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Trampoline pair spring to the top

Twins trained in trampolining by a college academy have been chosen as the youngest ever British competitors in the sport's European championship.

Andrew and Michael Freeman, now 18, trained at the Kingston College Academy in west London from the age of 16, while studying for a Btec national diploma in sport.

The academy provides a rare chance for teenagers to train during the day, allowing them to practise for the 20 or 25 hours a week required at elite level while still pursuing an education - an important fall-back given the risk of a career-ending injury.

Michael said: "The academy was the only way we could get enough time to train without going full-time. And realistically, you need to have a back- up in case you're finished in the sport."

The twins are Britain's top trampoline pair, and their unique bond gives them an advantage when they compete jointly.

Their predecessors lived 300 miles apart and rarely had a chance to train as a pair. But Andrew and Michael spend most of their time together.

Sarah Sylvester, their coach, said that in practice they can synchronise their routines to within 0.2 seconds, but added this was a product of dedication and hard work, not innate ability.

"Their performance together is really good," she said. "People think because they are twins, it must be easy. But we have to work on the synchronisation a lot. Because they are brothers, it can be more awkward - if you were training with someone else, you might not be as critical of each other as you can be with a brother."

Andrew said: "We get along really well and we are competitive, which pushes each other on. At home, we always like to come out on top too, in games and grades and everything."

But the twins said their closeness could make things difficult when one of them qualifies for a competition and the other does not.

Andrew and Michael took up the sport at the age of seven and competed internationally for the first time at 10.

Now, thanks to the dedicated training programme at Kingston, they are ranked third and fourth in the country as seniors (Andrew takes the higher position) and are on the development programme for the 2012 Olympic games, as well as competing for the United Kingdom in Norway next month.

Ms Sylvester said such facilities were crucial if Britain is to regain its former glory in trampolining. Once dominant in the sport, it has fallen behind countries such as Japan, China and eastern European nations, particularly in the men's competition.

She said: "In Japan they have a squad of 100, compared with 20 in the British team. Training has had to become a lot more technical. Now we can video every training session, slow down the playback, and draw lines all over the screen to analyse what needs to be improved."

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