ISSUE twenty two
Golden girl Jones gets hold of gold
RISING STAR RHYS
Pugh claims SportingWales title
The next set of Welsh stars
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It certainly was incredible – great moments for British sport, a unique bonding experience, a new set of heroes. The Olympics and Paralympics surpassed most people's expectations from Cardiff's Millennium Stadium to the Olympic Park in London. It was special live at events or cheering in front of the TV. Editor: Hamish Stuart firstname.lastname@example.org
There was a new group of sports followers, a new generation of participants and followers. At SportingWales we were proud that we brought you all their stories, gave these heroes and heroines the coverage they deserved long before the Olympics came around. For example we ﬁrst featured Taekwondo gold medallist Jade Jones in one of our ﬁrst editions of this magazine four years ago. She was a monthly winner of the SportingWales Rising Star awards two years ago, then last summer she received the annual award.
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Rugby superstar in the making George North was one of the runners-up, along with Aled Sion Davies who has gone on to claim gold and bronze in these Paralympics – quite a standard to maintain. We had the second SportingWales Rising Stars Annual Dinner this summer at the Village Hotel in Cardiff, along with our partners Sport Wales, Cardiff Metropolitan University and the Village Hotel group. We can but hope for similar success, but the early signs are good.
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Overall winner Rhys Pugh won the European Amateur golf, swimmer Ieuan Lloyd was one of the runners-up and went on to compete in two Olympic ﬁnals. It is easy to look at the medallists, but I always feel it is easy to overlook the other achievements of an Olympics when the best in the world have come out to play. Jade Jones and Hannah Mills are covered in these pages for their ﬁrst medals, no-one would take away the achievements of Geraint Thomas and Tom James claiming their second gold medals in cycling and rowing, but is easy to overlook the likes of Helen Jenkins and Dai Greene.
Arguably the performance of the Games, from a Welsh point of view, came from Jenkins, a world champion who ﬁnished ﬁfth. She came into the Games having been injured and with training severely disrupted – how can you take part in a triathlon of all events without a full programme of training behind you? She kept it quiet and she battled on until the very ﬁnal stages, so unlucky but also immensely impressive – she deserves our commendations. Dai Greene too had a disrupted winter and was always behind schedule coming back. He didn't look himself, while the rest of the world improved hugely, but still he battled to fourth place in the Olympics. For reasons lost in the mists of Greek history, fourth place may not get a medal but it is still a wonderful achievement. Hopefully both those athletes will be fully ﬁt next year and the British public will still be inspired enough to watch. Buoyed with our success in picking out some of the stars of these Olympics and Paralympics, we have tried to do the same with rugby in this edition. I honestly believe this could be the best season yet for the Welsh regions, while there is a Grand Slam to defend and the is always an extra edge in a Lions season. The football campaign for Brazil 2014 also gets underway. As ever, we are able to bring you this quality product covering all of Welsh sport free of charge thanks to our quality partners, sponsors and advertisers. Please support them as they support us. If you cannot rely on getting a paper copy then subscibe online through
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From Rising Star to Golden Girl – Jade's Rings cycle People posing beside the Gold post box in Flint may not have spotted the car driving slowly past as their pictures were being taken, but the driver was taking a lot of interest in them. For the post box had been painted in honour of Jade Jones – and the Taekwondo gold medallist was the driver checking out the tribute and the pride people were showing in it. It was just one example of how life has changed dramatically for the 19-year-old from North Wales, going from relative obscurity to appearing on Jonathan Ross, Blue Peter, The One Show, while entering discussions about Alan Carr chatty man and plenty more media commitments such as a photo-shoot at Celtic Manor. “When people asked what I did before then often they had not even heard of
Taekwondo, now they know straightaway what it is,” she laughed.
was only the tiniest of gaps to close and claim top spot on the podium.
Of course those of us involved in the SportingWales Rising Star awards were pretty pleased when she went on to claim gold. We had picked her out as a monthly winner almost two years ago after she won the Youth Olympics, then she was the 2011 annual winner ahead of the likes of rugby star George North.
She ﬁrst appeared in this magazine several years ago after her family got in touch through Facebook – her achievements seemed pretty promising and worthy of coverage, we have been following her progress since and now the rest of the world seems to have got the message.
That judgement was controversial to some but it was based on the hope and expectation she could claim gold in London. She was already a world championship silver medallist and there
Apart from the TV appearances she has picked up sponsorship from Jaguar which includes being given a new car. “Being given a new car at the age of 19 is quite something,” she admitted.
Ian Cook - CameraSport
“It has been crazy, a bit different for a 19-year-old from Flint to be doing all these things. “I have been really busy with photoshoots, TV and interviews, there are a lot of requests and I love doing all that sort of stuff. “Nothing can prepare you for this. I thought before the Olympics that there could be more media stuff and things but I never thought it would be this much.”
Jones will take a break from Taekwondo competition to make the most of all those opportunities, but she has not forgotten
what brought all those openings about in the ﬁrst place.
a long way in the future and ﬁrst there is this success to enjoy.
“I will go back training and then I will be fully, fully, full-time on it again and 100 per cent focussed by January,” she explained.
She had some tight ﬁghts on the way to the ﬁnal without any moments of real panic, while in the gold medal contest she was comfortably clear as the clock ran down – so could she enjoy the amazing atmosphere?
“There will be a couple of competitions coming up next year including the world championships in May so I want to go one better than the silver medal in that last time. “I am only 19 so I will deﬁnitely be aiming for Rio in four years and the Olympics after that when I will be 27. Who knows but I could keep going after that.” Jones is young enough to enter into Ben Ainslie, Matthew Pinsent and possibly even Steve Redgrave territory for gold medals at consecutive Games, but that is
“I did enjoy it at stages through the competition, but I was nervous as well which is what I need to do well. The crowd were making so much noise I tried to keep my head down. “Even at the end when I knew I was clear I could not relax because anything can still happen and a kick to my head can take it all away.
“When it ended I could not believe I had won and I went a bit crazy. I suppose I had gone into the Olympics with a low proﬁle and when I won it was a shock to some people – nobody expected it but I was dead chilled about it all. “I tried to prepare myself for the crowd noise when you come out, but it was still over-whelming. “Then being on the podium was amazing. You just train so hard and I had been thinking about the Olympics for years, there had been a big build up, so it was a special moment.” There will be a few more of those to come for Jones. She will not slip under the radar again.
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Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark had the strangest silver medal celebration of the whole Olympics. Some were delighted, some were frustrated, some shocked and some elated, but Mills and Clark just looked at each other, silently and blankly, as the wind took their boat slowly back to shore after the final medal race. “It was such a difﬁcult one, I have been absolutely gutted since,” said Mills, back in hometown Cardiff to take part in a new Extreme Racing series. “I totally appeciate that winning a silver medal was amazing, but it was just the way we won it that was really hard. “We had essentially won silver on the Wednesday so we celebrated that for a couple of hours and then said, now we focus on winning the the gold medal on Friday. “The ﬁrst part of the race was exciting and we got a good start, but then the wind went a bit wacky, we got a bit shafted and that was race over. “We had already won the silver medal so not to win anything that day was a total anti-climax and, yes, we were gutted.” Clark agrees, “There kind of wasn't much to say. I think if it had been a good race and we had been nip and tuck until the end then that would have felt better. “We knew during the race that it had gone so we had said earlier 'Oh, that's that then.' “It was an anti-climax, not because we hadn't won gold but because we had not had a decent battle. We thought it would be tactical boat-on-boat stuff, we had that before the start and won then, but after that we did not really do that. That was my disappointment about that race.” However there is a silver lining to winning the silver medal for a pair who only came together 18 months before this Olympics
and did incredibly well in a short period to become world champions on the way to claiming a place in Team GB. They are determined to keep the partnership together for another four years, do some of the extra planning and practice they did not have time to do, and put it right with Gold in Rio. “Ultimately that lack of time caught up with us,” explained Mills. “There were things we would have liked to have done before the Olympics and in the end it came down to match-racing.
