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Guru helps them to make the leap

The nation's most talented school-age athletes are learning how to combine sporting glory and exam success with the help of a revision guru. Pauline Arnold helps elite Welsh athletes who want to reach the top of their sport but still want qualifications and careers to fall back on.

Among her past clients are swimmer David Davies and badminton player Kelly Morgan, who both came back with medals from last year's Olympics in Athens.

She is presently liaising with the WJEC, the Welsh exam board, to ensure talented Swansea-based runner Non Stanford can delay a GCSE exam to train abroad with double Olympic gold medallist Kelly Holmes.

Middle-distance runner Non has her first GCSE exam in physical education theory on Monday. She is hoping to defer her last exam, physics, to fly out to South Africa on June 20.

"Pauline has really helped me organise my school work around my training.

She is very methodical and insists I work just as hard at my revision as my athletics," said the 16-year-old.

Non, who first showed a talent for running during Year 7 cross-country sessions at St Joseph's RC comprehensive in Port Talbot, is hoping for A and A* grades to help her enter a career in medicine. She trains twice a day and revises for six hours in between. Her mum, Gill, is a history and PE teacher at St Joseph's.

Meanwhile, Pauline is teaching some of the younger athletes and gymnasts how to work their training regimes around their homework. She is the only one of 45 lifestyle performance coaches funded by UK Sport working in Wales. They help lottery-funded athletes with budgeting, sponsorship and dealing with the media, as well as their studies.

She said: "Many athletes wonder what they are going to do after their sporting career. Getting the right qualifications can make that decision easier."

She arranges school visits to give teachers lessons on the importance of nurturing sporting talent while ensuring her athletes win the revision game by being super-organised.

"Most athletes train twice a day, and it is often difficult to fit in homework as well. Then there are training camps abroad and competitions," she said.

"Schools are much more understanding than they used to be, but there is still some way to go. Athletes come to me and I draw up timetables with their individual circumstances in mind."

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