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Elite Athletes. Cyclist Maisy Vasic, Swimmer Zak Smith-Shelley and Kickboxer Brendan Burby.

Elite Athletes at Burnley College Sixth Form Centre Take Their Success to the Next Level

Three talented athletes have excelled in their chosen sport, being scouted by professional teams and taking their passion to be the best to the next level.

Maisy Vasic (17), a cyclist from Bacup and a former pupil of Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar, has been chosen to ride with the French women’s team Chambéry Cyclisme Compétition, after applying earlier this year when the team were looking for ambitious new riders. Impressed by her past achievements and outstanding results, the team were keen to welcome her to the team.  

Maisy has ridden for Team 22, based in Skelmersdale, this year and has received expert coaching there alongside professional strength and conditioning training and physiotherapy through the College’s Elite Athlete Programme.  

After completing her A Levels in Computer Science, Geology and Geography, Maisy plans to move to France to race for the French National Women’s Team. She said:

“As a member of my new team, I will be competing in the National French Cup and the Union Cycliste Internationale races. Being an avid cyclist since the age of 11, when my father fueled my ambition for the sport, this latest achievement means a lot to me. I am really proud of what I have achieved so far in my cycling career from finishing fifth in a Belgian National Champions Race to riding for the Great Britain Apprentice Youth Team; more recently, I raced for Norway in the Heroes of Tomorrow Race.”

Maisy recently underwent knee surgery and believes her speedy recovery was due to the physiotherapy and strength training from the Elite Athlete Programme, enabling her to return to full training quickly and improving her confidence, power, speed and cadence. 

Maisy’s fellow Elite Athlete, Zak Smith-Shelley (18), a successful swimmer from Colne and former pupil of Blessed Trinity, has enjoyed great success over the years, from representing Lancashire in the National County Teams Championships to qualifying for the British Championships after swimming regionally and nationally. He explains how his achievements could have earned him a place in the GB swim squad travelling to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if it had not been for Covid-19, but this has not stopped him from continuing his training and rising to the challenge. 

“As a child, I enjoyed learning to swim: everything started from that moment. The idea of travelling the world and competing against the very best swimmers, doing what I love, gives me the drive to continue to achieve more. Recently I attended a Level X meet where our times were recorded and ranked against other competitive swimmers: I was extremely proud to have ranked 4th in the UK for the 100 metre freestyle.

“The Elite Athlete Programme has helped me get to this point, working on my core, stability, power movements and general fitness. If it wasn’t for the programme, I would not be where I am today.” 

Currently studying Advanced Level Personal Training and Sport Science, Zak’s goal is to become a world renowned swimmer and share this passion for his sport with others. Following his studies at Burnley College Sixth Form Centre, Zak plans to accept a scholarship at an American University where he will receive additional expert coaching. 

Another Elite Athlete, Brendan Burby (17), an ambitious kickboxer from Simonstone and former pupil of Moorland School, has already taken a huge step forward towards sporting success by becoming a semi-professional athlete. Currently studying Advanced Level Fitness Industry Services, Brendan trains at Padiham Kickboxing Club. He has competed for the British Title twice and his potential and natural talent was recognised by scouts at other high-level fights, leading to the offer of a contract. 

Although he is yet to fight semi-professionally, he explains how this is a stepping stone to his ultimate sporting goal: 

“When I was younger, I was severely bullied so my parents took me to kickboxing classes to gain some confidence. At first, I was very hesitant and was not keen on it at all; however, my coach continued to support and encourage me, giving me the confidence I needed. He put me in for my first fight soon after and from then on, I never stopped. 

“I aim to become a professional kickboxer but don’t see that as a long-term career. I am hoping to start my own gym and use my name and brand as an asset to grow. This latest achievement is a key part of my journey to making my dreams become my reality.

“The Elite Athlete Programme has helped me in every way possible. I kick harder, I punch harder, I’m a lot fitter than I was before. With the use of the specialist equipment and facilities, I have truly become better.”

After completing his studies at Burnley College Sixth Form Centre, Brendan plans to read Strength and Conditioning Coaching at University, boosting his career prospects and taking him one step closer to his goals. 

Elite Athlete Programme Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach, Nathan Norris, praised Maisy, Zak and Brendan, alongside the other Elite Athletes, for remaining committed to their training and staying focussed on their goals in spite of the impact of Covid-19 on the world of competitive sport. 

He shared a top tip for sporting success, adding: 


“Consistency is crucial. Consistently work hard and enjoy the journey but also have a long-term focus and the end goal in sight. Every minute of every day is about consistently working towards those goals. Each moment is a choice of whether you want to step forward towards those goals or step back.”

Are you passionate about sport and fitness – whether that’s at A Level or via a Vocational route? Want to be the very best in your chosen sport? Want to train alongside Olympic Gold Medalist Steven Burke? Join our Elite Athlete Programme at Burnley College and receive professional training in our award-winning gym and fitness facilities; now being extended and ready for use in September 2021. Find out more via www.burnley.ac.uk, contact 01282 733333 or email [email protected].