A trio of unique Cheshire sporting stars who are on target, on course and boxing clever talk to Cheshire Life about their aspirations and achievements.

Great British Life: Georgina Roberts photographed at Fauxdegla International Shooting GroundGeorgina Roberts photographed at Fauxdegla International Shooting Ground (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

Georgina Roberts, trap shooter
By Jackie Gregory

'It’s changed me as a person. It’s given me something to focus on, it’s positive to take a step forward each time'

Georgina Roberts is used to operating in a man’s world, which is one of the reasons she is encouraging more women to join her in the sport she loves, lives and breathes. 
Champion trap shooter Georgina has her sights set on two targets: to remain among the elite athletes of her sport and to see other females take up shooting.
Georgina, who lives near Chester, never imagined she would become one of sporting Britain’s elite: as a schoolgirl, she thought she would be a lawyer or an archaeologist.
However, her sport has taken her around the world and this year she has competed in the Grand Prix in Granada, the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan and the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup in Korea.
‘In Granada, I made it to the finals and shot a score to qualify for Team GB next year, but in Baku, I had the worst cold in the world, so it didn’t go so
well,’ she says.
Korea was a different, happier story. ‘I made it to the finals and shot my international PB (personal best) of 116 out of 125. I was really happy with 
my performance.’
Last month she competed in the Olympic qualifying world championships in Croatia, which she sees as the perfect preparation to be spotted and selected for the Olympic team.
Georgina, who is 25 years old, first represented Great Britain and Wales in trap shooting when she was 17, and in the ensuing eight years has remained a top competitor, more recently qualifying as a coach. It all started when her dad took her along to a charity shoot.
‘I went to the beginners’ stand and had a go, and Katie Cowell, who was running it, was impressed and encouraged me to get a coach,’ she says.
‘My dad is a farmer and has always been around guns. He didn’t teach me though, he tried to teach me to drive and that didn’t go well, so we left the shooting coaching to someone else.’
Most of the clients Georgina coaches herself are men, but she would love to see more women stepping forward, saying it is the ideal sport because it is not too physical. Around 34,000 women in the UK have a shotgun certificate but not many are shooting professionally.
To try to change this, Georgina has bought The Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club, running clay pigeon shoots and afternoon tea at Mickley Hall, near Nantwich.
‘The club is a ladies’ shooting community for those who have never shot before to those who want to progress to shoot for England. It’s a very sociable event, with tea,’ says Georgina.
Although men and women compete in separate competitions, there is little difference in standards. ‘Physically it is not the most demanding sport, although you need a core strength as the gun is about eight pounds in weight.’ 
Georgina tours schools and writes blogs to encourage young people, especially women, to take their first shot.
‘It will be brilliant to get more women involved. On the range you might be standing next to a woman or a man, they may be starting out or they may be a 70-year-old veteran. The beauty of the sport is you can be in it at any level and any age, and learn from each other,’ she says.
Rigorous safety standards mean a shooting range is a safe place to be and accidents are extremely rare. Georgina is also keen to shoot down any perceptions this is an elitist occupation. ‘Shooting is an equal sport. To start with it is not expensive. It can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. 
If you just shoot once a month that’s not too expensive but I can get through 25,0000 cartridges a year so that adds up,’ she says.
The young shooting star is now sponsored by Clays, a cocktail bar in London, which has shooting simulators.
To compete at the top level, Georgina believes you need resilience to keep focussed and agility to react to whatever situation you find yourself in.
‘There are so many factors to consider, not least the weather. 
In Granada, I was competing in 40 degrees, and then in Baku, 
I was battling 45-mile-per-hour winds,’ she says.
Georgina is also a great believer in the power of sport to improve mental health, at whatever level people choose to participate. She is an ambassador for Mintridge Foundation, promoting sport to improve wellbeing.
‘It’s changed me as a person. It’s given me something to focus on, it’s positive to take a step forward each time. Sport releases endorphins and just being outdoors and meeting new people helps improve mental health.’ 
When Georgina is not coaching, practising or competing, she loves to be 
at home with her black labradors, Sky and Seren. ‘And on Sundays, 
I love a walk to a roast dinner, she says. 
I also go for runs and have done a few half-marathons, which helps mentally – shooting is about repetition and consistency, pushing yourself to one more target. 
‘Running is like that – just get to the next lamppost. Break it down to meet small targets and then you achieve the bigger one. With sport, you have to enjoy the journey and the process, and not just the final destination.’
Follow Georgina’s journey at gtroberts.co.uk

