Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Sport Review - What a Year!

Happy New Year! Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

As we usher in 2012 – and the biggest, most exciting, sporting event to be staged on home turf for generations – we wave a fond farewell to one of the most memorable years in Welsh sport for some considerable time.

2011 was a landslide year for sport in Wales. We had some incredible highs; with a plethora of World Champions, medal winners and outstanding team performances. And some poignant lows; with the tragic passing of national football manager, Gary Speed, and falling agonisingly short of a place in the Rugby World Cup final.

So without further ado, let’s take a nostalgic jog down memory lane to relive some of the standout moments of the sporting calendar. If this doesn’t make you proud to be Welsh then nothing will!


Nathan Stephens, strikes gold for GB at the Paralympic Athletics World Championships in New Zealand. The 23-year-old threw a lifetime best of 39.11m for victory.

Chief Executive of Disability Sport Wales, Jon Morgan, singled out the performances of all the Welsh athletes – excelling as Nathan did – at the World and Euro International Paralympic Committee (IPC) events to gather 94 medals in total, as his sporting highlight.


Jade Jones, from Flint, wins a silver medal at the Taekwondo World Championships in Gyeongju, South Korea. The 18-year-old had double cause for celebration when her -57kg weight division was later chosen for the London 2012 Olympics. One to watch!

Swansea City, become the first Welsh side to reach the Premier League when they beat Reading 4-2 at Wembley in the Championship play-off final - just eight years after nearly dropping out of the Football League. Partisan Swans fans working for Sport Wales gave this 10% of the share of votes in our own poll.

Geraint Thomas, cruises to his first major professional win at the Tour of Bavaria and then went on to secure three top-10 stage finishes in his third Tour de France, where he wore the white jersey for best young rider for several stages.


Steve Thomas, and his GBR Sonar crew mates, sailed a course for a silver medal at the IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championships at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. Steve, 34, from Bridgend, narrowly missed out on gold due to a controversial points ruling but will be aiming to go one better at the London 2012 Paralympics, where he has already secured a qualifying berth.


Nathan Stephens, breaks the F57 javelin world record with a throw of 41.37 metres to win the Czech Athletics Open in Olomouc. The Paralympic thrower, from Bridgend, threw over 40 metres for the first time, just three weeks after scoring his previous best of 39.80m. Five percent of our Sport Wales staff voted Nathan’s successes as their highlight of 2011.


Dai Greene, the 25-year-old scorches home for Britain's first gold of the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea in a time of 48.26 seconds, adding the world crown to his European and Commonwealth titles. Our loyal Facebook followers emphatically voted Dai’s achievement as their top sporting highlight of the year with 67% of the votes in our online poll. Dai’s stunning victory also came out joint top amongst Sport Wales staff, taking a quarter of all votes in our Yammer poll.

Helen Jenkins, the British triathlete wins her second World Triathlon Championship after a consistently high flying season in one of the most gruelling sports on earth. Helen’s triumph received strong support from Sport Wales staff, ranking third most memorable sporting achievement with 20% of the votes.

Wales’ Commonwealth Youth Games team, finish fifth in the medal table, bringing back 26 medals from the Isle of Man. There were outstanding performances across the entire team but special mentions must go to swimmer Ieuan Lloyd who dominated the pool (with three golds, a silver and a bronze) and gymnast Angel Romaeo who dazzled on the centre stage (with a gold, silver and bronze). Team Wales’ achievements landed 10% of Sport Wales staff votes for most memorable sporting highlights. 

Tom James, Coedpoeth’s Olympic gold medallist, picks up his first world title by helping the men’s four to clinch gold in Bled, Slovenia at the World Rowing Championships. Fellow Wrexham rowers Victoria Thornley and Chris Bartley also picked up bronze medals in the women’s eights and lightweight men’s four.

Mark Colbourne, wins a silver medal in the time trial event at the Paracycling Road World Championships in Denmark. It was his debut at this level, racing for GB, after breaking his back in a paragliding accident just two years earlier.


Nathan Cleverly, defends his WBO light-heavyweight crown and maintains his unblemished professional record, by beating British and Commonwealth champion Tony Bellew at the Liverpool Echo Arena. Flyweight Andrew Selby and welterweight Fred Evans also deserve special mentions for picking up European Championship golds (plus silver for Selby at the World Amateur Championships) and qualification for London 2012.

Chaz Davies, the 24-year-old motorcyclist becomes the first Welshman to win a world Superbike class title when he took the 12-match series by storm. The Yamaha biker won six races in the 2011 Supersport Championship and became just the second Briton to win the title since its inception in 1997.

The Welsh Rugby team, dazzle down under with some electrifying running rugby that attracts many admirers. Playing arguably the best rugby of all the nations on show in New Zealand, a 14-man Wales were narrowly squeezed out of their pulsating semi-final match with France, losing 9-8 to Les Bleus. More than 60,000 fans packed out the Millennium Stadium to watch on the big screens as a dangerous tackle from captain, Sam Warburton, led to his controversial sending off followed by an epic fight back that alas was not enough to get us to the final to face the All Blacks.

For many though, including Hugh Lewis AM, the Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage, Gatland’s men gifted us with one of the most memorable and uplifting sporting campaigns in recent memory.  Thirty three percent of our Facebook followers voted this their favourite sporting memory and Sport Wales staff ranked it joint top (along with Dai) in their estimations. 


The Wales national football side, end their international season on a high, beating Norway 4-1 to secure their third consecutive victory on the bounce - a feat not seen since 2008. That emphatic result capped four wins from their last five results. This rich seam of form, which saw Wales break into the top 50 FIFA ranked teams, made the untimely passing of national Manager, Gary Speed, all the more poignant.

Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, told us that the emergence of young talented players making an impact at international level was amongst his sporting highlights.


Chaz Davies, famously scoops the BBC Cymru Wales Sports Personality of the Year award. Chaz was applauded by the motorsport contingent at Sport Wales and there was a special mention to Mardy AFC for avoiding the drop in 2010-11 – both achievements made up the final 5% of Sport Wales votes.

A great year then but we’re hoping for even bigger things from 2012. Bring it on!