TALENTED Kayleigh Smith’s head was spinning with excitement when she found out she is to represent the country in a European baton twirling competition.
The 11-year-old was selected as one of four England representatives to compete in the junior category of the European Grand Prix Twirling Championship this summer.
She has been practising her art since the age of six, but this is the first time she has been old enough to qualify for the European event in Belgium.
She said: ‘When I found out I was going to Belgium I was so happy – I couldn’t stop smiling for ages.
‘I’m proud of myself that I’ve managed to do it and I’m excited to see what the other countries will do.
‘But I am a bit nervous about competing against them because it’s my first time, but it will be good experience no matter what.’
Self-motivated Kayleigh trains most evenings and every weekend, and it has taken her a year to perfect her current routine to Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
The youngster has a personal tutor who lives outside the Portsmouth area and only visits occasionally, so Kayleigh needs to be disciplined with her training as she practises alone.
She added: ‘I’m determined to do as well as I can so that people think I’m really good and that’s what keeps me going.
‘I have to practise all the tricks on my own and it can be hard, but it feels great when I get to the stage where I can do them well.
‘That makes all the hard work worthwhile and encourages me to do more.’
Kayleigh, of Greetham Street, Southsea, will pack up her crystal-studded costume to jet off to Belgium in July with proud mum Amanda by her side to support her.
Amanda said: ‘Kayleigh’s worked so hard to get here and overcome two injuries caused by the training, so she deserves it.
‘She’s so dedicated and practises whenever she can. It means the world to her to have got this far.
‘I’m very proud of her – the whole family is.’
Throughout the year Kayleigh has gained numerous grades and competed in national competitions throughout the UK.
Amanda is currently looking for a sponsor to help with the cost of costumes and travel to competitions.
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