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Young athletes struggle to train in few and underfunded facilities | United Kingdom | New

By on October 13, 2021 0


Lack of local sports facilities is killing athletes’ dreams (Image: Getty)

THE thrill of Olympic and Paralympic success in Tokyo is still remembered and our incredible medal harvest should already inspire a new generation of athletes to go for gold. But for many young people, a shortage of local sports facilities could thwart their dreams before they get started. Many swimming pools, athletic tracks and sports centers are at the end of their working lives, and even fans of new sports like skateboarding and BMX might see their ambitions stop.

At THE Rush indoor skate park, Jerry and Michelle Norman should have been busy preparing for a hectic fall with young rookies eager to emulate the skills of Team GB’s young Olympic medalist Sky Brown. Instead, the couple were frantically hosting an ‘everything must go’ auction because they were due to shut down their hugely successful business in August. Rather than building dreams in one of the largest indoor sports facilities in Europe, the site was set aside for building apartments.

Wooden ramps once used by thousands of young people, including Olympic BMX gold medalist Charlotte Worthington, are now sold to the highest bidder – just at a time when wet and cold weather will soon make outdoor skateparks too slippery.

“When we closed at the end of August, a kid was literally clinging to my leg like, ‘where am I going to skate now? Jerry remembers. “It was a heartbreaking day, especially after the Youth Summits were blown away by Sky Brown.”

Rush Skatepark opened nine years ago in Brinscombe in a former industrial unit on the outskirts of Stroud, Gloucestershire, and has grown into a leading venue for skateboarding and BMX. Today, it is being dismantled and the site is cleared to make way for housing. And Jerry and Michelle can’t afford to start from scratch on any of the alternative sites they’ve seen.


“Skateboarders often don’t like team sports but they thrive in skate parks(Image: Getty)

“It cost £ 780,000 to turn Rush into a world class venue,” Jerry said. “We took loans and worked around the clock, but it was worth it. The loans were paid off in five years and we had built a good reputation.

“We knew there was a housing permit on this land, but we thought we would be here for many years. The real pleasure we have had is seeing the young people develop.

“Skateboarders often don’t like team sports like football or rugby, but they thrived when they came here. As they gain confidence they want to try more tricks and older ones were very good at giving advice. “

13-year-old Freddie Aplin learned his scooter skills at Rush. He became European Under-12 Champion and competed in Barcelona.

“You could see him better and better with his balance, turns and tricks,” says his mom Amanda. “You only get good with training so having this skate park so close to us was great. Now that has all been taken away. The other closest comparable facilities are in Cardiff or Corby, but we don’t could only go on weekends. Freddie was here five times a week, that’s what it takes to progress. He’s one of the best scooter riders in the world for his age, but those skills aren’t will not improve without regular practice.

“It’s a terrible shame. We just don’t know what we’re going to do, but it’s having a bad effect on Freddie.”

Freestyle BMX star Charlotte Worthington, 25, who wowed millions of viewers with her 360-degree backflip in a gold medal-winning Olympic routine in Tokyo, used to swap stories with skateboarders and the rest. BMX riders at Rush.

“It’s really sad that Rush skatepark is closing among so many others,” she said. “If it hadn’t been for my own local skatepark in Manchester, which unfortunately also closed, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Joanna Banks is lucky to be as good as Charlotte. She has been the British Under-16 BMX champion since 2019, but the shutdown has hit her prospects hard.

“Without Rush, I wouldn’t be able to own this title or get this title at all,” she admits. “I feel really disappointed because it’s not just me who will have to give up this sport.”

It looks like the stars of tomorrow will have to be lucky enough to live near the best venues in order to shine. So far, the only venue comparable to Rush and capable of hosting major championships is Adrenaline Alley in Corby, to the north.

Northamptonshire. Equally disappointingly, youngsters looking to follow in the wake of diver Tom Daley or breaststroke gold medalist Adam Peaty face similar issues.


Almost a quarter of all local authorities in England lack at least one swimming pool (Image: Getty)

Some 300 swimming pools have closed and nearly 2,000 more could be lost by the end of the decade.

