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Winning ways

A television series aims to identify tomorrow's top athletes, reports David Bocking

Where are our young athletes?" That was the question posed by hurdler Colin Jackson after Great Britain's mediocre medal tally at this summer's athletics world championships in Paris.

With a bit of luck, they will be seen in a television series currently being broadcast on Saturday evenings. BBC1's Born to Win aims to find two young athletes and set them on the path to possible international stardom.

They will have been chosen in trials of 5,000 British teenagers earlier in the year, and the series will culminate in a live broadcast of the final on November 1. In the run-up, a shortlist of 10 boys and 10 girls will compete in physical and mental tests in St Anton in Austria, where they have been flown for the series.

The BBC is trying to provide more than light entertainment for an early Saturday evening, by using the programme as a hook to encourage teenagers to get active. An activity pack and website from the BBC sports academy gives teachers the opportunity to help 11 to16-year-olds to see how they measure up against their contemporaries and international athletes such as Dwain Chambers and Denise Lewis. The key resource of the series is the "sports blueprint", a measure of skill and potential based on mental and physical tests carried out on the sports field or in the gym and then put on to the Born to Win website.

The blueprints, designed by the department of Physical Education, Sport and Leisure Studies at the University of Edinburgh and the Youth Sport Trust, are based on six tests measuring strength, agility, speed, co-ordination, endurance and power using simple equipment such as measures, a stopwatch, cones and a bleep test tape. The mental test is a quickfire 21-point online questionnaire that highlights determination, self-motivation and patience, and gauges preferences for competitive, contact or team sports. The results (printable from the website) list 20 sports which might be of interest to the holder of each blueprint, and include rugby, distance running and yoga, with links and further information relating to each sport.

The website provides links to the BBC's sports academy material and the activity pack includes laminated sports "blueprint" physical tests, suggestions for PE, IT and science curricular links and a checklist for running a Born to Win sports day. The pack has been sent to all UK secondary schools.

Born to Win was partly inspired by a similar event in Australia several years ago. Huw Marks, learning executive for BBC Sport, says: "We hope the series will provide the motivation to participate in sport and help produce a broader base of athletes for the future."

The heads of 80 sports colleges have been consulted by the BBC on the project, which will also host about 100 special sports days at sports colleges around the UK this month.

BBC1, Saturdays 5.30-6.30pm, until November 1. For extra copies of the packEmail:

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