“We still have a lot of space to grow as a team and get better as a team, there were a lot of things we did not have time to do in the eighteen month programme we put together. “One of the great things about our partnership is that apart from maybe one day we were gunning for London believing we would get there, then we were gunning for a gold, we have a great friendship and partnership that makes us a good pair to go on for Rio.”
“We sail conservatively, our worst result was eighth which is pretty unsual at a Games, but we were trying to stay in touch with the ﬂeet and not be too extreme.
So if the 470 experience of the New Zealand pair proved crucial in the end in Weymouth, Mills and Clark are determined to make sure they make best use of the time to ensure there is no repeat – even as they take time to take in what the Olympics has achieved.
“Half way through the race it hit me, what we should have done at the start, but it was too late. If we had had more time then maybe we would have known that earlier.
“We do not want to hit the ground running straightaway next year, the ﬁrst year or two we will be planning, we will not be complacent and everything we do has to have a purpose,” said Mills.
“We did amazingly well to qualify, in the space of time we had we did everything we could have done and there are no regrets at all – absolutely none – it is just like anyone at the Olympic Games, we are highly competitive and wanted to come away with gold.
“This is my ﬁrst time back home, I went to Cardiff Bay yacht club and handed out some prizes to the kids. It was great because they were so exciting and they all want to go to Olympics now.
“Deﬁnitely that spurred both of us on for Rio even more, we do not want to be in that position again so we need to make sure we are at the top.” Clark added, “We deﬁnitely need to take a bit of a step back and really think about it and come back with the right motivation.
“Hopefully it has inspired them, that was the target and it has deﬁnitely happened, hopefully throughout Wales and Britain.” Mills is the second Welsh sailing medallist, following Ian Barker's silver in Sydney. Her success has certainly been inspirational at sailing clubs up and down Wales. With success comes opportunities, such
as competing in the Extreme Racing series in Cardiff Bay. “Absolutely, this is totally different to anything I have ever done before in sailing and totally different to our Olympic campaign. It is for fun and really to enjoy it, it is exciting,” she said. “The Olympic stuff for everyone will start up in January so these few months are trying out new things, learning new skills which will deﬁnitely be of use in our Olympic campaign, so it is worth doing as well as fun.”
Silver lining for Hannah
January will see the beginning of the campaign to complete the unﬁnished business which started as that boat drifted back to shore in Weymouth. Mills and Clark are ready to attempt Olympic alchemy in Rio and turn silver into gold.
The Bigger Picture
Red Bull Gives You Wings Team Red Bulls Catamaran takes off during the Extreme Sailing event in Cardiff Bay
In the summer of 2013 the British and Irish Lions will tour Australia. Sarra Elgan, Rugby reporter for ESPN, gives us her thoughts on the next batch of Lions as well as her opinions on the upcoming international season.
Are you already feeling excited for the Lions tour?
Do you have any predictions for the six nations?
A Lions year is always an exciting time for any rugby fan - there will be possible teams drawn up as early as mid September! The already established stars will be looking to enhance their reputations and there will be young guns eager to impress.
I think it is too early to say, a lot will depend on how the autumn internationals go and who has momentum in the build up to six nations time. Scotland apart - Ireland, England and Wales have tough summer tours to bounce back from so there will be some determined and driven squads looking to prove points.
What is your best memory of the British and Irish Lions Tours? There are so many, I have personal memories like when my husband (Simon Easterby) got called out a week into the 2005 Lions tour of New Zealand to replace the injured Lawrence Dallaglio. He followed in my father’s footsteps, who represented the Lions in 1977 and 1980. Simon starting the last two tests was a proud moment for us as a family. There have also been so many memorably lions tries but it's a big hit that's probably a stand out memory for me; Scott Gibbs charge at Os du Randt sending the South African tight head unceremoniously on to his rear. It was one hit that single-handedly turned that series of 1997 to the Lions favour.
ESPN's Sarra Elgan
Which Welsh players should Lions fans watch out for in the season ahead?
The likes of George North, Jonathan Davies and Sam Warburton have no doubt already booked their seat on the plane. There will be other interesting positions to ﬁll with maybe a few surprises. Warren Gatland likes to throw a few youngsters in to the mix so don't be surprised to see an uncapped boy wonder amongst the touring party.
How important do you think the autumn internationals against Australia will be for England and Wales players to show what they can do against the hosts? It will be important in terms of setting down a marker and for winning some personal battles. If England and Wales do well against the Wallabies the Lions can go on tour in the know that some of the squad (together with the Scots result in the summer) have beaten them in the last 12 months, and that will be huge boost to the whole squad. Who do you think will be awarded the Lions captaincy? That's a tough one. I think it will be a toss-up between the two back rowers; Chris Robshaw and Sam Warburton. Chris has been a revelation since appearing late on the International scene and has led England as he has Harlequins with aplomb. But then Sam is obviously a great leader. He leads by example Gatland and the Welsh management instil a lot of trust and faith in him. I think the captaincy will go to Sam and he will do as ﬁne a job as he has done for Wales. And finally, who are your favourite Lions of all time? Simon Easterby and Elgan Rees for obvious reasons!
Do you think welsh players will make up a large proportion of the squad for this tour? With Gatland’s familiarity with the Welsh players, and knowing their strengths and weaknesses, I think that he will already have a good idea which of the Welsh players he wants in his squad. However, it tends to be made up of a majority of the most prominent side in the Six Nations of that year, so we will have to see how that pans out.
Sarra Elgan is a rugby reporter for ESPN, which broadcasts live coverage of the Aviva Premiership. Watch live and exclusive coverage of London Wasps v Harlequins on ESPN and Saracens v London Irish on ESPN Classic on Saturday the 1st of September. For details visit espn.co.uk/tv.
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SportingWales Rising Star Awards SW
Ian Cook & Steve Pope
Rising Star Rhys reinforces awardwinning potential Rhys Pugh became the second winner of the SportingWales Rising Star annual award – and then underlined his potential with one of the best results ever for a Welsh amateur golfer. A month after the trophy and the cup were presented to his family, while he was away competing, Pugh lifted the European Amateur Championship – qualifying for next year's Open Championship and following in the footsteps of Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. In fact is was an historic Welsh one-two with Pennard's James Frazer ﬁnishing second in the European event, one of the most prestigious events in amateur golf and something that no Welsh player had ever won before. Pugh's win came just a couple of days after Jade Jones took Taekwondo gold in the London Olympics, so the ﬁrst two winners of the SportingWales annual award since it's return in 2011 certainly lived up to the billing as stars of the future. This year's dinner, held at the Village Hotel in Cardiff, was an outstanding success with many of the movers and shakers of Welsh sport, as well as several sporting stars of the past, present and future, enjoying an excellent evening.
Rhys Pugh (Left), SportingWales Rising Star, with Jamie Owen, Julie Humphrys, Glenda Pugh and Golf Union of Wales president Louise Fleet involved in the presentation of the Bob Humphrys Award.
Runner-up Angel Romaeo with Welsh gymnastics chair Helen Phillips.
Monthly winner Jo rdan How sprinter, e, Paralym with Disa pian bility Wal director es perfor Anthony mance Hughes.
