Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Britain’s BMX man Paul
IN 10 weeks' time, the eyes of the world will focus on London for the start of the 2012 Olympic Games.
But one Carlton Colville man has his sights firmly set on England's 'second city'.
Next weekend, the UCI BMX World Championships are being held at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham and among the riders taking part from across the globe is 36-year-old Paul Barnard.
Paul, who competes in the BMX cruiser discipline, said the event was regarded as the most prestigious in the sport.
'I am so proud to be representing my country at the UCI BMX World Championships, and pleased that my perseverance has enabled me to qualify for a very exciting and fantastic experience,' he said.
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'More than 2,000 riders from across the different age groups all over the world will be taking part, and my event takes place on the Sunday. I can't wait – and I am really looking forward to wearing my GB vest for the first time.'
Although it is a relatively new sport compared to track and road cycling, where the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and Mark Cavendish are major Olympic medal hopes for Team GB, BMX is increasingly popular.
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The BMX World Championships are expected to draw thousands of people to the indoor arena between next Thursday and Sunday, May 27.
Great Britain has selected riders in the various age-range categories, who have all earned their qualification after competing in the national series last year.
Among those on show will be 23-year-old Great Britain Podium Programme rider and British BMX star Shanaze Reade, who is aiming for her fourth elite women's UCI BMX World Championship title.
Competition is expected to be particularly fierce this year as the championships are also the last event in which nations can secure qualification points to book their places at the Olympics.
But Paul – who is a member of the Norwich Flyers BMX Racing Club and is currently ranked ninth nationally in his 35-39 category – has proved he is skilled enough to make the GB team and join the riders pushing for an Olympic place, having completed an amazing journey to reach the top of the sport.
Things had looked bleak at last year's European Championships when he suffered a broken collarbone, which threatened to shatter his dreams. But he bounced back from his injury to leave other riders trailing in his tyre tracks and book a GB call-up – and now he is planning to grasp this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Mr Barnard, a tutor at LifeSkills Solutions in Lowestoft, said: 'To qualify for the world championships you have to finish in the top 16 and I had the setback with the injury, which could've cost me selection for the GB team.'
Fortunately, his results and ranking meant he had 'done enough' to qualify, and he has not looked back
The former Benjamin Britten High School pupil first started riding in 1985, beginning as a novice representing East Anglia, but taking part in next weekend's event in national colours will be the fulfilment of a dream.
'I've put in a lot of hard work and resumed training after travelling to the British Cycling headquarters in Manchester to practise on their renowned indoor BMX track,' he said. 'It will be quite a proud moment and a lot of hard work has gone into it. I want to do really well, but I am keeping an open mind. The aim is to race as long as I can on the day.'