Kayakers make rapid progress
A college running an unusual adventure sports course has seen it pay off as two students earned places in the British squad for freestyle kayaking.
Ben and Dom Brayfield, on the Btec course at Reaseheath College in Cheshire, have been training with established members of the team in the run-up to the European Championships in Switzerland next month.
They are following former Reaseheath student James Bebbington, who is now Britain's number one in the sport, which involves performing acrobatic moves in a fast-flowing current with less than a minute to rack up points in each run.
Dom, 18, in his last year competing with the juniors, said: "You get a buzz from competing. You get three 45-second runs and have to fill them with as many moves as you can. If you see a guy have a good run, then you know you have to try to do it better. You spend hours and hours practising your runs, but when it comes, you don't have time to think about it - it's gone in a moment."
Ben, who is a year older, now competes at senior level, but said sibling rivalry still drives them. He said: "Last year, when we were competing against each other, we would battle quite a lot. But it works really well. He can do better things than me sometimes, and I can do better other times. It pushes us both to get better."
Ben is certainly not short of ambition: he said his aim was to become the world number one in the sport.
The brothers, who were encouraged to start kayaking by their father, train several times a week, travelling to the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham to take advantage of the country's best white-water facilities.
They are also level-two coaches under the British Canoe Union's system, and help train younger kayakers for the youth freestyle series.
Jon Mercer, course tutor, said the adventure sports programme aimed to prepare people to work in the outdoor pursuits industry rather than develop elite athletes, but the success of James Bebbington had encouraged others. And the course gives them another career option, since minority sports can support few full-time professionals.
He said: "They came to us with a recommendation from James. He says they have huge potential, are learning fast and working hard. It's a difficult period where they're going, from junior to senior level, competing with people who are a lot older, more experienced and better funded. But they've been training with the Great Britain team - and they think they've got potential."
The course has also attracted other budding sports stars, such as 17-year- old triathlete Ryan Morris, who is due to compete for the British under-21 team at the world championships; and Tom Major, 16, who is a rising talent in the world of indoor climbing, having come third in the finals of the national youth competition in the sport.