Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Welsh Success on the World Stage

In our latest blog spot Sport Wales Chair, Professor Laura McAllister reflects on recent Welsh sporting success and highlights our growing reputation in the field of disability sport - with a view to the London 2012 Paralympics - and the need to adopt a 'no compromise' attitude to maintain this momentum at all levels of sport. 

"Now that we’ve celebrated a Year to Go to the Olympics and Paralympics, London 2012 suddenly seems so near on the horizon.

"It’s been fantastic to see our Welsh athletes excel on the world stage. Dai Greene executed his race brilliantly at the Worlds in South Korea. It’s also been really exciting to follow Helen Jenkins’ season and it is wonderful to celebrate yet another World Champion from Wales.

"Taekwondo’s Jade Jones, Para-archery’s Pippa Britton and Para-Cycling’s Mark Colbourne – who has made rapid progress since he broke his back in May 2009 – have all claimed silvers at World Championships.

"Our young talent has also been in the limelight, thanks to the UK School Games and the Commonwealth Youth Games. Wales finished fifth in the medal table at the latter event – a result which I believe augurs well for Wales success at Glasgow 2014. Hats off to the team who won five golds, 11 silver, 10 bronze.

"We’ve had such success lately, I’m acutely aware that I’m in danger of missing someone out so I’ll stop there.

"The Year to Go to the Paralympics was a great opportunity to reflect on our success to date in disability sport in Wales.

"I firmly believe that Wales is trailblazing as a nation when it comes to disability sport. We take it very seriously and this is demonstrated by the fact that Welsh competitors were responsible for a quarter of the gold medals won by Team GB back in 2008.

"Whenever I’m in London with UK Sport, Sue Campbell (Chair), and Peter Keen (Director of Performance) always look to Wales as an exemplar of what can be achieved in disability elite sport. That is certainly gratifying.

"We are proud to welcome the likes of New Zealand and Australia to Wales for their preparation camps before going into the Games. Recently, the First Minister announced that the entire Oceanic Paralympic region has committed to coming here, which is great news. They’ll be sure to receive a warm welcome and I’m sure that their stay will be part of a long-term relationship where we can learn lessons from each other.

"Of course there’s always more we can do. In terms of grassroots sport, we’ve set out our stall and declared that the ambition is to get every child in Wales hooked on sport for life. If we’re serious, it means every child – disabled or non-disabled. That is a significant challenge but Disability Sport Wales’ community programme has made huge strides already. They provide around one million grassroots sport opportunities, which is phenomenal.

"And to see the likes of World javelin record holder Nathan Stephens and Aled Sion Davies come through the community programme to being at the top of their game is incredible.

"I’m a firm believer that the sports sector in Wales can all learn from high performance sport. We at Sport Wales need to behave more like our world class athletes – we need to feel pressure, we need to think about the 0.01% which will deliver success, we need to be edgy.

"We’ve just undergone a painful process of reorganization and it’s been difficult, especially for some. But looking at the process positively and constructively, perhaps it helps us to understand the athlete mentality in terms of the ‘no compromise’ approach.

"The reason that Dai Greene, Helen Jenkins and Nathan Stephens have improved is because they are under pressure to achieve. Athletes thrive and flourish in this high challenge environment. We also need to live and breathe this if we are to really raise our game."