BATON twirling might not be an Olympic sport but gold medalist Neil Bone will tell you he is as skilled as any athlete.
The 37-year-old world champion is one of a few male participants in the female-dominated sport.
But his hopes of attending this year’s European championships in Italy are in jeopardy.
He needs to raise cash to get to the competition in July, which could be his last after 18 years in the sport.
After losing his father last year, Neil quit his job to spend more time with his mother.
Now he is struggling to find the £400 he needs to make the trip to Turin and win England one last gold medal.
He said: ‘It would be a bit of a travesty if I didn’t get to go.
‘I will be performing with a team. I can’t say it’s because of me we’re going to win or because of me not being there we’re going to lose.
‘But I’d like to think I’m an important part of the team.’
Neil is one of just two men who compete for the British Baton Twirling Sports Association.
‘It doesn’t bother me,’ he added.
‘It can be difficult sometimes when I say I’m a baton twirler.
‘People think I’ve just come back from a church fete, marching around with my hand on my hip and waving pom poms about like a majorette.
‘That couldn’t be any further from what we do.
‘It’s much more gymnastic as there are some demanding moves in there.’
Neil, of Weevil Lane, Gosport, first became interested in baton twirling after an accident left him needing physiotherapy.
‘Without thinking I put my arm in a washing machine while it was still going,’ he said.
‘It twisted, splintered and broke all the bones from my wrist to my elbow.
‘After several operations they managed to save my arm. My doctor gave me a baton at a physiotherapy session and said it would be a good idea to twirl the baton through my fingers to bring the feeling back.’
If you can help sponsor Neil, call 07808 714554.