Kat Driscoll: Britain's least-known world number one?

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Sport at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

Kat Driscoll is Great Britain's secret world number one.

The 25-year-old competes in her home World Championships in Birmingham this week as the leading female trampolinist on the planet. Don't pretend you knew that.

Trampoline is a sport at which Britain very quietly succeeds, with three women in the world's top 10 and men ranked 12th and 18th.

"I kind of like that I'm probably one of the least-known number ones," says Driscoll at the Washington Leisure Centre in Tyne and Wear, where she trains.

"It's off the radar but that's good for us. We get on with what we do. Having the press write about you doesn't always make you any better and, regardless of whether people know about trampolining, we're still going out and getting the results.

"It's picking up - people are starting to realise - and it's up to us to change how the media see us."

Reaching the final eight inside the National Indoor Arena this week will be enough to earn a place at the Olympic Games and, if a Briton wins an individual world title, it will be the first in Driscoll's lifetime. The last was Susan Shotton in 1984, well before trampoline made its Olympic debut at the Sydney 2000 Games.

Driscoll is the most likely to break that 27-year duck but she believes her three team-mates - Laura Gallagher, Bryony Page and Emma Smith - stand a similar chance.

"Mentally, I feel amazing. I've had such a great year. Since the season started I've progressively got better and better," says Driscoll, whose husband, former GB trampolinist Gary Short, coaches at the same Washington club.

"It's hard to say, 'I couldn't be in better shape, although at the moment I feel in a really good place. But there's a group of us, it's not just me producing. There are other girls out there getting medals."

The Washington Leisure Centre is as anonymous a building as you will find in Olympic sport. Inside, heading left past reception and down two flights of rust-brown stairs, the boisterous atmosphere of Driscoll's club transforms that impression.

She trains with a gaggle of Geordie teenagers, promising trampolinists in their own right, who come from school to dance, sing and tumble their way through training six days a week.

Driscoll is a role model, mother and big sister to the group.

"It's gone really quiet now," she notices as she begins a TV interview. A few of the girls are lurking behind the camera. "You lot," she hisses with a glint in the eye, "go over there. Now. Move."

Driscoll sighs and smiles. "Some days, they drive me insane. Other days, they keep me sane. I come into the gym and have an absolute blast every training session.

"My husband is a coach at the club and they've known us since we were getting together, then we bought a house and got engaged. A lot of the kids from the club were at our wedding and one was a bridesmaid. They all came to the church to watch us get married.

"We do a lot of stuff outside the sport together, going bowling or going out for people's birthdays. In the school holidays their parents say: 'Look, I'm at work, will you take the kids out and do something?'

"They appreciate what I do and support me, so that helps me. I need to love the sport and they prove to me why the sport's so much fun."

Driscoll knows her young apprentices' ages and achievements by heart and, when the camera wends its inevitable way to them, the praise they reserve for her is effusive.

"Kat's an amazing person to train with. She's going to do awesome in Worlds," says 15-year-old Georgia Lynn. When asked why she does trampoline, lightning-fast she wisecracks: "Because we love Kat. We just love Kat. It's the only reason."

That affection is palpable, as is the effect it has on Driscoll. The sport loves her and that is paying off in the world rankings. Most of her clubmates and their families have travelled to Birmingham, hoping to see her enter her home Olympic year as the new world champion.

"It's going to be hard to stay the world number one but it's what I do the sport for," says Driscoll. "This year has been my year.

"I don't think I could ever leave trampolining behind. Ultimately, I'd love to have my own centre and run that. For now, I want to just keep doing it, and keep doing it, and keep doing it."

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