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Baton is passed to a new generation of twirlers

PUBLISHED: 16:51 16 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:51 16 February 2016

British Baton Twirling sports association area championship being held at WaterLane Leisure Centre in Lowestoft.

Picture: James Bass

British Baton Twirling sports association area championship being held at WaterLane Leisure Centre in Lowestoft. Picture: James Bass

(C) Archant Norfolk 2016

Take a healthy dose of dancing, add a pair of pom-poms and mix in some marching. Throw them all up in the air like an aluminium rod and you get an idea of the quirky and popular phenomenon that is baton twirling.

And more than 200 young athletes from across the region descended on Lowestoft, as the British Baton Twirling sports association area championships were held.

The athletes were competing with the aim of securing a place at the national championships, which take place over the Easter weekend at K2 in Crawley.

Athletes also performed in preparation for potential England selection for either the World Championships in Sweden and the European Cup in France – with both events held later this year.

The area championships, held at the Waterlane sports centre, saw 65 athletes qualify for the national championships – competing in 227 different events.

One person who competed but has already qualified for the world championships, is Amy Wheeler-Smith from Gorleston.

The 20-year-old, who trains with the Angel Baton Twirlers, based in Norwich, was area champion in all five disciplines – solo twirl, 2 baton, dance twirl, fancy strut and pose and personality.

She said: “I started baton twirling at a very age when I was nine.

“I had started by going swimming but my then childminder’s little girl had been going baton twirling and I followed and really enjoyed it.

“I have now been representing England since 2008, and I am now training two or three times a week, harder than ever in preparation for the world championships.”

A day after her area championship success, Amy was back in the training hall to prepare for both the national championships and England selections.

Another person who took part in the championships was Ella Laurence-Barker, of Lowestoft.

At the age of four, this is the third championship that she has taken part in, after following her mother, Jade Laurence-Barker into baton twirling.

Ella, who trains with Cliffside Royalettes, based in Gorleston achieved 4th place in 3 disciplines of solo twirl, dance twirl and poise and personality.

Mrs Barker said: “It has become a bit of a family thing. I did it for a long time and then I decided to start taking Ella as well.

“She has been doing it now for about two and a half years and she really enjoys it.

“She always has a big smile on her face when she takes part and is getting very good.”

Liz Wheeler-Smith, of the British Baton Twirling Sports Association, said: “We have a good number of athletes heading off to Nationals for the first time and there was much excitement at the end of the competition for all those who qualified.

“For a sport which does not have much publicity, there was so much interest at the area championships and it is great to see so many people interested.”

Anyone who is interested in baton twirling and would like further information, should email Liz Wheeler-Smith at liz@bbtsa.co.uk

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