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Representing her country aged just nine!
SOME parents may despair of how to get their children off the sofa, away from their computer and into the outside world.
Childhood obesity rates have shot up fourfold in the last ten years, with almost a third of children aged two to 15 being classed as obese.
But that’s not a problem that Gary and Laura Cooper from Hedge End face.
In fact, Gary gives up every evening and at least half his weekends to take his three children to their various sports training sessions.
And it’s paid off. Not only are the children, aged 14, nine and seven, healthy and active but his middle daughter, Madeline, has been selected to represent her country in the Great Britain Biathle Team, heading out to Cyprus this week.
She will be running and swimming for her country in the under tens category.
If she does well it will knock her Great South Run win in her age category off the top spot as her highest sporting achievement.
“We noticed that Madeline picked up swimming very quickly and running followed soon after,” says Gary, who admits that all his spare time is taken up with his children’s sport.
“I thought ‘what are we going to do with her?’ She was always quite competitive.”
Gary was already involved in Chapel Tri triathlon club and as soon as she was eight and old enough to do so, Madeline joined.
Her older brother, Charlie, is also a member and a special allowance has been made to accept her little sister, Melissa, a year early.
Gary says that Madeline ends up on the podium in almost every race she competes in.
“Her worst position has been fourth!” he adds.
Melissa, meanwhile, won her first triathlon and Charlie represented the south east region in triathlon, among the family’s many sporting achievements.
“Getting into the British team was a great achievement for Madeline,” adds Gary.
“She isn’t one to boast but she has done so well, she deserved some recognition.”
Madeline says she is very excited about going to Cyprus although the biathlle doesn’t include her favourite event – cycling.
“I really enjoy doing long distances,” says the nine-year-old.
“I like doing a lot of sport. It keeps me fit and I like taking part in the events and winning races.”
Gary believes parents have a responsibility to encourage and support their children if they show sporting ability.
His wife, Laura, is a teacher and Gary, a facilities manager, takes responsibility for the children’s sport.
“All kids should be encouraged into sport,” he says.
Gary with his sports-mad children.
“It’s good for everything – for the experience of being in a team, for your CV for future jobs and for keeping fit and healthy.
“I do push them a bit. I say ‘you have an interest in this so let’s stick at it’.
“I take them all over the country for competitions.
Parents need to be on board if kids are showing a talent and guide them.
“I look after the equipment, book and pay for the events and the accommodation and get in the car and take them there.
“If your kids are showing a flair for sport, I think you have to do that.”
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