GB call for Dereham athlete

DEREHAM'S Francis Baker will be flying the flag for Norfolk this weekend as he represents Great Britain at the indoor championships in Rheims, France.

The 23-year-old decathlete recently won England's 3As national indoor heptathlon title, beating the Commonwealth bronze medallist and defending champion in the process, writes Joe Randlesome.

He will now compete against elite athletes from countries such as France, Holland, Czech Republic and Spain after being selected for the Great Britain team.

His father, Clive Baker, believes the title is the first to be won by a senior Norfolk athlete since 1997 and stated that Francis works tremendously hard to ensure he is up to standard.

'Francis is not as naturally gifted as his brother Chris and therefore has to work his socks off to achieve success. If his coach told him to run through a brick wall he would do it.'

Sporting success runs in the family with Chris, who competes in the high jump, recently clearing 2.16 meters to move himself up to second in the national rankings.

His father believes his eldest son would now be looking to achieve a GB best in the decathlon yet believes Francis would be setting his sights even higher still.

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'His aim is sure to be a GB best and that would be a tremendous achievement for him. I am sure he will be looking to be picked for the decathlon at a European Cup, but you will have to ask him that one! He took some great scalps on the way to achieving victory at the nationals so all in all it's been a great January for the family.'

Francis, who lives and trains in Cardiff, is a former pupil of Dereham Northgate High School and is also a Level 2 coach and helps to train junior athletes. Last year he was ranked 12th in the UK standings, the highest-placed Norfolk athlete on the leaderboard.