FORMER jockey Nathan Willmington, who is now a sports massage therapist and fitness coach in Weymouth, has been shortlisted for a prestigious career development award made by the Jockeys Employment & Training Scheme (JETS).

The awards are designed to reward jockeys for their initiative, effort and forethought in developing a career after race riding. Willmington has been shortlisted for the Griffins Richard Davis Achieve-ment Award, worth £2,750, which goes to the jockey (or former jockey) judged to have achieved the most in developing a second career over the past year.

The 37-year-old rode as a jump jockey for seven years, from 1993-2000, and had more than 120 rides.

On his retirement from riding, he turned his hand to race reporting and has now realised a long-held ambition to become a sports massage therapist and fitness coach.

He has been shortlisted in recognition of his success in this field and having planned his career development impeccably, qualifying as a personal trainer, gaining his Sports Massage Certif- icate and arming himself with addit- ional new skills in business and media.

He said: “I found that fitness training was invaluable for my race riding because it helped keep my muscle lean mass high and my body fat low.

“I also realised the health and psychological benefits of sports massage release techniques and strength rehabilitation and development. It was that which put me on the road to a career in sports therapy.

“With the Olympics coming to Weymouth for the sailing events, I have been giving sports massage therapy to the Mexican, Israeli and Canadian sailing teams.

“I have also been working closely with Dr Lucas Ferraris and the physiotherapists from the Italian sailing team, whenever they are based here for the Olympic test events. “I am looking forward to helping keep the athletes in good shape in the lead up to, and during the Olympics next year.

“It is hard work, but hugely rewarding and exciting.”

JETS general manager and career coach Lisa Delany added: “Race riding is a dangerous sport with average retirement ages in the early 30s. “While most jockeys typically like to stay in racing when their jockey careers are over, they realise that the opportunities can be limited.

“The shortlist for our awards this year includes jockeys who have turned their hands to anything from gas engineering to race planning. “So, we have access to a whole wealth of talent for employers both in and outside racing.”

The Griffins Richard Davis Award winners will be announced and presented before racing at Cheltenham on Sunday, November 13.