into the England team when he comes back from injury."
Katey Read, 21, Sprinter
Juggling her time between training and studying at Chester University to be a midwife, Read competes in four events: 60m sprint, 60m hurdles, 100m sprint and 100m hurdles. She came second in the 2007 England under-23 championships in the 100m hurdles, and is a former under-23 100m hurdles champion outdoors.
Spoony says: "Read is the whole package; she wins on the field and has the looks to be a star off the field."
Shaun Wright-Phillips, 26, Footballer
Rejected by Nottingham Forest, Wright-Phillips enjoyed a purple patch at Manchester City but has been sidelined at Chelsea, who signed him for £21m. He failed to make the 2006 England squad, but, after a good performance against Israel, is now back in favour.
Spoony says: "He had a sticky start at Chelsea, but he's growing in confidence; hopefully, he'll be a hero at the 2010 World Cup."
Paul Sackey, 27, Rugby union player
With four tries, Sackey was England's top scorer at the recent Rugby World Cup. The London Wasps winger's Ghanaian parents settled in south London and he was good enough at football to try out for Crystal Palace before being spotted by a Wasps talent scout.
Spoony says: "He's lightning with the ball but the way England were set up, we didn't see the best of him at the World Cup. He will go on to have as illustrious a career as Jason Robinson."
Research and interviews by Robin BartonReuse content