Young athletes are forced to practice in sparsely equipped and underfunded sports facilities.

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As the skate park that set British BMX ace Charlotte Worthington on the road to glory shuts, the Express demands more support for youngsters she inspired

THE thrill of Olympic and Paralympic success in Tokyo is still fresh in the memory and our incredible haul of medals should already be inspiring a new generation of athletes to go for gold. But for many youngsters, a shortage of local sporting facilities could thwart their dreams before they’ve begun. Many swimming pools, athletics tracks, and sports centres are at the end of their working lives, and even fans of new sports like skateboarding and BMXing, could find their ambitions grinding to a halt.

AT THE Rush indoor skateboard park, Jerry and Michelle Norman should have been busy preparing for a hectic autumn with eager young novices trying to emulate the skills of Team GB’s young Olympic medallist, Sky Brown. Instead the couple were frantically running an ‘everything-mustgo’ auction because they had to close their hugely successful business in August. Rather than building dreams at one of Europe’s biggest indoor sports facilities, the site has been earmarked for the construction of flats.

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

“When we closed at the end of August a child was literally clinging to my leg, saying ‘where will I skateboard now?”’ recalls Jerry. “It was a heart-wrenching day, especially after the highs of the Olympics when all the youngsters were blown away by Sky Brown.”

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

“It has cost £780,000 to turn Rush into a world-class venue,” Jerry says. “We took out loans and worked round the clock, but it was all worth it. The loans were paid back in five years and we’d built up a good reputation.

“We knew there was permission. “Brinkwire Summary News”.

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