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Robert hoping to reach the heights of Olympian Dave

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When it comes to snow sports, Pendle is a hotbed of talent.

Pendle Ski Club is the dry slope where world-class alpine skier Dave Ryding learned his sport – and now another local boy is following in his ski tracks.

Robert Holmes, 15, has just returned to his home in Higherford after scooping the British Alpine U16s Slalom Championship and overall British Children’s Champion title in Tignes, France.

The Year 11 pupil at Park High School in Colne is now targeting a place on the British Alpine Team – after he’s completed his GCSEs this summer.

“It has been an incredible season and it’s fantastic to finish it on a high by winning the national title,” says Robert, “but now it’s time to focus on my exams.”

Robert is a member of the Team Evolution ski academy and spends most of the winter months following a grueling training schedule in the Alps, with five hours on the slopes in the morning, three hours of schooling and then strength and conditioning sessions in the gym in the evenings six days a week.

His ultimate is to reach the dizzy heights achieved by fellow Lancastrian and world-class alpine skier Dave Ryding, who finished 2 nd in the 2017 World Cup in Kitzbuhel and competed in this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, finishing ninth – Britain’s best alpine skiing result for 30 years.

Dave has seen first hand Robert’s talent and warmly champions the young skier. “I get to see a lot of Rob over the winter season in Austria as I base myself out of Team Evolution’s training base in Reiteralm,” he says. “To be honest, even though Rob is 16 years younger than myself, it’s great to hear another Northern accent and Northern humour!

“I don’t look at the future generation and judge them on their skiing ability alone, ability and skill at this age is important but the main importance is their mental approach and attitude to put in hard work while keeping a level head.

“Rob is the British Children’s Overall Champion, something I wasn’t even close to achieving, so he is proving he has a very good skill level for his age.

“However what I like most about Rob is his levelness, never thinking he is above anyone and always willing to listen to his coaches’ advice. He has a long way to go, but it is all about constant progression, with his work ethic and levelness I look forward to seeing what Rob can achieve in the years to come!”

However, pursuing an elite sports programme to an international standard comes at a price – £16,000 per year to be precise.

Unfortunately, unlike other elite sports, there’s very little funding available for skiing, and Robert’s parents have struggled over the years to find the cash to help their son fulfill his dream.

As he turns 16 this summer and targets a full-time career in the sport, Robert is hoping to take the financial pressure off his parents by securing sponsorship, if possible from local businesses.

He already has the support of Fort Vale Engineering and Pendle Leisure Trust.

He says: “My mum and dad have been absolutely brilliant in supporting financially and emotionally over the years.

“They have made so many sacrifices for me. They couldn’t even afford to come and watch me at the British Championships this month because they didn’t have the funds to pay for it.

“It’s now time that I stood on my own two feet – or skis! – and made my own way.

“Plus my 12-year- old sister Charlotte is also an up-and-coming ski supremo, so it’s only fair that my parents give her the opportunity to pursue the sport too.”

Robert is appealing to local businesses who might be willing to sponsor him as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programme.

In return, Robert will display their company logos on his skiwear, website and social media platforms, and include them in updates and publicity.

For more details, please email jholmes2801@gmail.com.