GB chance for Duffield three as they get set to take on the world in Aussie
BROTHER and sister Joe and Alice Sharp are jetting off to sunnier climes for the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF).
The pair, from Duffield, will be joined by former Belper club-mate Anna Toman, who also lives in the village, as part of the 120-strong Team GB selected for the competition in Sydney, which runs for five days from January 16.
The 1,700 athletes, who are between the ages of 13 and 19, will compete across 17 Olympic Sports in many of the venues used to host the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
For 18-year-old Joe, the call-up comes only two years since he had to undergo emergency surgery in Holland following a freak accident on the hockey pitch, when he was hit on the head by the ball.
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The former Ecclesbourne School pupil is keen to put all that behind him and focus on what is looking like a promising future.
He left Belper to play European hockey with Beeston in the summer after almost 10 years at the Amber Valley club.
"I joined Belper when I was about eight or nine years old," he said.
"I had friends who were better than me at the time and that inspired me to do better.
"My first coach, Ian Lane, helped me to do that and I owe a lot to him.
"I also had great support from Ecclesbourne School and teachers Mark Sellors, Caroline Maunder and Tom Walton."
Sharp quickly rose through the ranks at Belper and made his debut for the men's first team aged only 15.
He has captained England at European Championships in the past but this is the first time he has represented Great Britain.
"Captaining England was a huge honour," he said.
"This is the first time that I've played for Team GB but the success at this summer's Olympics has really inspired me.
"I've known about my call-up to the squad since the beginning of December and as well as being very happy, I was a little surprised as I don't really like to show off.
"The competition in Australia will be very good and it's going to be a tough tournament but we have a high chance of a medal."
Older sister Alice is also confident of a medal placing for the girls, although she admits the climate change will be tough to deal with.
"Coping with the heat and humidity will be a challenge but, hopefully, we will be successful and bring home a medal," she said.
"The GB women did that four years ago and it would be great to replicate that.
"It's difficult to say what the opposition will be like, though, as we're playing opposition from outside Europe who we've never played before."
The 20-year-old, who also started her hockey career with the Nailers before moving to Birmingham, was only seven when she first picked up a hockey stick.
"I used to play under the guidance of Ian and Ruth Lane at Belper on a Sunday morning," she added.
"I was encouraged by my PE teacher, Mrs Maunder, at Ecclesbourne but also got a lot of support from maths teacher Mr Walton, who always showed an interest.
"I had great support too from Tim Barlow when he was the ladies' coach at Belper."
Barlow was head coach at Belper when Sharp made her England debut and, earlier this year, she played for the Under-21s in the European Championships.
"That was perhaps my most memorable hockey moment," she said.
"We won a bronze medal by scoring a golden goal in the dying seconds of the match against Germany to win 3-2.
"It was a fantastic achievement and to get a medal in Australia would be perfect.
"I was lucky enough to see a few of the hockey matches at the Olympics and it's definitely inspired me.
"The women winning bronze has done a huge amount for the profile of hockey in this country."