Pendleton’s an inspiration

DOUBLE Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes is backing Stotfold s Vicki Pendleton to inspire the next generation of British world champions. The 26-year-old cyclist became a triple world champion in Mallorca recently after winning her first major cham

DOUBLE Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes is backing Stotfold's Vicki Pendleton to inspire the next generation of British world champions.

The 26-year-old cyclist became a triple world champion in Mallorca recently after winning her first major championship medal when she claimed world sprint gold in 2005 and also Commonwealth Games gold and silver in Melbourne a year later.

And with 40 per cent of girls across the country dropping out of all sporting activity before the age of 18, Holmes has picked her Athens Olympic team-mate as the perfect role model to inspire the finest in Comet country.

Holmes is currently spearheading a new national school initiative called Girls Active, which is aimed at encouraging girls to stay in sport.

"Not every area has a sporting role model but this one has exactly that in the form of Vicki," said Holmes who has now held three national roadshows, hosting 195 girls between the ages of 13 to 16.

"Vicki has been there and done it and having somebody like that on your doorstep should inspire the next generation of girls to continue playing sport after the age of 18.

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"I think girls have more issues in sport, such as a lack of confidence in their ability to perform in front of friends or pick up a new skill - it's easy to say I can't.

"Fortunately I liked athletics and Vicki cycling but teenagers have now changed and are engaged by different mediums - they like music and they like to have fun - so we need to find a new range of activities."

Statistics thrown up from Girls Active roadshows across the country highlighted 85 per cent of girls rated their environment for PE lessons, the range of activities on offer and their PE kit as either average or poor.

And Holmes, the Norwich Union national school sport champion, is adamant this must improve if British female sport is to challenge at major Games around the world.

"There are a million and one reasons for local girls to keep playing sport but any still struggling for inspiration should look no further than Vicki," added Holmes.

"Sport can play a vital role in teaching you skills for everyday life, like teamwork, communication, speaking to your peers, leadership, learning about yourself, creating visions and building confidence.

"We are trying to get teachers to learn new skills, so there is a wider range of activities available to girls - everyone should have an opportunity.

"Not everyone wants to become a champion or an elite player, I realise that, I'm just involved to motivate and inspire the girls and hopefully get them into sport.

"Teachers are probably one of the biggest role models a child can have and sometimes a PE teacher might just hit home - it was like that with my teacher and look where I ended up."

Dame Kelly is the national school sport champion, a government backed role that is supported by the Youth Sport Trust and Norwich Union.

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