Why school sport is the new political football
Debbie Foote will not win any medals at London 2012 and is unlikely to win any in 2016 or 2020 either. She is also never going to score a goal for her country, win Wimbledon or score a try at Twickenham.
But Debbie, a 17-year-old A-level student from Grantham, Lincolnshire, might just be this country's greatest sporting champion for years. Because when the coalition government announced it would be withdrawing the £162m annual budget for School Sports Partnerships (SSPs), Foote responded with the fighting instincts of a born competitor.
Regardless of what you think of the decision to axe funding for SSPs (and I'll get back to that), you have to be impressed with a teenager who gets 620,000 people to sign a petition attacking the cut and then takes it to the Prime Minister's front door.
I managed to talk to Debbie before and after she delivered this message on Tuesday and her calm confidence and prepossessing nature never wavered. It was impressive stuff but perhaps not so surprising for the head girl of the school Margaret Thatcher was head girl of almost 70 years ago. As a self-confessed "child of Thatcher", David Cameron must recognise the hallmark.
What remains to be seen, however, is if he and his ministers recognise the merits of Foote's argument - recent hints suggest they still haven't decided.
But before I explore what might happen next to PE in the UK, let's have a short history lesson (the sort that might be given by a PE teacher when the history teacher is off sick).
Once upon a time, British schools specialised in rough doses of basic learning and vigorous play. Luckier children, from wealthier families, got slightly better learning and even more vigorous play.
What didn't kill you, made you stronger, and those left standing would be the type of chaps (girls were excused from the play, and the learning) who might build a railroad in India or defeat a European despot.
But over time, thinking about childhood changed. Vigorous play, relentless competition and two hours of cross-country running in January fell out of fashion.
Pretty soon, all the rough stuff, the rivalries against the lot down the road and the tears at the summer sports day, were a thing of the past. There were no more losers because there were no more winners. And even if you wanted to stage some old-fashioned matches or races you couldn't, because the school's bottom field is now a housing estate and the top field has become the teachers' car park.
But a funny thing happened during this period of evolution: our national sports teams got worse, youngsters got bored and we all put on weight. By 2002, only 25% of schoolchildren aged 5-16 were playing at least two hours of sport a week.
So something had to change and, to be fair, most politicians realised this at around the same time (and I don't think it's helpful to apportion blame for getting us to this point as both sides played their part).
This brings us to the last government's plan for the creation of a nationwide network of partnerships between primary, secondary and specialist sports schools. These SSPs, 450 of them, bring together 4,000 specially-trained staff and numerous volunteers to improve the amount, range and quality of sport played in schools.
And, by almost every measure, it has worked. By 2009, 90% of children aged 5-16 were playing at least two hours of sport, the average number of sports offered at schools has risen from 14 to 19 and over the last three years one million more children are playing competitive sport too.
As Baroness Sue Campbell, the chair of the charity that help set up SSPs, the Youth Sport Trust, said in a recent letter to Cameron and Education Minister Michael Gove: "School Sports Partnerships have not only met the targets set by the previous government but exceeded every single one."
So why cut it? Well, that's a question numerous editorial writers, 79 current and former British Olympians, politicians from all parties (some privately), bemused observers from abroad and now 620,000 concerned citizens have been asking for the last seven weeks.
The short answer is Gove's Department for Education hasn't really cut it at all: the state's £162m annual contribution to SSPs has simply been "de-ring-fenced", or returned to the school budget pot. The idea being that head teachers should decide how best to spend the money, particularly at a time when New Labour fripperies are being trimmed across the board due to our alarming debts.
A slightly more developed answer has emerged in recent weeks that has suggested SSPs are not quite the success story many believe. Cameron, in a ding-dong PMQs exchange with Ed Miliband, went as far as to call them "a complete failure", carefully picking his statistics to point out they hadn't done much for increasing the amount of competitive sport played at all.
This was an argument developed by Gove last week when he responded to strident criticism of the decision to shelve SSP funding by painting a picture of out-of-control bureaucracy, mind-numbing job descriptions and a fundamental failure to provide value for money.
So which is it? Are SSPs a proven success, a "world-leading initiative" and exactly the type of thing a country that bids to stage major sporting events should be investing in, or are they inefficient luxuries we can no longer afford?
There are times in this job when it's difficult to hold the middle ground - what is sometimes termed "the view from nowhere" - and this is one of them.
I will simply echo what former Culture, Media and Sport and Health Minister Andy Burnham said to me during Tuesday's protest against the perceived cuts: nobody is suggesting the system was perfect and could not have been streamlined, but to scrap it now is baby-out-with-the-bathwater treatment. He actually called it "an act of vandalism".
I will also add that the Department for Education hasn't helped itself in selling its policy by failing to consult properly with people on the ground or even other government departments. I think this is why Cameron changed his tune last week and dropped a pretty remarkable hint that this "cut" isn't a done deal.
I'm not sure this means we are going to get the U-turn many are calling for but I hope we are going to get something that preserves the best bits of SSPs and focuses minds on the need to do more and to do it better. It's what Debbie and her schoolmates deserve.