A BASEBALL player from Cark is targeting the Olympic Games as he pitches his case for a significant career in the sporting arena.

Joe Rawcliffe, 18, was hooked on the sport ever since trying it out at primary school, now honing his skills at Cartmel Valley Lions in his bid for the top.

The promising teenager is also firmly in Great Britain’s plans, previously reaching the national U15s team while a big step-up is in store across this season.

But not everything has gone to plan for the Cumbrian, forced to sit on the sidelines in what was supposed to be his breakthrough competition – not that that dampened his spirit in any way.

“My proudest achievement is probably being with the GB team,” he said. “I’d like to say we’re one of the more fun teams! We have a laugh and get great experience, reached the European finals once. “Unfortunately, I broke my toe two days before the tournament, but I still loved it – it was a great two weeks and great to be a part of that higher–level team.

“I’m looking to take a gap year after I’ve finished A-Levels and focus primarily on baseball. I want to go to America to go to college, so I’m looking at division three colleges out there.

“I want to get into the GB U23s next year as well, hopefully compete somewhere with them in Europe and see where I can progress in my sport.

“Tokyo have just put baseball into Olympics. I think maybe it might be a little bit too soon, so I’m looking at 2024 if they decide to keep it in.

“If not it’s the World Baseball Classic which is like the sport’s World Cup. We came second in the qualifiers last year and you have to come first to qualify, so hopefully we can qualify for that and I can get into the side and play some big teams like America and Japan.”

His cause is also being helped by SportsAid and the Backing The Best programme, which offers critical financial help to talented young athletes who would otherwise face difficulties progressing through their sport’s system.

Backed by £5.5 million of National Lottery funding, Backing The Best presents annual awards of £5,000 per athlete to help with essential costs such as travel, accommodation, kit, nutrition and medical bills.

Rawcliffe was one of dozens of SportsAid athletes who attended workshops at The London Stadium, offering media training, nutrition advice, performance lifestyle guidance and support for parents.

The youngsters from all over the country were joined by sports stars Maggie Alphonsi, John McAvoy and Jake Wightman, with the latter offering his support for the SportsAid programme.

“When you’re young the funding opportunities are pretty slim, so to know that there are people out there that will help you fulfil the potential that you feel like you have when not a lot of others are doing that is pretty vital,” he said.

“I hope they’ve gained a lot from us athletes being here, because it wasn’t that long ago that we were in that position. Every single one of them has got a good platform to go for success.

“Being a part of something like this, they’re already a pretty good way along the path of being successful athletes. I hope they can come away believing that can happen thanks to Backing The Best.”

PLEASE LEAVE IN FINAL PAR – Backing The Best is helping talented young athletes facing the greatest financial pressure to pursue their sporting ambitions. The programme, managed by SportsAid for Sport England, is supported by National Lottery funding. Visit www.sportengland.org/our-work/talent/backing-the-best/ to find out more.