Sharples Wrestling Club star Kelsey Barnes has got European success on the brain as she targets the podium at next year’s continental championships.

The Bolton College student is a multiple British champion and has several seasons of international competition behind her, including a statement victory at last year’s Helsinki Open.

Barnes, lured into the unconventional sport by the feats of her brothers in the ring, has recently returned from competing in Amsterdam.

“This is my first year at the junior level so Amsterdam was tough, but my main goal is the Europeans next year,” said the 17-year-old.

“Wrestling, it’s such a different thing to do and very challenging. You have to use your full body and every muscle all in one.

“It’s an intense sport to be a part of. 

“The training’s hard and I don’t really get much time to socialise or see friends, I’ve sort of had to cut everything else out of my life.

“It’s definitely all been worth it, though. When you win a medal, you just get that taste for winning and don’t want to stop there. 

“It’s so mentally tough, when you win it’s such a good feeling.

“In the future I want to go to the Olympics but qualifying for the Europeans next year is first and foremost.”

Her cause is also being helped by SportsAid and the Backing The Best programme, which offers critical financial help to talented young athletes who would otherwise face difficulties progressing through their sport’s system.

Backed by £5.5million of National Lottery funding, Backing The Best presents annual awards of £5,000 per athlete to help with essential costs such as travel, accommodation, kit, nutrition and medical bills. 

Barnes was one of dozens of SportsAid athletes who attended workshops at Nottingham Racecourse in April, offering media training, nutrition advice, performance lifestyle guidance and support for parents. 

The youngsters from all over the country were joined by Winter Olympian Elise Christie, who sang the praises of the programme.

The Bolton News:

“It was a really great day in Nottingham,” said the triple short-track speed skating world champion.

“It’s amazing to be a part of something that gives young adults the chance to shine. I think that’s what is important about SportsAid – they don’t just give money, they help you develop skills.

“If I could have gone back and learnt that stuff before what happened to me, then I’d have been so much better prepared. 

“I’ve come to SportsAid events four times and I always learn something new each time. 

“SportsAid is a special charity because there are a lot of people who will support successful athletes, but SportsAid search for talent who can’t make it on their own.”

Backing The Best is helping talented young athletes facing the greatest financial pressure to pursue their sporting ambitions. The programme, managed by SportsAid for Sport England, is supported by National Lottery funding. Visit–work/talent/backing–the–best/ to find out more