Meet the pigeon racer who is causing a real coop and is being hailed as its future star - aged NINE writes Tom Bevan.

Talented Elizabeth Cook has defied her tender age to soar to the top of her club's ranks.

The third generation pigeon racer has already beaten several former national champions five times her age in her first year of competition.

Elizabeth, who is one of the youngest competitive pigeon racers in Britain, saw off all-comers in the Bude Pigeon Racing club by ranking first overall.

She also won four out of six races against members who range up to 83 years old.

Her achievements saw her recognised as the best junior in her 500-strong region.

The bird-lover is now targeting future national titles once the sport resumes after lockdown.

Her family says she has all the skills to make it to the very top.

And she is developing such a reputation among fellow fanciers that she was even stopped in the street by a fan during a holiday in Portugal.

Elizabeth has followed in the footsteps of her dad James, 41, and granddad Derek, 83.

She said being surrounded by pigeons since she was born has helped nurture her talent.

She added: "Seeing my dad race inspired me to start pigeon racing and I love racing against all my friends.

"I have learnt how to look after my pigeons independently, I can tell which pigeon it is without looking at their ring and I know what colour pigeons are.

"I won four out of six young bird races, it was challenging but I got through it with the help of my family and their encouraging words to keep on going.

"I want to compete on a national level soon and it will be fun to race against other pigeon fanciers around the country - and maybe even the Queen.

"I want to become a better pigeon racer with the ambition of one day winning the national."

Elizabeth says the reaction she has had to her success has been huge.

She added: "The reaction I get from my school friends is amazement, I took some pigeons into school for them to see and it was featured in a local newspaper.

''The reaction I get from my fellow fanciers is that they congratulate me in lots of different ways.

"Whilst I was in Portugal on holiday for my birthday and a pigeon race I saw an English pigeon racer in the street and they said that they saw me in the newspaper, they congratulated me on my results and shook my hand."

Dad James, who runs a pigeon breeding business from their home in Beaworthy, Devon, said despite her early exposure to the sport, Elizabeth had not been forced into it - and had developed her own love for the pigeons.

But he said they were very proud of her early achievements.

He said: "The world of pigeon racing is full of older men in the sport and is still very traditional in a lot of ways.

''It is nice to celebrate a young talent making her way in the sport - especially when it is your own daughter.

"So maybe she is a future superstar.

"She is certainly a rising star of the sport and is already a high flier and a potential future national champion.

''Her achievement is as good as any others in her age group across the country.

''This is especially when you consider who she has beaten. These are people that have won plenty of national races and she was beating them regularly.

"This season has been affected by the coronavirus but she definitely has what it takes to compete nationally and will look to do so in the 2021 season."

She competed in six races in total and won four out of the six. She was placed as high as 29th out of more than 500 pigeon racers in the whole of Devon, beating many fanciers with more years of experience than her age.

Elizabeth was recently crowned the Best Junior for the Devon and Cornwall region of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA) that saw her automatically nominated for a national award.

James said: "She had instant exposure to the sport but it is always difficult as you don't want to force your kids into anything.

"Despite our history we were keen to get her introduced to other sports and she is one of those children who can turn her hand to whatever she wanted. But we didn't want to force her to do pigeon racing just because I do it.

"But her granddad lives two doors down so we have been three generations competing against each other.

"She asked last year to try it out so we made it happen.

"She has a very natural instinct in how to behave around them. At one stage we wondered if she would take any interest, but having the daily exposure and knowledge that has passed three generations has certainly helped.

"People do spend a fortune on getting the right pigeon and you need the right tools for the job - but you need to know how to use them. It's probably a 50/50 split between the two.

"They might be the best pigeon in the world but if they are not trained the right way, with the right education and feeding programme, they will not win anything.

"Elizabeth is certainly now the youngest competing locally and must be one of the youngest in the country.

"For her to be in the top 50 of the federation is a fantastic achievement regardless.

"Within the club she came top for the season and beat the likes of Roy Mears who has won some significant national prizes.

"The club has another national winner in his 50s and she was beating him as well.

''It is not all about age but is about abilities. But we have some very highly skilled fanciers in the club and to beat them she must be pretty good."

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