Great British Life: George Blackshaw, aka The Amputee Golfer, is winning followers across the globeGeorge Blackshaw, aka The Amputee Golfer, is winning followers across the globe (Image: George Blackshaw)

George Blackshaw, aka The Amputee Golfer 
By Eve Smallman

'I want to show disabled golfers and even non-disabled golfers it’s possible to do anything'

‘How do you do it?’ is the question 23-year-old George Blackshaw gets asked a lot on the golf course. Often, he wonders for a moment what they’re talking about. Then he remembers – he’s playing the game with one arm, and two legs – one prosthetic. 

George lost his right arm and leg in a lawnmower accident when he was aged 15 months. ‘I've always thought I'm quite lucky it happened when I was younger. Of course, it was traumatic for my parents at the time but don’t really remember it; I can’t remember life with both arms and both legs.’ 

While George was growing up at the family home in Lower Stretton and going to school at The Grange in Hartford, his family – mother Catherine, father Tim and brothers Tim, Charlie and Ben – helped support him with a constructive, positive attitude. 

‘My parents didn't treat me any differently to my three brothers, and we had a lot of banter. I've always been into sports, playing football and tennis, which helped me gain independence. Although I’ve struggled at times, learning to do things by myself as I got older has helped me cope. I've prepared myself to take on the world, and my whole family has been so supportive of that.’

In 2012 George carried the Olympic torch – two years later his appetite for adventure led him to the golf course. ‘I've always been determined to try new things. My dad and brothers went off to play golf, and I wanted to join in. The amazing thing about golf is anyone of any ability can play, and everyone can play together.’ 

George plays regularly at Delamere Forest, which has a Herbert Fowler-designed layout that challenges players of all abilities. It wasn’t until the pandemic the young athlete's career really began to take off. ‘I wanted to keep myself busy, so I started an Instagram page to show trick shots in the garden,’ he says.

Branded as The Amputee Golfer, George's profile and career in the sport began to grow, and soon he was being approached to participate in big games and by potential sponsors. A highlight has been playing in the Ladies' European Tour event last year, which he was invited to after winning a competition on Instagram. 

‘They asked people to send in their videos, saw mine and said it was really incredible,’ George explains. ‘It was so surreal – both to play in and to see people welcoming and promoting disability in golf. I always thought because I was disabled, I couldn’t play. But I’ve shown myself and everyone else that anyone can.’ 

‘There's been a massive increase in awareness of disability in the past few years. American Golf has been supportive, pushing the disability golf scene into the mainstream,’ says George who had done a TV advert for the company, which is Europe’s biggest golf retailer, and has travelled abroad for disability tournaments. 

‘About two months ago, I was selected by England Golf to play for its disability team in the European Nations Cup in Belgium, where we came second. The way players support each other and don’t let their disabilities get in the way is so inspiring.' 

While playing with a prosthetic leg can cause difficulties with balance George's physical strength and bespoke clubs are game-changers. He says: 'When I was younger, it was harder to play as I didn’t have as much strength, but as I got older and started going to the gym it got a lot easier.  

'My clubs are custom-made to be a bit lighter than normal clubs, making  it easier to swing with one arm.’ In addition to the physical difficulties, George has experienced mental challenges. ‘I do have down days but I look at the incredible experiences I’ve now had and pick myself back up again.’ 