Swim England analysis shows that of the 4,336 swimming pools open, only 2,468 will be in operation by 2030, unless local authorities and government act now to replace or renovate the old facilities. Due to temporary pool closures during Covid closures, it is estimated that more than 200,000 11-year-olds have not learned basic skills like floating.

More than a third of elementary school students failed to swim unaided for 25 meters. The danger of permanent swimming pool closures is therefore great, for more than just Olympic hopes.

Swimming pools built in the 1960s and 1970s are nearing the end of their lifespan, but cash-strapped advice and the government have not earmarked the £ 1billion needed to restore and replace them.

James Guy, 25, who won two Olympic gold medals in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay and the mixed 4×100 medley relay in Tokyo, says: “We were the best performers. [swimming] team at the Olympics and to hear that our future stars might not be able to access swimming pools over the next decade is horrible. If there are no pools, you cannot lay the groundwork for club swimmers to come and take our position as Olympic swimmers.

“We have to inspire this next generation and I’m pretty sure a lot of us did it during the Games. But we can’t do it if the pools are closing – it’s absolutely appalling.”

Peaty is equally adamant, saying after winning silver in the 4×100 medley relay team: “Sport needs money, everyone knows that. clubs that have to draw lots and raise funds on their own. “

Almost a quarter of all local authorities in England lack at least one swimming pool. This figure is expected to reach 73% by 2030.

“Swimming pools are naturally essential to the future of all our water sports if we are to feed the next Adam Peaty, Tom Daley, Anna Hopkin or Maisie Summers-Newton,” says Jane Nickerson, Managing Director of Swim England.

One of the country’s biggest swimming assets, the 50-meter swimming pool at Crystal Palace in South London is currently closed along with the plunge pool as major repairs are needed. The 60-year-old building is showing its age and its long-term future is uncertain.

Crystal Palace Athletics Stadium, the iconic home of British athletics for nearly 50 years, has been left to rot, with weeds and even trees growing all over the site after years of underinvestment and waste. failed redevelopment plans.

Nearby, a petition was launched this summer urging Wandsworth Council to resurface the Tooting Bec athletic track after failing an inspection a year earlier.

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The track, used by former Olympian Jade Johnson, and 1,500m semi-finalist in Tokyo this summer, Katie Snowden, has not been relaunched since the mid-1980s. Local MP Dr Rosena Allin -Khan said: “The track is home to schools, clubs and aspiring athletes – losing such a valuable asset in our community will be a devastating blow to so many of our young people.”

Budding table tennis, badminton, volleyball, gymnastics and other sports stars could also be missing if their local recreation centers close, as the John Carroll Leisure Center in Nottingham has done, despite a campaign to keep it open.

Almost two-thirds of the country’s major sports halls are past their expected lifespan or are overdue for renovations. A survey by the District Council Network (DCN), a multi-stakeholder group that represents 180 district councils, has shown that 117 recreation centers, many with swimming pools, are at risk of closing due to a spending gap of £ 325million .

DCN Senior Advisor Dan Humphreys for Improving Quality of Life said: “As these alarming results show, the local gyms, swimming pools and recreation centers that communities rely on every day face to a hopelessly bleak future and many are on the verge of closing. months to come due to the financial losses suffered during the pandemic. “

However, there is still time to invest in our future sporting success, and hope for skateboarding and BMX enthusiasts who know how to travel. The world’s first multi-story indoor skatepark, F51, is slated to open in early 2022 in Folkestone, Kent. The complex has facilities for beginners up to competition level.

Skateboard GB, the sport’s governing body, has seen its progression funding increase to £ 1.2million to find the stars of tomorrow among the 750,000 active skateboarders in the UK.

Meanwhile, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has approved up to £ 550,000 for essential maintenance of the National Sports Center, Crystal Palace, including the stadium.

The Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport provided £ 600million for elite sport, £ 300million for grassroots sport and £ 100million through National Leisure Recovery Fund.

“In addition, the government has allocated more than £ 9bn directly to advice since the start of the pandemic, which includes additional funding of £ 1.55bn to respond to additional pressures on services,” he said. said a spokesperson for the department.

As part of the Daily Express Save Our Olympic Dreams crusade, we have partnered with the Made By Sport association to increase youth access to sports facilities. Local clubs in need of assistance can apply for funding through


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