St Helens cycling prospect Chris Heaton believes his Edge Hill University scholarship award will help benefit his career on and off the track.
The 19-year-old from Eccleston, was given an initial £1,000 as the 2018 Sports Scholarship Gold award winner, allowing him to further pursue his coaching qualifications. Other benefits include free gym membership, personal training and sports science support at the state-of-the-art facilities on campus.
A former pupil of Rainford High and Cronton College, Chris is in the second year of a Sports Coaching and Development degree, which he combines along with competing and coaching commitments.
“I went into higher education to increase my knowledge and understanding, and the degree allows me to study what I want, as well as allowing me to be based close to home and Manchester Velodrome.”
Chris mainly specialises in sprint events including the Keirin, although skiing was where his initial sporting interest lay.
“My skiing coach introduced me to mountain biking and from there I did a taster session at the velodrome and really enjoyed it,” he said.
“I was invited to join the youth and junior cycle club and moved through the development stages, being accredited to race within three months. I felt comfortable in that environment from the beginning.”
He first raced in early 2013 and was soon successfully representing the North West at the Sainsbury’s school games, before going on to compete at junior and under-23 levels.
“Winning the White Hope Sprint and getting a silver medal in the Keirin event at the junior nationals were among high points, as well as racing in Belgium and the USA.”
Like any sportsperson, Chris has also tasted lows. He was on the British cycling apprentice programme as a youth rider but unfortunately didn’t progress on to junior academy level.
Through discipline and planning, Chris is able to juggle both his training and coaching commitments, something he sees himself doing long term.
“I first got into it when I was 16 and was invited to help at a RSR (Regional School of Racing) event with British Cycling. From there I did my coaching qualifications. I am youth and junior coach, responsible for writing training plans for riders as well as providing one to one coaching. In addition, I support the junior and youth race team, Team JRC, to run training camps to develop the athletes both tactically and physically.”