A TALENTED Tameside sportsman hopes to achieve his Winter Olympic dream in a sport unfamiliar to the area – biathlon.
The borough might not be well-known for its frosty climate, but that does not stop Lucas Rhodes from setting his sights on becoming a professional.
A pupil at Stalybridge’s West Hill School, the 13-year-old excels at many sports, but has one dream that stands out from the rest.
To represent his country on the biggest stage of all.
The sport of biathlon attracts many across the globe, hailed as one of the most physically challenging events on the Winter Olympic programme with its combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
However, a lack of funding in the UK makes this a hard sport to break into, meaning talent like Lucas’ often gets left behind.
His proud mum, Stephanie Owen, said his journey began after being inspired by fellow athlete, Amanda Lightfoot.
She said: “I follow British Biathlon on Facebook as my friend from when I was in the army competed at two Winter Olympics, her name was Amanda Lightfoot.
“In April, they advertised a Talent ID Day for young athletes. We applied not knowing too much about the sport and from this he was invited along to Stourbridge Cycle Track for some gruelling fitness testing.
“The day included a roller ski session and some laser shooting practice too. We found out a week later that he had been successful and had been invited to join the Talent ID programme, this lasts for 18 months.”
Talent Identification Programmes are crucial in helping young athletes to flourish. They work by identifying youngsters that could become elite competitors, and then providing them with training environments to help them succeed.
This was the start of a whole new journey for Lucas, who fell in love with the sport of biathlon.
With a lack of facilities in the UK, Lucas must travel to various camps to fine tune his skills, which ultimately becomes expensive for his family.
Stephanie added: “From October, he will be heading to the University of Central Lancashire to train with Manchester Cross Country Ski Club. Lucas goes to training camps in the UK as well as abroad with the British Biathlon Union.
“We’ve just returned from Scotland for the Huntly Races, and then in October he is off to Germany for a snow training camp.
“He hopes to develop his skills enough that the BBU will select him for the development programme after the 18 months. We hope he will then have the opportunity to progress onto an elite programme and then compete on the international stage.”
Biathlon is the sport that Lucas hopes to earn gold in, however it’s not the only activity he trains for on a regular basis.
In fact, Lucas’ weeks are pretty hectic, combining his school life with a range of sports.
“Lucas has sport running through his veins,” his mum said.
“He plays football with Curzon Ashton Juniors, he is a member of East Cheshire Harriers where he competes in both athletics and cross country.
“He also attends Team Energize martial arts for kickboxing. He finds it hard to choose a favourite sport, as he enjoys each one for a different reason and they all complement each other.
“Eventually he will have to choose between them, but while he can enjoy them all, he will.”
The keen athlete dedicates almost seven days a week to his training, with rock climbing and BMXing reserved for any down time.
Lucas’ talent is evidently clear to see, but now he needs your help to continue his Olympic dream.
Stephanie told The Correspondent: “Biathlon is a huge expense on the bank of mum and dad. We are on the lookout for anyone or businesses who would like to make a monetary donation or buy some equipment for him to be able to train.
“Any donations would be greatly received and would mean that we can get the equipment Lucas needs and attend as many training camps as possible.
“We hope to give him the best chance of success to help him reach his dreams of competing at a Winter Olympics and one day also becoming a ski instructor.”
Donations will play a massive role in Lucas’ sporting career, giving him the confidence and the ability to achieve.
You can help Lucas on his journey to competing at a Winter Games by visiting his fundraising page here, https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-beginning-of-my-british-biathlon-journey.