Apart from Pugh as the overall winner, thanks largely to his 100 per cent success record in the Walker Cup victory over the US, the dinner recognised the achievements of Olympic swimmer Ieuan Lloyd and gymnast Angel Romaeo who followed up their monthly awards by ﬁnishing as joint-runners-up to Pugh. There was also recognition for the ﬁnal three monthly winners, world top 50 squash player Tesni Evans, Wales Sevens player Will Thomas and Paralympian sprinter Jordan Howe. Thanks go to sponsors Sport Wales, Cardiff Metropolitan University and the Village Hotel group, with SportingWales magazine as the media partner. “It is a chance to recognise the young talent coming through at this early stage of their development,” said Dave Cobner, dean of sport at Cardiff Metropolitan and one of the judges through the history of these awards. “The real bonus is to be able to say we have identiﬁed some people who have gone on to become world class performers in a short period of time. “It is really good that they are being recognised on the way up, so this is really special for them. They will look back thinking it was great then at that stage of their careers. sportingwales
Mon t Para hly win ner lymp Ja ics Boc cob Th cia play omas, er
“When we recognise the youngster we are also recognising the people who have supported them, family, coaches who are the people creating these talents for the future. They might make it on their own but they also rely on the infrastructure of family and coaches.” Those comments were backed up by Brian Davies, Sport Wales Institute high performance manager, who added, “Awards such as these helped to prepare them for that recognition when they became world class performers. Jade has been to some dinners and got used to being interviewed on stage which has helped as well. “I remember at the dinner when she was announced, she was made-up – it really meant something to her and her family. “Rhys going on to win the European Amateur is a real feather in the cap of the Golf Union of Wales and particularly Rhys himself. Any strokeplay event like that is so difﬁcult to win, I am really pleased for him. “Even if you know you are good, it helps
Rugby star Ian Go medallist Jamie Bau
to have that reminder that you can achieve things like that. This will give him a further boost.” Lloyd also went onto have an excellent Olympics, reaching two ﬁnals, improving his personal best and showing his potential for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2016 Olympics. The Rising Star awards have tagged the best young talent in Welsh sport for around 20 years, with a brief break before returning as the SportingWales Rising Star awards. Much like the two annual winners and many of the monthly winners, they will continue to go from strength to strength.
ough and Olympic ulch
Little and Large - w eightlifte and gymna r Darius st Angel Jokazardeh Romaeo seasons talk abou t their
Monthly winner Tesni Evans with Squash Wales chairman Phil Brailey
Sport W ales chai r Profes McAlliste sor Laura r closes the evenin g
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THE NEXT G After the success of the London 2012 Games, all talk has turned to legacy and what’s next for sport in Wales. We take a look at the athletes of tomorrow that are hot on the heels of our current Olympic and Paralympic medallists, record holders and World Champions. The NOW - Tom James and The NEXT - Zak Lee Green
Sport Wales Feature - Olympic Legacy
After retaining his Olympic title in the men’s coxless fours in London, rower Tom James became the ﬁrst Welsh competitor to win gold in back-to-back Olympic Games. With a career spanning nine years, the Cardiff-born rower will go into the history books; something 21 yearold Zak Lee Green will certainly be aiming for. He may not be following directly in James’ footsteps being a lightweight rower but recent performances and results show that he’s certainly one to watch for Rio 2016 and beyond. By the age of 21, Lee-Green had already competed in two U23 World Championships, bringing home a bronze medal to Cardiff in 2010 at just 19 years-old. Currently an integral part of GB Rowing’s Start programme, Zak began his rowing career at Llandaff Rowing Club in Cardiff and started training under Welsh National Coach Ian Shore in 2007. Just two years later he won gold in the junior men’s quad at the Home International Regatta. “I look up to people like Tom James and Tom Lucy. They’re both from Wales, they’ve medalled at World Juniors and gone on to win Olympic medals – they’re a great inspiration.” – Lee-Green
Zak Lee Green
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The NOW - David Davies The NEXT - Ieuan Lloyd Three Olympic Games - two Olympic medals. Three Commonwealth Games – one Commonwealth gold medal. A roll of honour that any fulltime sportsman or woman would be proud of, and testament to why Welsh swimmer, David Davies, is undoubtedly one of the UK’s most outstanding distance swimmers. It is, therefore, no wonder that the next generation of Welsh swimmers are looking to emulate some of that career success; and no-one more so than City of Cardiff teammate Ieuan Lloyd. 19 year-old Lloyd has already made a name for himself on the international scene and gave a glimpse of what’s to come at his ﬁrst Olympic Games in London; competing in the 200m freestyle and the 4x200m relay. A glittering junior career saw him come away from the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games as the most decorated Welsh competitor with three gold medals, and ﬁve overall, to add to the two golds he scooped at the European Junior Championships just two months previous. “I get to train with my role model, David Davies. He’s a local boy and a good friend of mine. I’m from Cardiff, and so is he. I’m hoping I can follow his path and have a swimming career to be proud of.” – Lloyd. Ieuan Lloyd sportingwales
The NOW - Helen Jenkins The NEXT - Non Stanford At the forefront of British Triathlon’s phenomenal run of form stands World Champion, Helen Jenkins. The 28 year-old from Bridgend put in a series of outstanding performances to take the title in 2011. And the double-Olympian acts as nothing but inspiration for the next Welsh sensation waiting in the wings. 23 year-old Non Stanford from Swansea ﬁnished her 2012 season ranked 18th in the world; an impressive 61 places higher than in 2011. After starting her sporting career as a runner, Stanford transferred to triathlon after turning to the pool for rehabilitation. She was soon training fulltime as a triathlete and making her mark on the international scene. Part of the British Triathlon Federation’s World Class Development Squad, Stanford is now the third highest ranked British female triathlete, behind fellow Welsh teammate Helen. And the Welsh women could potentially compete as a double act at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games in the triathlon team event. “It’s always great to see a Welsh athlete doing well. It’s true that we’ve a very patriotic country and we’re proud as a nation of our top athletes. It would be amazing to even come close to emulating Helen’s achievements.” – Stanford.
The NOW - Tracey Hinton The NEXT - Jordan Howe Tracey Hinton has already competed in ﬁve Paralympic Games, and at the time of going to press is due to add another one to the tally in London. Having racked up an impressive six Paralympic medals throughout her Paralympic career, with the ﬁrst being 10 years ago at the 1992 Games, the 42 year-old sprinter will go down in history as one of Wales’ most successful Paralympians. And looking to sprint to that same success is 16 year-old Jordan Howe; with London 2012 giving him his ﬁrst taste of the Paralympic Games. Cardiff-born Howe is currently part of the UKA Development Programme and showed a sign of what’s to come at the 2012 UK School Games, where he took the gold in the 200m. 16 year-old Jordan Howe will be looking to sprint to the same success at his ﬁrst Games in London where he will compete as one of the youngest Welsh athletes. A phenomenal young talent, Howe is already ranked at number three in the world in the 100m, and with such a competitive edge and desire to win is set to become one of Wales’ Paralympic stars of the future.
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London 2012 has been special for Wales. We sent a record contingent of 68 athletes to the Olympics and Paralympics. They duly repaid us with a tremendous haul of seven medals at the
Life after London; our legacy in Wales
Olympics (three gold, three silver and a bronze) and our Paralympic athletes secured a host more. Welsh sport is firmly on the map. Simon Grant takes a look at just where that could lead us in terms of a meaningful lasting legacy.
