IT was a weekend to remember for Tom Heaps, a Team GB water skier.

The Cheshire athlete was crowned European champion as he won three gold medals at the Europe and Africa Barefoot Waterski Championships in Chartres, France.

Chester and District Standard: Tom Heaps, barefoot trick skiing to win gold at the Europe & Africa Barefoot Waterski Championships in France. Picture: Mark ThomasTom Heaps, barefoot trick skiing to win gold at the Europe & Africa Barefoot Waterski Championships in France. Picture: Mark Thomas

Heaps, a former student of Bridgewater High School who hails from Grappenhall Heys, could be dubbed the Comeback Kid.

The 23-year-old, who trains at Weaver Water Ski Club in Frodsham, took five years off competing and decided only in April this year to start training for the competition.

The Warrington athlete's goal was the overall title in the open men category.

Winning the overall is the ultimate achievement as it combines all the scores achieved in the three different disciplines of slalom, tricks and jump.

Heaps’ dream was almost scuppered. He had a bad fall over the jump in the preliminary round, requiring injury time, but battled on to ski the rest of the competition with a sore arm.

Then a fall in the slalom final left him in 10th spot in that event.

But with some of his closest rivals going down under the pressure, Heaps came back to take gold in both tricks and jump and secure the prestigious overall title.

Chester and District Standard:

“Competition is about what you can do on the day, and, despite these setbacks, I was able to reset and refocus,” he said.

“And of course, with a little bit of lady luck, I came through.

"It’s been a dream of mine to become European Champion since I was a young boy and to finally do it was the best feeling in the world!”

Team GB finished third overall to take the team bronze too.

Barefoot water skiing is a hardcore sport where, as the name implies, the skiing is done with bare feet on the water and no skis.

Because of being on feet, the speed of the boat is generally faster than other disciplines reaching up to 45mph (72kph).

Like regular water skiing, barefooters complete in slalom (crossing the boat’s wakes from one side to the other repeatedly), tricks and jump.

In jump, the skier goes over a ramp in a superman pose and has to land and ski away. All that matters in jump is the distance achieved.

Back in 2016 Heaps enjoyed a successful year across the globe, breaking a world record in the process.

Then 17, he produced a superb jump of 27.6 metres at the European Championships in Sweden to set a new junior world benchmark.

Chester and District Standard:

He also scooped both the European and World Junior Championships titles.

Heaps first began barefoot water skiing when he was 13 but took up water skiing aged five.

He spotted and asked to try the barefoot discipline while on holiday in the Cotswolds.