FORMER Huddersfield Town Academy player Jack Reading didn’t make it as a professional footballer – but he is still aiming for the top in the sporting world.
Jack, 23, is climbing the world rankings in the adrenaline-fuelled sport of downhill mountain bike racing.
The former Salendine Nook High School student is currently ranked 58th in the world and he aims to break into the top 40 by the end of this year.
Downhill racing is a little known sport in Britain but has its diehard followers around the world, particularly in the USA.
Over the last four years Jack has combined international competition and a gruelling training schedule with his studies for a masters degree in optometry.
The University of Manchester allowed him the freedom to pursue his sporting dream while he studied to become an eye health professional.
Jack, brought up in Outlane and now living in Saddleworth, graduated this week and is now ready to focus full-time on racing.
“I love the sport and I am striving to be one of the best,’’ said Jack. “It’s an adrenaline sport and once you start you’re hooked.’’
Jack has ridden bikes for as along as he can remember, encouraged by parents Phil and Janet.
Dad Phil, 58, is now his manager while mum Janet, 59, and girlfriend Sarah Duckworthy, 22, keep Team Reading on the road.
Jack was a ‘flair’ midfielder in Town’s Academy until the age of 16 when it became clear his future didn’t lie in football.
“Rather than me giving up on football, it was football that gave up on me,’’ said Jack.
“But that meant I could concentrate on racing which up to then had just been a hobby.”
Jack competes in the annual World Cup event, a series of seven races held in different countries.
So far this year he has competed in South Africa, Scotland, Italy, Canada, and the USA and heads to France shortly before ending in Norway in September.
Competitions involve a race from the top of a mountain to the bottom following a course of various obstacles and challenges including trees, rocks, jumps and tight corners.
The runs last three to five minutes and racers reach speeds of up to 35mph.
The sport is expensive and Jack has a number of committed sponsors who contribute towards the £20,000 it costs to compete every year. His competition bike, for example, costs £7,000 alone.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without my sponsors or the brilliant support of my parents and Sarah,’’ said Jack.
“I am currently 58th in the world but I am aiming for the top 40 by the end of this year.
“If I had reached this level in football I would be a multi-millionaire but it is possible to make a good living in this sport if you make the top 20.
“It’s an extreme sport which requires some bottle but that’s why I love it.
“I have grown up riding a bike and I feel more at home on a bike than I do walking. To most people, I suppose, it’s madness.’’
Jack, though, is pretty grounded when it comes to the risks of the sport.
“I’ve enjoyed my studies and always wanted to be an optometrist and it’s a good back-up plan,’’ he said. “I know my riding career could be over in minutes if something goes wrong.
“Many riders don’t have a fall-back plan like I do. I feel like it makes me stronger. I just want to kick on now and become successful.’’
To find out more about Jack and downhill racing see www.jackreading.com .