Ian Cook - CameraSport
If ever there were a physical conduit for bringing Sport Wales’ ambitions to fruition then London 2012 is it. How many youngsters will have been hooked on sport for life after seeing Jade Jones high kick her way to an exhilarating gold medal and then bound joyously round the Excel Arena with the Welsh ﬂ ag billowing behind her and a stellar future ahead of her? How many future champions will be inspired by the superhuman triumphs of Geraint, Tom, Hannah, Chris, Fred and Sarah? At the very least they’ll know them on ﬁrst name terms after sharing in the exultation of their achievements. And what will our inspired generation have made of those who struggled on deﬁ antly, despite injury; the Helen’s and Dai’s? They’ll surely have learnt that inherent Welsh trait of ‘never say die…Dai!’ History will be the ultimate judge but several themes have emerged as the potential legacy highpoints for Wales following these epic home Games. Emerging Talent
The future is bright. The future is Wales. You might not know it but 18 of the 30 Welsh Olympians were making their Olympic debut and 12 of those were under the age of 23. A staggering 50% of our 38 Paralympic athletes are making their debut, including 15-year-old swimmer Morgyn Peters.
Steps have already been taken to ensure that the Games are maximised in Wales with extra Lottery funding, including new Calls for Action funding which can grant awards of between £50,000 and £150,000 for projects that make a real impact in the community.
That grassroots momentum is hugely dependant on the education system and its vital role in nurturing positive ﬁrst experiences of sport.
“Essentially, these Games have shown that there is a plethora of young talent emerging, and waiting in the wings, that can and will be nurtured to ensure that we continue to see Welsh athletes standing proud on podiums at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and beyond,” says Sport Wales chair, Professor Laura McAllister.
“Through our Community Sport Strategy we have already committed an additional investment of £9million from the National Lottery to help develop much wider opportunities for not just children and young people, but adults, to access both formal and recreational sport,” says Professor McAllister.
“These have also been dubbed the ‘Girls’ Games,’ with the unprecedentedly high proportion of success coming from female athletes who, for the ﬁrst time ever, competed in every event. Girls across Wales now have more inspiring role models to look up to than ever before and we hope that this can spark a chain reaction of lots more participation and enjoyment of sport.
“In total this means that we will be injecting a total of almost £32m a year into community sport in Wales. We’re also in a fortunate position in that the Welsh Government are committed to our vision for sport in Wales and see London 2012 as a golden opportunity to get the nation involved.”
“The sheer numbers of people supporting Team GB and getting into the Olympic spirit are testament to that. We’ve been working with our partners to ensure that interest has been – and continues to be – harnessed here in Wales; to ensure that any child who has been inspired by what they have seen is able to get involved in their chosen sport, and ultimately, stay hooked for life.”
“Those that embrace the importance of vibrant school sport - and are passionate about it - place sport high on the agenda, ensuring that opportunities reﬂect the needs of children and link with their communities and local clubs to keep them engaged once their school days are over. “Whether it is through two hours of high quality PE every week, an improvement in teacher training or priority placed on developing basic skills from the earliest age, a signiﬁcant shift is needed and we’re committed to making that happen.” Our Paralympians and Olympians can be doubly proud of not only their own stellar achievements but also to consider themselves part of an unashamedly ambitious Welsh system that will keep building on their successes for many years to come.
For more information about Sport Wales and how to apply for Calls for Action, or any other, funding visit www.sportwales.org.uk
Sport Wales Feature - Olympic Legacy
“London 2012 has undoubtedly been a huge advertising campaign for sport.
“We cannot underestimate the importance of schools in getting Wales’ children hooked on sport, and in particular the inﬂuence of head teachers,” said McAllister.
New talent show could give regions the X Factor
Jonathan Evans of the Dragons, Scarlets Kirby Myhill, Josh Navidi of the Blues and Osprey Ross Ford.
A new batch of players who have already starred on the international stage could play a part in making this the most exciting season for the Welsh rugby's regions since they were formed a decade ago There is no question regional rugby has taken some time to develop roots, they have been comparatively unloved compared to the clubs they replaced, while suffering a form of schizophrenia between trying to be regions or superclubs which saw dipping support.
following suit in terms of both support and developing exciting new players.
have won the whole competition if little things had gone out way.
They are also connecting with the fans more than ever before, they are genuinely beginning to become the products of their regions and the supporters are recognising that by buying season tickets in the greatest ever numbers.
“I am fourth choice at the Scarlets now, it is tough in certain ways but good in others – I can watch all three but at the same time I want to get chances with the Scarlets.
To celebrate this new approach, SportingWales is featuring four young players being tipped by their regions to make an impact this season. Three were part of that Wales U20 squad in the summer, while the fourth – Blues ﬂ anker Josh Navidi – came through that age grade international set up a couple of years ago and is ready to make his mark this season. Take Wales U20 captain Kirby Myhill, part of an all-Scarlets front row that took the JWC in South Africa by storm and put the Baby Blacks (as their U20's are known) under a new level of pressure.
But what were seen as problems this time last year could be the salvation – as well as a group of young players who took Wales U20 to third in the Junior World Championships, became the ﬁrst team ever to beat New Zealand in that competition and are now ready for the step up into the professional game.
While he represents the success of the academy system, moved from the back row at 16 and sent to New Zealand for a few months as part of his development, he also has two Wales hookers Matthew Rees and Ken Owen, as well as another good player in Emyr Phillips, ahead of him at Parc y Scarlets.
There is plenty to get excited about at all four regions, season tickets sales up around a third across the four regions with a buzz that is louder than ever before which gives all four grounds for renewed conﬁdence.
“We did well in South Africa and there was a lot of interest in the front row, but it was a good pack performance and team performance,” he said.
The salary cap which was bemoaned for the loss of so many overseas stars, is a blessing in disguise. The Welsh players are stepping up their level, the youngsters are getting more of a chance and developing better as a result. The Ospreys minus the Galacticos put in some of the best performances ever from a Welsh region in lifting the RaboDirect trophy last season, the other three are
“We want to play together for the Scarlets and obviously do the best we can – it is about getting the chance really and doing the best when we get that chance. “I feel a lot more experienced, we played a lot of games in tough places and had to dig in, so the summer in South Africa was good in that way. “It was the best buzz you can get after beating New Zealand and we felt we could
“You have got to takle the positives, I am still learning this position and getting tips from the boys in training, but hopefully I will be able to show what I can do. “I have got to push myself, things like throwing in every day, but I have to drive myself to reach the levels that I want to reach. “The more games I play, for either Llanelli RFC or the Scarlets, then I can learn and get more games. Hopefully in a few years, touch wood, all three of us will be the Scarlets front row because we have come through the ranks together. I am a Scarlets fan so Scarlets are the place I want to be.” It is a similar position for Ross Ford, full back for the Under 20s but now trying to force himself into a competitive Ospreys back line while biding his time with Bridgend as well. After a period in Ireland he came back to Wales and the Ospreys, now he is determined to prove that decision right. “Conﬁdence has grown a lot from the World Cup that we had, probably some jaws dropped when we beat New Zealand and it great to gove people a shock,” he said. “We said we could beat Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa and it was nice to prove that we can. “The feedback from back home, the good luck messages, were inspiring and great to read, it was just a shame we could not have gone further. “Last year when I got called up for a sportingwales
few Rabo games for the Ospreys I was a bit shocked, but once I had that shirt I wanted to keep on wearing it. Now I want to play for the Ospreys as many times as I can this year. “With the talent we have in the back three it is difﬁcult, in pre-season I had a game on the wing against Clermont and I would like to be able to cover all back three positions to get more game time with the Ospreys. “When you look at the Welsh players who came fourth in the Junior World Championships in 2008, the majority of them have come through and many are Welsh internationals now. There is pressure on us to come through and rise to the challenge – hopefully we can.
