New sport is no hurdle to Walker

Chelsea Walker is making giant strides in rugby and athletics.
Chelsea Walker is making giant strides in rugby and athletics.

It’s a whole new ball game for Bishop Burton College student Chelsea Walker as she swaps her running spikes for rugby studs, and represents her country.

The 18-year-old is not satisfied with being the UK’s number one Under 20 400 metre hurdler and has now been recognised nationally for a second sport - rugby.

Originally called up to represent England Under-18s at the European Championships in Belgium, she has now been selected to take part in the Development Squad programme, a route in to the England women’s senior squad, over the coming months.

It’s been a meteoric rise for Walker, who has only been playing rugby for a year since she began her course at Bishop Burton College. Until then she’d never even picked up a rugby ball and only agreed to join in because she thought it would be non-contact.

“I thought it was only the forwards that would get hit and, as a winger, I’d get away without heavy contact. It was a bit of a surprise but I don’t mind the contact anymore and I try to give as good as I get.”

Since joining the Bishop Burton Rugby Academy last year, Walker starred on the wing as the college’s women’s team won the AoC Sport Rugby Finals in London, winning four games out of four and scoring an impressive 181 points while conceding only 19.

“I scored nine tries in that tournament, which I’m pleased about, but as a winger, that’s what I’m in the team to do. It was a great experience and I learned a lot from the coaching staff last year.”

But while she is enjoying rugby, Walker’s first love will always be hurdling, with her sights firmly set on hurdling at the 2016 IAAF World Junior Championships in Kazan, Russia, in July.

“My goals at the moment are to take part in the Rio Olympic trials sometime around May next year but, f I don’t qualify, my sights will be firmly set on qualifying for the following Olympics four years later,” the Shiptonthorpe athlete said.

The college’s director of sport James Earl, said: “We’re delighted that Chelsea has been recognised nationally for two sports. The UK has a mass of female sporting talent and the college is fully committed to playing our part in that success.”