Search on to find next GB ski star

It is that time again when we take an interest in what are generally regarded as minority sports.

It is that time again when we take an interest in what are generally regarded as minority sports.

The Winter Olympics start in Vancouver tomorrow and, while Great Britain are not expected to figure highly in the final medals table, we will all enjoy the sheer fearlessness involved in some of the sports taking place (curling aside).

There is, however, one discipline that almost everyone takes an interest in.

When you think Winter Olympics, you think skiing and Ipswich is lucky enough to have its own dry ski slope as many of us perfect moves we hope to show off in foreign climes (or at least avoid embarrassment) but did you know the town has its very own team?

Suffolk Vikings compete in the Eastern Region Snowsports Association, coming up against the likes of Norwich, Brentwood and Hemel Hempstead on a regular basis but the main goal for the team is to improve whoever comes along to their training.

They have forged an excellent relationship with Suffolk Leisure Park, who recommend keen skiers to the Vikings where they have a trial at the sessions the club holds on Saturday mornings and Monday evenings.

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Chairman of the team, Rolf Toogood, who took over in October 2009, is keen to see their ranks boosted at all age groups.

“We're lucky to have such a good relationship with Paul Trinder, who runs the Leisure Club, and we are always looking for more people to come along.

“We have got members as young as seven so it really is open to anyone.

“Skiing is continually on the up, especially with the amount of people who now go on skiing holidays, and we would be more than happy for people to hone their skills with us.

“We compete in the ERSA but we also go to club nationals as a team where skiers can compete as individuals.”

The club has got a thriving youth scene and there are high hopes for the likes of Lucy Butchart, who recently came third in the Junior One category (15/16 years) in the Anglo Scottish Slalom Race held in Les Rouche.

The Vikings, who are looking to gain their 'Snowmark' accreditation, awarded to clubs that are committed to providing a quality experience, was visited by the head coach of England Alpine Ski, Mike Barker, last month.

Barker was on hand to offer advice to the four coaches at the club whilst also taking part in some of the training exercises for the club's youngsters.

“It went really well and we had a good turnout - there must have been around 30 plus there,” added Toogood. “The main aspect to come out of it was that he was able to spend time with our coaches but he also made some time to offer the youngsters some tips

“He offered a lot of good advice and came back to us with some suggestions for us to develop the club as we are very keen to expand.”

Plans are also afoot for Olympic skier Alain Baxter to visit the club on March 15 as part of a Team Ipswich Corporate Breakfast meeting.

The Scot, who had his Olympic bronze medal taken away from him after using an American version of a Vicks inhaler that had a banned substance in it, will host the meeting before holding a training session from 11am to 1pm.

You never know, someone from Suffolk Vikings could one day take the Winter Olympics by storm just as Baxter did.