“Down in the Ospreys there are people like Ryan Bevington and Dan Biggar who were in that team. It does put a smile on your face that you have gone one better, but then they are much more experienced now and we have to get to that level.” The Dragons have a better record than most for giving young players a chance, partly out of necessity, but it is something that encourages scrum half Jonathan Evans as he can expect more matches than the others. The Newport-based side also have Tom Prydie in the back three, Wales's youngest ever capped player who rediscovered himself a bit in South Africa after two serious injuries had brought his development to a juddering halt.
“It was an exciting summer,” said Evans. “We can come away being happy, beating New Zealand was an experience, personally I took a lot of things out of it such as ﬁghting for my position which I can take into this season because it is exactly the same at the Dragons. “This year I have got to push on, get some ﬁrst team games. Wayne Evans has been playing well in the ﬁrst team, while Joe Bedford has been injured and has been helping me out a lot on training by pointing out things in my game. “You do not wish an injury on any of your colleagues and it is unfortunate for Joe, but the next few weeks are a chance for me to put a marker down. “You cannot walk into the dressing room with a swagger after our summer because the other players put you down straightaway, but I feel comfortable with the Dragons and this is a big year for me.” There is some advice for the young guns from Blues ﬂ anker Josh Navidi, Wales Under 20's a couple of years ago but only now really coming through at the Blues where he is part of the senior leadership group this season with opportunities opening up following the retirement of Martyn Williams and with Sam Warburton so heavily involved with Wales. “Playing against all the other nations for the Under 20's deﬁnitely helps get you up to a standard, there is still the Principality Premiership, but there is still a step up to make. “You have hard competition in front of you which makes you a better player, it is good to feed off each other. “I had a few games last year, it is good to get a run of games but this year hopefully will get a lot more.”
Wing Tom Prydie has been helped back from serious injuries through appearances with Wales Sevens.
These are exciting times for our promising quartet, but they could also be the best of times for the Welsh regions. It is time to get on board.
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Rhys goes from rugby scrapheap to world stage Rhys Williams can step out to face England next month in Rugby League's Tri-Nations Autumn Test tournament just years after he faced being thrown on the professional rugby scrapheap. Then in 12 months time the 22-year-old Williams is likely to be playing in front of thousands of home fans at Welsh rugby's biggest theatre, the Millennium Stadium, on the opening day of the 2013 World Cup. Had it not been for a decision to give the 13-man code a try after failing to gain a professional contract with the Scarlets rugby union region, he admits his rugby career could have been one of playing at lower league level instead of on the international stage. Currently, he is a squad member of Super League giants Warrington Wolves, captained by Welsh skipper Lee Briers, and was with the party at Wembley on Saturday August 25 where his club beat Leeds Rhinos in the Challenge Cup ﬁnal.
path from South Wales, taken by Welsh legends like Jonathan Davies and John Bevan plus current Welsh Rugby League president Mike Nicholas. But, while the great names of Davies, Scott Quinnell, Scott Gibbs and David Watkins will always be there, Williams is in the front-line of a new Wales Rugby League squad, under head coach Iestyn Harris, who were hardly out of nappies when the last great Welsh national thrust in the mid-1990s was in full ﬂow. Now, after years of 'development', the full-back from Wrexham believes it is time to start making a stand on the global stage and show that Wales rugby league can mix with the big boys. That starts in October with a Tri-Nations tournament with France in Lille and then the big home clash with England at Wrexham's Glyndwr University Racecourse Ground on October 27. Victory over England would be a landmark for Harris' Welsh revival - and the players think the same. Williams, capped 12 times by his country and the second highest try-scorer for the Principality with ten touchdowns, said, "It's going to be the same group of players from the Four Nations last year to now and it's a case of getting results. "We have developed over the last couple of years and now we have just got to be challenging people like England and beating them.
His journey to Warrington is a well-worn
"They have more resources and more money than us but we have shown over the past four years that we are not just a warm-up game for countries like this anymore. "We showed that in the Four Nations. We play with pride and passion but our downfall has been in key areas where we lack consistency." Get that right and Williams believes Wales can make a name for themselves on the global stage. That has to be the target next year when they co-host the World Cup with England, and with players like Ben Flower, Jordan James, Elliot Kear, Lloyd White, David Mills and Craig Kopczak all playing the sport at the highest club level in Super League, Wales need not continue to hark back to the days of the 'Legends' like Davies and Co. Williams also believes that the Principality have, in Iestyn Harris, a head coach who is coming into his own. Harris was thrust into the top job at the Crusaders when Brian Noble left the scene but is currently assistant coach at mighty Wigan Warriors to head man Shaun Wane as well as doubling this with the Welsh national position. And, with a fair wind, they may even make the same impact as the famous 2000 World Cup side had, under coach Clive Grifﬁths, when reaching the semi-ﬁnals and giving the Australians the fright of their lives! sportingwales
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Freddie stars at Millennium words
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Speedway fans at the Millennium Stadium may have wondered who was the old man presenting the main prize at the World Championships, but the answer is the amazing story of Britain's greatest living rider. Freddie Williams from Port Talbot is one of only two British riders ever to win the World Championship twice – and the only Welshman ever to compete at those levels of the sport. He starred in front of more than 90,000 at Wembly to win his world titles in the Fifties, in the days when riders could bounce off the 'safety' fences back into the race – while deaths and serious injuries among the top riders was just a fact of life. Williams was one of the best paid sportsmen of his era in all of British sport, world champion in 1950 and 1953. Only one other British rider won the title twice, sadly Stuart Craven died in a crash. Williams may have won his ﬁrst world title before Queen Elizabeth started her lengthy reign, but that does nothing to diminish the scale of his achievements – or the quiet modesty as he took time in a Swansea hotel to look back on the old days.
It is quite a story of going from Port Talbot to Wembley stardom, after being taught by the same teacher, Phillip Burton, who inspired and gave his name to Richard Burton. “Right from the start, Dad had a motorbike when we were kids – I could ride when I was eight around the ﬁelds,” he remembered. “Because I could ride a motorbike I joined the Home Guard in the War and used to take despatches. Occasionally I would ride in grass track competitions in Wales. “Wembley Speedway decided to run a team of British riders, they hired a track and put an advert in for any aspiring speedway riders. I answered along with 2-300, then had trial races even though I had never seen a speedway bike before which was so powerful compared to out ex-army bikes. “It was absolutely horriﬁc, with steel fences in those days, it was carnage. Then I had another letter to come back among 10 or 11 of us who had the chance to train below the top riders. “Each track had their team with juniors attached and they would have a separate race at every meeting, so gradually we got the idea of racing in front of big crowds because in those days there would be 5060,000 for club meetings at Wembley. “Then good fortune for me, other people's bad fortune, we lost two boys with a broken arm and leg and I was given a chance in the team. “I read an article the other day, which I could hardly believe, that at that time speedway riders were the highest paid
sportsmen in the country – higher than footballers. “Once I was in the team then if I won a couple of races and had a second and third then I could make £19 a night, a lot of money then but I don't know what I did with it.