George’s positive attitude has inspired people across the globe: ‘I post gym workouts on my Instagram and get lots of messages saying I’ve motivated viewers to get back into the gym,’ he explains. 

Looking to the future, George has just signed with American Golf to become one of its ambassadors, and has sponsorship from the London-based law firm Fieldfisher. When he's not golfing, he’s studying football, business and marketing at the Manchester-based University Campus of Football Business.

‘Luckily, I'm living at home, so it’s been easier to juggle golf and university. It's been really exciting with everything that’s happened in the past few months and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.

‘For the first six months when I played, I literally couldn't get the ball in the air but when you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything and when you find something you want to do, you just need to give it a go as you may just end up loving it. 

‘Having a disability shouldn’t stop people; I want to show disabled golfers and even non-disabled golfers it’s possible to do anything.’ 

Instagram: @theamputeegolfer

Great British Life: Charlotte Gilley of Maverick Stars TrustCharlotte Gilley of Maverick Stars Trust (Image: Kirtsy Thompson)

Charlotte Gilley, boxer, founder of the Maverick Stars Trust
By Dominic McGuinness

'So many young people are now off the streets, staying fit and healthy and enjoying all sorts of benefits as a result'

Whether you are a fan or not, boxing is a sport that changes lives. Although brutal at times, it has long been considered a force for good, instilling discipline and structure to young lives, producing elite champions and inspirational figures from the most deprived backgrounds. The sport has also provided a life-changing purpose for Charlotte Gilley from Alderley Edge.

The Maverick Stars Trust harnesses the power of boxing to give people the chance to shine and follow their dreams. Charlotte is the founder and driving force of the charity that helps amateur boxing clubs, often located in the nation’s most-disadvantaged areas, deliver wide-ranging programmes and initiatives that have impacted thousands of participants.

Boxing has also been a blessing for Charlotte personally when she has struggled with anxiety. After a friend introduced her to a training session at Timperley ABC, the physical and mental benefits soon became apparent and she was hooked to the extent she eventually progressed to compete in an amateur fight.

Using her own positive experiences through boxing, and a desire to give back, Maverick Stars Trust was born. Now four years old, the charity is respected throughout boxing and beyond. It is some career shift for Charlotte, from working at Hammonds of Knutsford – the family drinks wholesale business – to setting up and running a charity.

'My natural path when I left school was to work there along with my brother Jonny. I eventually left, went to London to do a bit of work there, then came back into the family business and stayed there until I had my daughter Frankie in 2012. I then went part-time but left when my mum died in 2016. My dad had died the previous year.

'The job was never really in my heart, I always felt it wasn’t the right path but because I didn’t do very well education-wise, I didn’t ever think I could find another job. Plus, I had bad anxiety and going anywhere else would’ve caused me all sorts of problems. I had my own mental health challenges and I wanted to do something philanthropic. This is the best way to do it.'

Maverick Stars Trust is now providing a diverse range of support for boxing clubs and its members and is also responsible for feeding thousands of children (and their families) during school holidays. This work was particularly crucial during the pandemic.

Other Maverick projects include Operation Warrior – helping former armed services veterans struggling with addiction and other issues. The programme is overseen by Charlotte’s husband Tony, himself an army vet.  Sting Like a Bee’,  aimed at helping young people in danger of falling into gangs and knife crime, has also proved extremely successful.

The list of active projects being delivered throughout the country has grown quickly but it was an especially proud moment for Charlotte when her efforts resulted in a new boxing club opening in Salford.

'It was a lengthy process but working with former boxing champion Jamie Moore to open our new amateur club in his hometown, has been incredibly rewarding. Walkden ABC is thriving and so many young people are now off the streets, staying fit and healthy and enjoying all sorts of benefits as a result, she says.

No two days are the same in the life of Charlotte Gilley – wife, mother, and charity founder – but the one constant is the motivation to continue to help those in need, and in doing so, help herself.