December 21 2014 Latest news:
Friday, February 21, 2014
The influence of the Winter Olympics has led to a dramatic surge in the number of people in Suffolk taking part in sport.
Despite being 2,000 miles from the Sochi Games in Russia and being one of the flattest counties in the UK, a record number of young people are said to have taken up snowboarding in the region over the last two weeks.
Experts yesterday said the legacy from this year’s winter Olympics was building upon that of London 2012, and was also having an impact on many people who have previously shown little interest in more traditional sports.
Megan Mison, of Suffolk Ski Centre in Wherstead, Ipswich, said: “There have been more snowboarders in the last two weeks than there has been for the rest of the seasons. There are an awful lot of children who have seen it on TV and think it’s amazing and want to take it up, so the Winter Olympics has definitely had a really positive impact on snowboarding. Snowboarding over the last few years has really petered off, but now with the influx we’ve had, it’s just been incredible.”
Ms Mison said the addition of slopestyle for the first time at Sochi, which sees riders performing mid air stunts, along with snowboard cross and the half-pipe events had appealed to many children and teenagers.
“I would say 90% are boys who say that looks cool. The snowboarding has a minimum age of 12, but we have had people as young as seven and eight who want to try it. But because we do skiing from four and above, they realise they can try skiing instead.”
Extreme sports such as skiing and snowboarding have many health benefits, helping to burn calories, develop core strength, calf muscles, quadriceps and hamstrings.
Ms Mison said: “Although professionals make it look like a doddle, you have to be fit to do it and helps keep you fit and healthy.”
Vicki Askew, sport development manager at Sport Suffolk – one of 49 county sports partnerships in the UK – said it was likely that the televising of more extreme sports had helped engage with people who may not participate in traditional sports.
She added: “We know that traditional sports, your football, your rugby don’t appeal to a lot of people. They can easily be put off by them; instead they want to try something different, with a bit more excitement. Sometimes they don’t even see these activities as a sport. They think they are taking in part in what is a dangerous activity so it appeals to that teenage boy market, where they just want to do something different. The Winter Olympics has shown there are other things to do.”
Ms Askew said London 2012 had demonstrated how the Olympics can influence sport in the region, with many people taking up new activities. Handball remains popular in the county’s schools and a team in Ipswich is looking to develop satellite sites.
She added: “We are of the mind set that we don’t mind what people are doing as long as they are doing something. It all fits with the aspiration to make Suffolk the most active county and also getting them to do it as part of their regular life.”
Ms Askew said some work was needed to encourage females aged between 16-25 years to get more involved in sport.