"I liken myself to Adam Jones - lovely guy, but on the field he is a monster" “The World Championships Finals were always held at Wembley, but there were rounds at other tracks to get through. Eventually the top 18 riders from the qualifying rounds raced at Wembley, which gave me an advantage at my home track. “There were 93,000 people at the 1950 ﬁnals, which was a bit aweinspiring. They did not have horns like Cardiff's Millennium Stadium now but there was a great atmosphere. “I was not expected to win. I talked to my Dad the day before on the mountain overlooking Port Talbot where we lived and he said to get out
Freddie WIlliams speedway
of the gate fast on the ﬁrst ride. I took his advice and broke the track record in the ﬁrst race which gave me a lot of conﬁdence.” As he looks back, Williams seems the calmest and nicest of people – however things were very different once he started competing on a bike around 60 years ago, coming close to three world titles. “I liken myself to rugby player Adam Jones,” he said. “He is a lovely guy, but watch him on the rugby ﬁeld and he is a monster. I think I was the same, I could always ride Wembley cleverly and keep people back if I made a good start. “I was second to Jack Young in 1952. I could hear him coming round me, I felt a hit and relaxed thinking that had stopped him, but he went into the chain link fencing and bounced back, he didn't fall off, and next moment he passed me. “I won it again in 1953, the ﬁrst British rider to win it twice. If I had a lower gear then I could make the ﬁrst gate ahead, the other riders would have more speed later on and I just had to keep them back. It was wet the second time and I knew if I could make the gate then I could shower them with dirt.
“I knew that if I could get on the inside they would not be able to see behind me.” Despite all his success, the end came suddenly for Williams – perhaps as a result of his ruthless style. “Half way through the 1956 season I was riding at Belle Vue, there was smoke coming from the factories and I thought I did not want to get hurt there. Half way through the meeting, instead of coming down on people trying to pass as usual, I started to back off thinking I would not hurt myself,” he said. “I went back to the pits and told the team manager I was ﬁnished. He thought I would be back, but I did ﬁnish – I sold my bikes and leathers and never raced again. “A lot of boys got killed in my era, but it happens rarely now. I would love to show the riders of today the difference. Some of the changes are so simple I don't know why they didn't happen in our day – such as chain guards and deﬂectors for the mud.
Freddie Williams with the Speedway world championship trophy and in his prime.
“I have been every time the ﬁnals have been held at the Millennium Stadium. It is a wonderful atmosphere, but so was 90,000 people at Wembley.” That was not the end of a remarkable story. When Williams was making the presentations in Cardiff ar the Speedway, son David was involved in the presentation party in the European Tour golf as tournament director of the Johnny Walker Championships in Gleneagles. His wife is former Olympic skater Pat Devries, their two daughters represented GB in equestrian events, David was a European Tour golfer in his own right, granddaughter Lucy is on the Ladies European Tour after winning the English Ladies Amateur Championships golf last year. Quite a family, but they would still need to go some to pass Freddie.
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Cameron Davies will be hoping the next stage to the top can come at this season's Wales Rally GB as he battles back from losing a works car and having to fight against the odds. The Llandovery teenager seemed to have the rallying world at his feet as he got backing from Chevrolet shortly after he was old enough to drive on the roads legally. From the high of competing on a World Rally Championship, and winning his class by 57 seconds, this season began disappointingly. “We were supposed to have Chevrolet on board again but unfortunately the budget got cut,” he explained. So Cameron turned to the Micra that he had used on Wales Rally GB and joined the BTRDA Rally First Championship, a low cost series for two wheel drive production
cars up to 1400cc. Having missed the opening round of the championship, round 2, the Malcolm Wilson Stages in Cumbria, saw him win his class by nearly two minutes. Further class wins and a couple of runners up places followed before the championship moved to Cameron’s home territory in Mid Wales for the Nicky Grist Stages. Competing on the stages where he had earlier watched his heroes such as Colin McRae and Richard Burns in action, Cameron rolled the Micra at 90mph. Although both driver and co-driver emerged relatively unscathed they had narrowly missed plunging down a 300 foot drop. Nevertheless, Cameron remains philosophical about the event, saying, “Everyone goes through it at some stage in rallying. You’ve just got to forget about it and move on.” With the Micra beyond repair, Cameron bought a Ford Fiesta ST prepared by the M-Sport, the company that prepares Ford’s works rally cars.
“I bought the car to compete in next year’s British Rally Championship Challenge”, he explains, adding, “I got it ready to start learning in. By learning about it now I should be at the top of my game next season. “After talking to a couple of my sponsors I might go straight into the main International part of the Championship.” Cameron will deﬁnitely use the Fiesta on this year’s Wales Rally GB with the aim of gaining further experience while another class win would be a distinct bonus. “It’s a three day event which is lot different from the one day rallies. I am training a lot harder at the gym to get my endurance up,” he admitted.” “When I’m not rallying, I’m always working out in the gym or going for a run in the countryside or mountain biking in Brechfa or Hafren forests”. Equally valuable he says is a loyal sponsor, “My sponsor at the moment is Kick Energy. They play a big part in UK rallying.
A sponsor is so vital, without them there would be no rallying. Having the speed is one thing but ﬁnding the lucky break is the most difﬁcult.” But as he approaches his 18th birthday, what of Cameron’s long term plans? Competing in the World Rally Championship on a regular basis certainly ﬁgures in them, “That’s what I aimed for when I started in juniors and I am getting closer every year, but if I am being realistic, in the world of rallying at the moment it’s going to be very difﬁcult to get there.
“The way I think is ;someone has to be a works driver; but as long as I know I tried my hardest and I enjoyed myself, that’s the main thing.” Father, Geraint, has no doubt about where his career could go, saying, “He’s done extremely well in such a short space of time and has the talent to go all the way to the top.” The next step in that direction could come on Wales Rally GB.
Cameron rallies ready for home challenge
THE STORY OF THE SWANS How lucky to be able to write your centenary during arguably the best period during those 100 years – that is the fortunate position for the history of Swansea City AFC, Proud to be a Swan. Strangely 1912 was a curious time to found a major football club during a period of almost unprecedented rugby success in Wales, with the Swans starting in the Southern League and even contemplating a home ground outside the city in the Swansea Valleys.
Wales rugby star Ryan Jones tells SportingWales
Sporting roller coasters rarely have higher highs and lower lows than the Swans have done since then, bursting to the top through the John Toshack era, almost going out of business before bouncing back to the top level in the Premiership.
not do without. Family/wife, son and daughter and their unconditional support - also provide the worlds best escapism Internet - hrs and hrs of entertainment its got everything! Dog - my biggest dopiest companion Cadbury's Dairy Milk and all things sweet - lifes true luxuries Dining out - beats washing-up and your never as guilty when you eat chips out Dreams and aspirations - life would be boring Mobile Phone - my god how did we manage Coffee outlets - skinny ﬂat white, life's fuel Television/movies - the settee is my friend Physio - keeps me going
Book Review - Proud to be a Swan
10 Things I couldn't be without - Ryan Jones
10 things that he could
The book is written by Professor Geraint H Jenkins, an honorary fellow of Swansea University and Swansea Metropolitan University – and a Swans fan for almost 50 years. It is certainly quite a story with some Hall of Famers in Welsh football such as John Charles and Toshack, along with some who would qualify for a Hall of Infamy. The book is write up to date with new manager Michael Laudrup included in words and pictures, so it covers all of the 100 years in great detail. The stories about the Swans over the last 40 years are arguably the most dramatic of any club in the UK – if the early years lack the extreme highs and lows then certainly that has been made up for to the satisfaction of any dramatist. Now Swans fans can laugh about the worst moments, such as the make or break match with Hull in 2003 that preserved their place in the Football League and provided the springboard to the Premiership. Published by Y Lolfa, Proud to be a Swan will be a good book to stoke the memories for all Swans fans, while telling a remarkable story for those not so close. If the style of the book is slightly understated, it is well researched , comprehensive and tells a story that is as dramatic as any sport club in the UK.
