ELLIOTT Bennett has his sights set on competing at the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.
And if the teenage skiing star from Gawber, who has been nominated for the Proud of Barnsley sporting achievement award, doesn’t make it to Cortina d’Ampezzo, it won’t be for the want of trying.
The 16-year-old’s parents Russell and Kate met on a skiing holiday in the mid-90s, and both Elliott and his 14-year-old sister Grace, also a top skiing prospect and a member of the England squad for her age group, have been taking to the slopes since they were toddlers.
Now Elliott is the national Super G (giant slalom) champion at under-16 level.
He is currently awaiting GCSE results from Penistone Grammar School, where Grace is also a pupil, and has become used to combining his studies with the level of training needed to keep his skiing career firmly on track.
His plan is to spend the next two years gaining a BTEC in sports and exercise sciences at Barnsley College.
“That will allow him to gain experience and qualifications in an area associated with his skiing,” explained dad Russell, a Barnsley-based motorcycle dealer.
“And because he is classed as an elite athlete, he will be able to attend the training camps and competitions he needs to.
“Obviously they are mostly abroad, which means spending periods of time away from home, and the people at Barnsley College have been great about the flexibility he will need.”
It’s going to be a big two years for Elliott.
“Basically, he is leaving the junior ranks and moving up to adult level, so he could find himself competing against hugely experienced skiers pretty soon,” explained Russell, 45, who runs Bennetts Motorcycles on Sheffield Road, Barnsley.
“It’s a period of transition, with a lot going on both in his skiing and his studying, and there will obviously be a lot of demands on his time.
“But he is very single-minded and driven, and he has had a lot of help from Snowsport England, who are the governing body for skiing here and look after him well.
“He has had top coaching and also had some coaching experience of his own as well as learning about the fitness and first aid side of things, which provides future career possibilities.
“Elliott is just back from a training camp with the adults in Norway, so he is getting a taster of what is to come, and the plan is to gradually get him up to speed with the level he needs to get to.
“He is aware of what he needs to to do, both in terms of devoting time to training and funding it, and he’s put a lot of effort into getting sponsorship off his own back.
“His ambition is to progress his skiing career and ultimately compete at the Winter Olympics, and as parents, Kate and myself will back him all the way.
“When he first got to international level, there were a few comments questioning the credentials of a lad from a mining town in the north of England, but he’s still going strong.
“We all know there’s a long way to go, but it’s so far, so good, and it’s great that his achievements have been recognised in his home town with this Proud of Barnsley nomination.”