A BUDDING beautician has been named one of the best therapists in the country after scooping a top award on a poignant day in front of thousands.

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Victoria Smith, a student at Great Yarmouth College, won gold in her category at the World Skills Show after wowing judges with her impressive hair and beauty techniques.

And her win was particularly special as it came just two years after the death of her mum Jane, who encouraged the 22 year old - her only child - to follow her dreams of becoming a beauty student.

Jane died of leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that affects the soft tissue and muscles, aged just 49.

She had been given six months to live but after gruelling treatment she outlived her prognosis, and in her last months encouraged Victoria to take the big step and leave her job as a travel agent at Thomas Cook to follow her dreams and study beauty therapy.

Victoria said: “We were lucky to have her for longer. I talked to my mum about having a career change and I realised life is short and you only get one life so do what you want to do and enjoy.”

Victoria, who is now in her second year at the college, accepted her award at the show with tears in her eyes in front of a crowd of visitors and proud dad Bob - who said watching his daughter perform for the judges was “like watching her compete for a gold medal at the Olympics”.

Tutor and coach Louise Prendergast said: “It was an emotional moment for them. The judges said Victoria had caught their eye from the start.”

But she was not the only student from the college to win big at the show as fellow beauty trainee Rebekka Sutton, 23, from Brundall, scooped the silver medal.

With their medallions the pair have now been crowned the UK’s best beauty students and Victoria, from Lowestoft, will soon find out if she will be compete in the World Skills international finals in Germany next year.

The three day World Skills show at the Birmingham NEC showcased the talents of 3,000 vocational skills students and apprentices who competed in categories from media to bricklaying. More than 10,000 visitors watched the students compete including the show’s patron Theo Paphites, of Dragons’ Den fame.

Victoria and Rebekka, who studies part time while working at 1st Impressions hair salon in Salhouse, won their way to the final scooping gold and silver in the regional heats, when Great Yarmouth College swept all three medals with mature student Lindy Miller finishing third.

Louise was overwhelmed with the praise her students won from the judges for the quality of their work and said it was a great coup for the college to have two finalists in the running.

“We might be little Great Yarmouth College but we can go out there and take on the ‘big boys’ from all over the country. Our girls stood out from the staff and we cannot be more proud of them,” she added.

“They have trained hard and worked hard. They have been eating, drinking and breathing this. As a coach and a mentor, I am incredibly proud of them. To succeed in their local heat and to reach the national finals, they have worked so incredibly hard.

“It has given our new students inspiration and the interest to aim high and given them the insight what they could do if they work hard.”

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