SARAH'S 2012 MILE CHALLENGE Olympic torch bearer Sarah Murray has set herself the target of running 2012 miles this year – which may not sound much for the elite athletes, but will be a remarkable achievement for the mother of a child with a lifeling learning disability. She has also overcome a chronic back injury and is ahead of target to achieve the challenge to raise money for Cardiff charity Thrive, run by volunteer parents for children with special needs and their families, which includes world champion boxer Nathan Cleverly as Patron. It means running on average around one and a half marathons a week, with events such as the Cardiff Half Marathon being built into the schedule, with the target of buying a home in West Wales for familes with disabled children to use at a reduced rate. “I started going to Thrive eight years ago, shortly after my son, who was
then 3 and half, was diagnosed with a lifelong learning disability,” explained Murray.
Cleverly ran alongside Murray for the ﬁrst mile and will also complete the last mile planned for New Year's Eve.
“At the time I was isolated and cut off from any sort of social activity as Callum's difﬁculties and behaviour because of them were intolerable for most people and I simply could not take him anywhere. So when I started to go to Thrive sessions it was a huge relief and it has since become both mine and Callum's liﬂeline.
“Many of our families cannot afford ot go on holiday, or are worried about the accommodation being suitable, so the idea of owning our own, which could be adapted and in secure surroundings is something that we have always wanted to pursue. So my challenge is to run 2012 miles this year and all money raised will go towards purchasing a holiday home. My target is to raise enough money to buy a caravan or property in West Wales, adapt and furnish it and maintain it for the ﬁrst 12 months.”
NO PROBLEM FOR MARIA
The challenge involved cycling 900km across the frozen Lake Baikal, a remarkably tough event with only a small percentage of the starters reaching the ﬁnishing line. “I'm pleased to say I am the ﬁrst woman to have completed the race,” she reported. “Out of 30 starters only eight completed the full south to north crossing.” ice racing
Maria Leijerstam, featured in the last edition of SportingWales, succeeded in becoming the ﬁrst woman to complete the Siberian Black Ice Race.
ROB RETIRES One of the greatest Glamorgan cricket careers ever has come to an end with the retirement of Robert Croft to move into a coaching and ambassadorial role at the club. All rounder Croft is the only player in Glamorgan’s history to have taken over 1,000 ﬁrst-class wickets and to have also scored more than 10,000 ﬁrst-class runs for the Welsh county, only eight players since 1945 have accomplished this feat for any County. His all-round talents were recognised by the England selectors, playing in more international matches for England than any other home-grown Glamorgan cricketer, appearing in 21 Test Matches and 50 One-Day Internationals. Croft said, “It’s ﬁnally dawning on me that my career is coming to an end.
“It’s unbelievable how quickly time has passed since from 1985 when I ﬁrst walked into the Glamorgan environment as a teenager followed by my debut at the Oval in 1989; to think that it is the best part of 30 years is incredible. “I count myself lucky to have played as long as I have and I’m grateful for the support I have received over the years from teammates, coaches and most importantly from my family and friends. “I don’t think I could have had the career I have had without such a supportive family. I owe a lot to my parents, Susan and Malcolm, my grandparents, my wife Marie and children Callum and Kara Beth. “They have been there throughout my cricketing career, providing encouragement in the difﬁcult times and a sense of level headedness in the good times. What’s more my friends around me, those in the game and in the media have also all helped give me the motivation to keep on playing the game.
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HALF MARATHON'S 10TH BIRTHDAY COULD BE BEST YET Organisers of the Cardiff Half Marathon have put plans in place to cement the city's stature in the running calendar to recognise the growth of the 13.1 mile event since its inception back in 2003 into one of the UK's largest road races. The race already holds the accolade of being Wales’ largest road race and largest multi-charity event but this year’s race, which takes place on Sunday October 14th will boast a new course and race capacity – the appropriate ﬁgure of 20,012! “The race has sold out at 15,00 entries for the past two years so we were delighted to increase the capacity this year and we have raised the limit to 20,012 to mark this summer’s Olympics,” said Run 4 Wales director Nigel Roberts.
As well as announcing a new course and race capacity for 2012, event organisers Run 4 Wales also have ambitions to put the Lloyds TSB Cardiff Half Marathon on the world map.
Brace and his team of course designers have come up with a ﬂ at and fast route which has it heart in the city centre and encompasses some of Cardiff’s most iconic landmarks.
“We have been very clear that our aim is to become the biggest and best road race in the UK,” added Roberts.
“The race will start outside Cardiff Castle and take in the Cardiff Barrage, Wales Millennium Centre and Roath Lake along the picturesque route before ﬁnishing at the Civic Centre.”
“We want to build a festival of sport around the event and we are looking to bring the Commonwealth and World Half Marathon Championships to the city over the coming years.
Cardiff’s proud road running history can be traced back to the days of the Western Mail Marathon. That event ended in 1993 but is seen as the origin for today’s half marathon.
“This year the race will not only attract up to 20,012 participants, but we are expecting more than 30,000 spectators in Cardiff which is fantastic for the local economy and the tourism industry in the city.
When the ﬁrst half marathon took place in 2003, just under 1,500 people took to the streets of Cardiff and since then the event has grown year on year.
“We are 12% up on runner numbers already compared to last year so we urge people to sign-up ASAP to avoid disappointment.”
“Double Olympic Marathon runner Steve
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Bright Sparkes making it ‘there’ “Sparkes, your guest is here,” announced the young lady on reception, showing how 26-yearold Andrew Sparkes is as accepted in his new environment as he would be in his home territory in Born and brought up in Sketty overlooking Swansea Bay, he has forsaken the beauty of the Mumbles for the deserted, run down factory area of Harrison New Jersey. Here Sparkes is the goalkeeper coach at the New York Red Bulls soccer academy. A multi-million pound stateof-the-art stadium is the base of one of the top teams in the emerging North American Soccer League – home to Beckham, Henry . . . and the guy from South Wales who has a growing reputation in New York.
