SHE is being tipped as a British Olympic hopeful.
But it should come as no surprise that Ellen Whitaker is a rising showjumping star.
For she is part of the incredible Whitaker dynasty, which have ruled in showjumping since they began in Huddersfield several decades ago.
Ellen’s uncles are John and Michael Whitaker – both world-class riders for years – and her cousins are Robert, 24, and William, 18, who are also in the top echelons.
But now attention has focused on 21-year-old Ellen, not just for her horsemanship but also her looks and natural flair.
She is ranked sixth in British showjumping and is the leading lady and is 80th in the world rankings.
She can’t remember the exact age that she started riding, but she competed in her first affiliated class at the tender age of five.
From there Ellen strived to be the best and along the way also unintentionally brought glamour back to the sport.
Her striking looks and interest in fashion and photography have attracted media attention.
She has already been signed by leading equestrian clothing manufacturer Caldene to endorse and model their products.
Her looks have also secured her awards such as the Longines Ladies Award for Elegance and the British Show Jumping Association’s Personality of the Year.
But these prizes are not Ellen’s main priority.
As a very competitive sportswoman her sights are firmly set on the Beijing Olympics next year and then, ultimately, the London 2012 Olympics.
Alongside her uncles, she was one of the four riders selected to represent Great Britain in the recent European Championships in Germany.
This was the country’s last chance to qualify for Beijing and the British chef d’equipe, Derek Ricketts, was taking no chances when he picked this team.
Ellen’ selection was likened to that of Theo Walcott in the last football World Cup – but she did not disappoint.
She rose to the challenge and produced a phenomenal performance, jumping a clear round and helping her team to secure the bronze medal and qualification for the 2008 Olympics.
Uncle John Whitaker said: “It’s great to have my family around during the Championships.
“Ellen has always been a good, competitive rider. She’s tough, but she’s also got a cool head. It was her second round that put us back in the picture for the Championships.”
Ellen was riding Locarno 62, her top horse, nicknamed Larry. He arrived at the Whitaker family home in Barnsley when Ellen was just 15 and the pair bonded very quickly.
Earlier this year it looked as though she would lose the ride but her father, Steven, bought the horse to secure it.
Ellen said: “When I lost the ride on Locarno my father was prepared to sell our family farm and give up everything he had ever worked for.
“All I wanted to do at the Championships was pay him back with a medal.”