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Teen sports star could be ski-ing's Andy Murray - but needs £5000 training fund

Helen McArdle, News Reporter, Herald Scotland

He is one of Scotland's brightest ski-ing hopes with the potential to be snowsport's answer to Andy Murray, but a lack of official funding means 17-year-old Zak Vinter must raise £5000 himself to bring him one step closer to his Olympic dreams.

The teenager, a former British children's ski champion from Newton Mearns in East Renfrewshire, has set his sights on competing in the Junior World Alpine Ski Championships in Sweden next year - a major stepping stone to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

To date, his parents - both ski instructors at the Glasgow Ski Centre in Bellahouston Park - have bankrolled the costs of training, equipment, travel and competitions for both Zak and his younger brother, Owen, 15, who is the current British children's champion for the third year in a row.

Both boys have been ski-ing since they were two and became members of the British children's team aged 11, sparking comparisons with Scotland's most famous sporting brothers - tennis aces, Andy and Jamie Murray.

However, with no cash available from SportScotland, Zak has set up a crowdfunding page with the aim of raising £5000 to fund his training over the coming year, including travel to a ski camp in Australia during the European summer.

He has just returned from an EDEP (European Development Excellence Program) facility in the Italian Alps, where he spent his first season as full-time athlete training daily on the slopes and in the gym.

His mother, Julie Vinter, who is also the manager at the Glasgow Ski Centre, said Zak is at a make or break juncture in his career when turning juniors' success into a professional career depends on outside support or sponsorship.

Mrs Vinter said: "Without a doubt it is a big challenge, and at this stage it's about funding the next few years to see where he is placed and what his potential is going to be on the world stage.

"It's a long process, but he's doing very well. But this is the hard bit, trying to find support from somewhere - some sort of funding or sponsorship.

"The funding in snow sports is very scarce, especially for alpine ski-ing."

Despite missing significant chunks of secondary schooling, Zak left Mearns Castle High School with five Higher A's and has been accepted to study Economics at Glasgow University - but, for now, academia is on the backburner.

"I want to ski for as long as I can and see what level I can get to," said Zak. "Hopefully Olympic level. I've been accepted for university but I don't see myself doing that any time soon."

A spokeswoman for SportScotland said it was investing £1.25m in snow sports between 2015-19 and had provided grants to two alpine skiers, Charlie Guest and Alex Tilley, to support their selection for the next Winter Olympics.

She added: "SportScotland works with the governing bodies of sport to identify athletes with Olympic potential and determine the level of support they receive from the sportscotland institute of sport.

"Zak has been identified as an athlete with future potential but is not yet at the level for formal support."

You can donate to Zak at: https://makeachamp.com/zakvinter.

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