And, as someone once said, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. “Coming from Swansea with the beaches and Mumbles and to come to New York which is a concrete jungle, it is two ends of the spectrum in terms of the lifestyle,” said Sparkes, with the hint of an American accent and yet the raising of the voice at the end of a phrase still has a Welshness about it. “It has taken a bit of adjusting, but everything is different every day. I can go to the City with no plan, but always ﬁnd something to do. I love every minute of it, every day is different. “My house looks over to the City and for me it is the best view in the world. Every day I wake up I just look at it and think, Oh mate!” “I got the opportunity to come out here when I was twenty and I think it is one of those opportunities where you have to push yourself and challenge yourself. “It gave me a full-time job and the chance to come to America and work with one of the biggest clubs in America. I believe the game in the US is growing all the time and I think it is a good time to be over here. “In the six years I have been here I have seen the crowds increase and the product on the pitch is getting better all the time.” Sparkes’ change of lifestyle has been a success, so too his move from a part-time coach at the SwanseaCity academy to leading the young goalkeepers at the Red Bulls. “I have had six players in the national age group teams in the last three years. We have the biggest number of players from the ages of thirteen to eighteen in the best youth academy in America,” he continued. “Red Bull does not mess about in whatever they do. They do not sponsor anything, they own it. Apart from probably their best known sporting brand the F1 motor racing team, they own ﬁve sportingwales
football teams, as well as New York they have a presence in Ghana, Brazil, Leipzig, and Saltsburg. Their ethos is to build and improve. “Every time I come to this stadium it is unbelievable, but there is not the same football community as there is back home in Swansea.” He knows that people come to the soccer games, watch them and then go away forgetting about soccer until they come the next time. It is not discussed in the bars, not trailed on television; it does not dominate people’s lives. “It`s growing though,” says Sparkes. “We try to do different things to get people back, and talking about it. We have extensive marketing on the subways and on billboards, but it is New York and we are competing not only with other sports but with The Yankees, The Giants and The Devils, they are all big big teams. “They are still getting to grips with the game over here, but football is football wherever you go.” Former France and Arsenal striker Thierry Henry is the big name at the New York Red Bulls and Sparkes says that players like him are the role models for the American youngsters, “When I was a kid I had pictures of Ryan Giggs on my wall, now out here you see the kids in Henry shirts, so it does bring out a connection.” The other big difference for the Welshman is the distances they travel, even with the academy players. A ﬂight to a game is no novelty for the American youngsters. “The kids in America are so used to ﬂying here, ﬂ ying there. It`s not like a two or three hour bus journey to London, here it is a two or three hour ﬂight and for me now getting on a ﬂight is just like getting on a bus back home.” This Welshman’s success in New York has
not gone un-noticed in the Red Bull family. His reputation led to a season coaching in Salzburg and a tug of war between the Austrians who wanted him to remain for three years and his employers in New York who did not want to lose him for more than one. “The resources there were unbelievable, but leading up to the move I had to take German lessons as I had never spoken the language,” he said. “That was a difﬁcult move going into the unknown, and for them they had a goalkeeping coach who spoke very little German, from Wales via New York. “From the very ﬁrst session I took, I had to prove myself as they are very proud in those countries. You could see on the faces of some of the other coaches a look of, Why is he coming to our country, what is this guy about?” No such worries for Sparkes back “home” in America. Having worked his way through the coaching award system with the Football Association of Wales, the invader has now progressed through the coaching system in the USA. From Swansea to Salzburg to New York, he is certainly going places. Despite his success in America, there is still a big affection to Swansea and Wales. “If we have a few days off I try to get back home to Wales. I get a lot of stick when I go home, I get killed,” he jokes. “They say where has Andrew gone you have turned into some yank? But give me a few days at home and my Welsh accent returns. As for returning home to work what might the future hold for Andrew Sparkes? “I am a Swansea boy, I still keep in touch with so many of the staff and players, and at some stage I would love to go back and work at Swansea but that opportunity might never come up. I have a great job out here, I work at the best club in America with the backing of Red Bull, and I live in New York, but if Swansea rang me that would be an easy one.”
The majority of Newport County fans would have belly-laughed with the same seismic guffaw as an audience listening to ex-chairman Frank
Carson telling one of his 'crackers'
years ago, if told their salvation lay through rugby. As County celebrate their 100th year in existence, they are experiencing a football revolution the like of which the forefathers of the club may never have thought possible, thanks largely to the new ground-share at the Rodney Parade home of the Dragons and Newport. The people laughing loudest now are the County fans and management. Those loyalists, who have stuck with the club through thick and thin times and travelled to Gloucestershire for 'home' matches at Moreton-in-Marsh, are reaping new rewards in the heart of their city.
For, in the space of ﬁve months, Newport County have achieved a turnaround under new manager Justin Edinburgh and a board who have the foresight and vision to go places - or rather one particular place - which would have been unthinkable decades ago. County have not only brought a football feelgood factor back to the city but united Newport behind the club in a way not seen since the heady days when the old side famously reached the European Cup Winners Cup quarterﬁnals in 1980/81 season and gave mighty East Germans Carl Zeiss Jena a massive run for their money. Twelve months on from the change of management, County's revolution has seen them survive that possible relegation from the Blue Square Premier, reach a Wembley ﬁnal - the FA Trophy where they lost to York City - and, after long-serving chairman Chris Blight left, have a new chairman in place in the presence of £45m National Lottery winner Les Scadding. But the biggest change, apart from Edinburgh's reconstruction of the playing squad, has been the move to Newport Rugby Club's Rodney Parade ground after long negotiations between both parties.
Ian Cook - CameraSport
They broke the attendance record from the Newport Stadium days when a crowd of 4,365 saw the thrilling ﬁrst v second-placed clash with Hereford United at Rodney Parade. That was the second highest attendance in Newport County AFC's history after the FA Cup ﬁrst round tie with Swansea City, but it was the biggest crowd for a league game. Edinburgh said, "People were sceptical about our move to Rodney Parade in the summer, but those who doubted it are fully behind us now. "I think we have justiﬁed why we moved away from Spytty Park. It's only a handful of games we have had at home but the quality of football and the attendances are showing we were right.” Edinburgh has also been able to build his own squad and a couple of players in particular has had a massive start to the campaign. Former Luton and Mansﬁeld Town striker Aaron O'Connor thumped in a remakrable ﬁve of County's ten goals in their ﬁrst three victories and big Jefferson Louis, his forward partner, has been a royal pain to many defences.
County president David Hando, one of the founding fathers of the re-born club after the former outﬁt went bankrupt in 1989, is cautiously optimistic about the future. "I was sorry to leave Spytty in many ways but the problem was we could never get promoted there because Newport council could not afford to upgrade it and, if we did, we wouldn't have the money for the team. So it was a Catch 22 situation,” he said.
Newport United "But there are so many advantages with Rodney Parade and I think our supporters have taken to it. The crowds have doubled and doubled in the past weeks. They are coming here now in their thousands and we have got to keep them coming. "When we set up the new club after the sad demise of the old team 23 years ago, the aim was to restore league football to Newport and that remains the aim. We didn't say how long it was going to take." These are giants leaps in some respects and small steps in others, but how ﬁtting it would be in County's centenary season for them to return to the Promised Land next May and under Scadding's chairmanship they go up automatically without the lottery of the play-offs. sportingwales
CARDIFF BLUES COMPETITION
This Cardiff Blues short sleeve third pro shirt manufactured by Canterbury of New Zealand is a contemporary ﬁt jersey featuring the 'loop 21' neck design. It is a cut & sew construction with contrast panel detail and also has a sublimated lower body and shoulders with taping detail.
To be in with the chance of winning this great new shirt ready for the start of the rugby season answer this question. What is the name of stadium the Cardiff Blues play their homes games?
LINKS OF LONDON COMPETITION As creators of the ofﬁcial jewellery collection for London 2012, Links of London have designed an iconic Team GB collection and Sporting Wales are lucky enough to have three Team GB bands to give away as competition prizes. Intended to represent Genuine Belief in yourself and others, the members of Team GB are wearing it with pride. The band utilises Great Britain's national colours of red and blue, with a silver plate plaque inscribed with 'Team GB'.
All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning one of these great Links of London Team GB bands is answer this question.
Which country hosted the 2008 Olympic Games?
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST COMPETITION Survival of the Fittest is back in Cardiff for 2012. Packing a stunning 10k urban assault course into the city centre, with tough and engaging obstacle zones throughout the course, you will pit your wits against 1000s of fellow “Survival” competitors in a test of stamina, grit, speed and guts. Over 25,000 participants take on these totally unique challenge events every year, making this the UK’s largest adventure race series. Want to be in with a chance of taking part? Simply answer this question: Which Northern city is Survival coming to for the ﬁrst time in 2012? A. Newcastle B. Manchester C. Leeds
Send your answer along with your name and address to email@example.com. Don't forget to include the competition name in the subject. Terms and conditions: Closing date for entry is 12.00pm Monday 29th October 2012. No purchase is necessary to enter these competitions. The prize is non transferable and there is no cash alternative. The winner/s of each competition will be automatically chosen from the correct entries received by the speciﬁed closing date. The winner/s will be contacted directly by Sporting Wales. The winner/s will be notiﬁed within 14 days of the competition closing. Competition entrants will be added to the Sporting Wales database and will receive a free digital copy of the new issue of our magazine to their inbox every two months. If you don’t wish to be added to this list please add a note at the bottom of your email entry.
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