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Openreach Engineer takes aim at being Top of the Chops



Justine Narusa will be taking a short break from pulling fibre cable for Openreach across North Wales when she competes in the Royal Welsh Wood Chopping competition in Builth Wells.

The event will see some of the top European female competitors battle it out using axes and two metre crosscut saws in timed races to be titled this year’s Royal Welsh Wood Chopping Champion.

Each discipline will see the athletes slice and chop their way through large logs in seconds displaying high levels of power, precision and endurance. Competitors are awarded maximum points for the fastest time, with the athlete accumulating the most points crowned champion.

Justine, originally from Latvia but now living and working as a cabler in Caernarfon, only picked up an axe a little over 10 weeks ago, after being encouraged to do so by her manager in Openreach, Andrew Evans.

Andrew, who’s represented and captained Great Britain in Timbersport in competitions around the World for more than 12 years, saw the potential in Justine as a ‘lumberjill’ after seeing her cabling for Openreach.

Andrew explains:

We’ve got a variety of jobs across Openreach which suits everybody – from desk based roles to fibre jointers but being a fibre cabler can be physically hard work as the cable which carries our fibre needs to be robust so is rather heavy.

I was really impressed with how Justine made light work of pulling the cable through our ducts and immediately thought that she had some potential in Timbersport.

Andrew took it upon himself to see if that potential could be fulfilled and started coaching Justine after work. What followed was hours of training, cutting and sawing wood which culminated with four intensive training camps in Cabalva near Hay-On-Wye.

Fast forward 10 weeks and Andrew felt that Justine was ready to be entered in the first ever Female Timbersport Championship in Malvern, Worcestershire, at the Royal Three Counties show ground in front of a sell-out crowd.

Justine confirmed her manager’s confidence by coming second – only four points behind the winner.

Hoping that she can go one step further this week and finish with a gold at the Royal Welsh Justine said

I’m really looking forward to competing in front of a packed Royal Welsh crowd. The standard will be extremely high but I’ve trained hard with the support of Andrew so fingers crossed I can win gold.

Timbersport provides incredible opportunitesto travel the world and pit yourself against the very best in wood chopping. Who knows, if I wasn’t working for Openreach and not have Andrew as a colleague I may never have experienced these opportunities.

Openreach employs the UK’s largest team of telecoms engineers and professionals, and has committed to building a more diverse and inclusive team in an industry that’s traditionally been very white, male dominated. Last financial year, the company attracted around 530 women into trainee engineering roles – more than double the previous year. The boost was thanks partly to employing language experts to transform its job adverts and descriptions, making them gender neutral.