Best in the world! The British brickie and cabinet maker who won gold in world skills Olympics

A session with Team GB psychologists helped them to the top of the podium

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Great Britain has added to its Olympic gold medal haul thanks to the world class handiwork of a bricklayer and cabinet maker.

Building on the success of London 2012 the nation's best apprentices triumphed at the Skills Olympics in Leipzig. The winners revealed a session with Team GB psychologists helped them to the top of the podium.

Bricklayer Ashley Terron took gold and secured a record number of points in his event. The 21-year-old from Warrington had 22 hours spread over three-and-a-half days to build a German-style arch, an eagle with a crest and the Brandenburg Gates. Using around 800 bricks, the designs earned him an 89.3 per cent rating from judges, the highest ever in the bricklaying discipline.

Speaking as the team celebrated their last night in Germany before flying home, he told the Independent: "I trained a year and a half for this, making sacrifices along the way. A week spent at Loughborough University with the same sports psychologists that Team GB used before the Olympics also really helped.

"We looked at all aspects of the mental side of competition - techniques to calm down when you might get anxious, things to do to take your mind elsewhere. I learned a lot that week."

Mr Terron, the third generation of a building family and who has just graduated from the University of Salford where he had been studying construction, has been proudly telling friends he is now "the world's best brickie".

He said: "I've got the medal beside my bed and wake up to check it's still nice and shiny in the morning. To win gold in bricklaying is just amazing. It still hasn't really sunk in that I am the best young bricklayer in the world."

Mr Terron said his former headmaster had tried to dissuade him from going into the industry. "He pulled me to one side and said 'why do bricklaying? You're a bright lad.' I was pretty offended given my family history. I'd say to him 'look at me now'.

"I want to show the UK how apprenticeships and vocational training can enable young people to gain a real qualification and a real future. I've learnt a lot from my dad and brother and the three-year apprenticeship, and hopefully this will lead on to other things, maybe working abroad or setting up my own company."

Cabinet maker George Callow also won gold at WorldSkills 2013, defeating 23 rivals, and was also named "best of nation" among the 33 apprentices who formed Team UK in an event that tests the skills of trainees at the workbench or in the factory. He told the Independent how a 5th birthday present of a hammer and screwdriver set him on the path to gold in Germany.

"It might not be your average five-year-old's birthday gift but it was great for me. I always knew I wanted to go into woodwork from a very young age. My dad used to do lots of work around the house and I'd be joining in with my tools. Then I started making wooden toys and eventually go-karts."

Mr Callow, 21, from Chichester in West Sussex, praised his teachers at Chichester College who pushed him to fulfil his ambitions. He divided his apprenticeship between the college and Rolls Royce where he worked on walnut dashboards for the luxury car.

Any dreams of following in the footsteps of the great furniture makers Thomas Chippendale and George Hepplewhite and creating a company synonymous with his surname must wait as he returns to Cimitree Furniture in Hampshire, where he is employed as a junior cabinet maker. "They're a fantastic company and I still have a lot to learn," he said.

Mr Callow's grandfather was also a cabinet maker but died before he was born. A small plane and hammer, the only tools that remained from the kit that belonged to his grandfather, were given to him by his grandmother and Mr Callow used them to help make an oak bureau that won him top prize in Leipzig.

Team UK won 23 awards in total, including a silver and three bronze medals, at the four-day event which more than 1,000 apprentices from 54 countries in 46 different disciplines. Welding, car painting, joinery and floristry were among some of the other categories.

David Cameron said: "British ambition and ingenuity has once again taken on and beaten the best in the world and I extend my congratulations to Team UK."

Ann Watson, managing director of skills organisation EAL which supported Team UK at the event, said: "They are heroes and heroines, each and every one of them."

The next Skills Olympics tales place in Sao Paolo in 2015.