INTERNATIONAL medal hopefuls, national champions and a skier aiming to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics are among the talented sportsmen and women whose sporting ambitions are being supported by the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s sports academy scheme.

The scheme, overseen by the council’s sports and play development team and run in partnership with Parkwood Community Leisure, is giving more than 30 local elite-level athletes free use of leisure centres in the county to help them with their training needs.

One of those aiming for the pinnacle of their sport is Rob Taylor, a freestyle skier from Barry, who is targeting a place in Team GB’s Half Pipe Ski Squad for the Sochi Games in Russia. The event that Rob competes in will make its Winter Olympics debut next year and features skiers attempting to pull off an outrageous repertoire of acrobatic tricks and flips as they build up speed in the Half Pipe.

Rob, 28, has been skiing for eight years and his road to Russia began when he competed on slopes across the UK, as he explained: “To start with, I travelled with a group of friends to competitions that are held regularly around the country. I did it because it was great fun, and I must have entered about 30 competitions before I was noticed by national coaches. To now be travelling around the world skiing is just incredible.”

Rob said: “If I qualify for Sochi then that would be great and a dream come true, but if not then I would still have 2018 to aim for. You get a lot of skiers still competing at the top well into their 30s so 2018 would still be realistic.”

The sports academy scheme is also giving a helping hand to a number of other talented sportsmen and women from the Vale such as London 2012 athlete Brett Morse, from Penarth, and Barry sprinter Rhys Knapman.

Also supported is Jessica Wallington, who has recently become a guide runner to Paralympic athlete Tracey Hinton. Jessica and Tracey are aiming to win medals in this year’s World Championships, followed by next year’s Commonwealth Games and then the big one, the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.

Jessica, from Barry, said: “The sports academy scheme has made a massive difference to my training.”