Bolton locals show their sporting prowess
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:04 13 February 2017
Bolton’s impressive renaissance is being matched in a wide range of fields, as Martin Pilkington discovers.
The energy that Bolton is showing in its revitalised centre is matched in the sporting field, from individuals taking on personal challenges to organisations making a difference to their community.
Olympic cycling hero Jason Kenny, from Farnworth, made headlines around the world but hottest news at the moment is local cricketer Haseeb Hameed who has shown considerable steel during his meteoric rise. In December he became England’s youngest ever test match opening batsman at 19, receiving rave reviews from the sport’s elder statement.
Andy Compton coached him at Bolton School, though he freely credits Haseeb’s father too. ‘I have never seen anything near to Haseeb’s technique, it’s wonderful. His dad Ismail has put in endless hours coaching him, he must have one arm longer than the other from all the tens of thousands of throw-downs!’
Haseeb opened for Bolton School’s 1st XI in year nine – that’s the third year - and his later record included three consecutive hundreds against Wolverhampton Grammar, Merchant Taylors’ Crosby and Lancaster Grammar. In his final year at school he played for Lancashire Seconds, then made his first class debut at 18. ‘At every stage at which he has been challenged he has met that challenge and looked extremely comfortable at the new level. Nothing seems to faze him at all,’ says Andy.
Haseeb has been nicknamed ‘Baby Boycott’, but Lancastrians can hope the White Rose legend will eventually be referred to as an older version of Haseeb Hameed.
Meanwhile, at Bolton University, sport of the motorised variety is making news. Four years ago, to address falling numbers on engineering courses, the institution decided to focus on high performance motorsport engineering.
‘We wanted make it real for students, so we now offer a combination of theoretical work and the practical side in the lab and on the track,’ says Dr Zubair Hanslot, provost of the University of Bolton and chief executive of the upshot of that move, The National Centre for Motorsport Engineering. ‘Our mantra’s clear: study on campus and on the racetrack.’
This September, staff and students move into a new building, the multi-million pound National Centre for Motorsport Engineering, and this will form the Centre for Advanced Performance Engineering (CAPE) at the University.
Dr Hanslot and his colleagues are serious about the course being hands-on. Their partnership with Century Motorsport (whose driver Anna Walewska won last year’s Dubai 24-hour race), saw some students participating in pit duties at Imola in 2016. Lecturer Tim Mullis, who has 20 years’ experience in professional motorsport, will tutor students on data acquisition techniques on a local racetrack. And they will actually build supercars in the new centre, students helping design, test, improve and assemble ten Keating Berus cars a year. Tony Keating, chief executive of Keating Supercars, is an alumnus of the university. Says Dr Hanslot: ‘One of his earlier supercars briefly held the production car world land speed record, and he aims to regain it with the next model.’
Bolton Rugby Union FC’s Avenue Street facilities are not quite as expensive, but they too have been enhanced. ‘In 2012 we improved the drainage of our pitches enormously, thanks to a grant from local firm Viridor,’ says Peter Gore, who does community development work for the club. ‘And we’ve just opened new facilities for schools to use midweek here. It’s a nice friendly family club where everybody mucks in, so much of our building and project work gets done by our members in their spare time.’
Proud to have been formed in 1872, two years before Bolton Wanderers, the club fields junior teams from U7s to U18s, and four senior sides, and is always keen to recruit new players. ‘It’s about participation at the youngest ages, even if a child can’t catch the ball they’ll get game-time,’ says Peter. Outreach work by three community coaches, including first team player Mark Doherty, is supporting local schools’ rugby and developing new talent. It’s paying off – last season the club’s U17s and U18s both topped their leagues.
Tri-athlete and soon-to-be Ironman competitor Donna Cooper is grateful to her club, Tri-Rivington, but perhaps not so to her brothers Martin and Phillip Taylor, who persuaded her to enter this July’s Ironman UK 2017 in Bolton. ‘They’ve both done it before, and thought I should join them. Most families just go to the seaside together!’ she says.
‘The other reason is that my dad was a really keen cyclist who died of a heart attack aged 52, and my mum was an equally keen runner who died of cancer, so we’re raising money for Christies and the British Heart Foundation.’ Their fundraising page is at www.justgiving.com/teams/donna-cooper.
Donna is training hard for the big day, including two half-distance events in 2016 - not easy with demands on her time from career and family. ‘My husband and children are really supportive, otherwise I’d definitely struggle,’ she says.
‘My aim is just to finish it, but you have to do the whole thing in 17 hours – a 2.4 mile swim in Pennington Flash near Leigh, straight on the bike for a 112 mile ride, and then finishing off with a marathon, a 26.2 mile run up and down Chorley New Road.’