Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Power of the Podium by Brian Davies

With Wales effectively kicking off the London 2012 Olympics today, with the women’s football taking place at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, Sport Wales is aiming to capture the excitement to create a lasting legacy for Welsh sport. Brian Davies, Sport Wales High Performance Manager tells us how the power of the podium could inspire a generation of Welsh youngsters.

Geraint Thomas, Nicole Cooke and Tom James:
Our defending Olympic champions
Those that remember seven years ago when the bid announcement was made by Jacques Rogge I don’t suppose that many then believed that Cardiff would have anything to do with it. So for the capital city of Wales to actually play a part, and a real prominent part kicking off the Olympics really prior to the opening ceremony, I think most people would have been really pleased with that result seven years ago.

If you cast your mind back to 1999, when Wales hosted the Rugby World cup, we wouldn’t be here now without that event. We wouldn’t have had the Millennium Stadium built; we wouldn’t have had the St David’s 2 development; or enough hotels to host the teams that play at the Millennium Stadium. So there’s a legacy from a sporting event just there.

That really is what London’s bid was based upon. That’s what Seb Coe promised and I think in Wales there’s been a real effort to engage with the youth through the Young Ambassador’s scheme (the school’s scheme linked to 2012), and the torch relay, that you couldn’t help be enthused and motivated and uplifted by.

We’ve got schemes, like 5x60, where we’re trying to engage with children who aren’t in mainstream sport putting on activities like surfing, golf or dance or whatever might push their buttons. Legacy is about people. You can put a scheme in place but unless people really want to achieve something it won’t happen. When I worked in development it was about finding those people who can deliver for you and then believing in them and giving them what they wanted, not just coming up with a scheme. The schemes we do have are designed to help those kind of enthusiastic people.

Having Dai Greene, or Helen Jenkins, or Jade Jones from Flint, standing on the podium at the Olympics has the power to generate and inspire just like the strapline says; a generation of young people. I’m sure anyone who’s got an interest in sport was inspired by someone at the top and this is a real opportunity for us. We’ve got 30 Welsh people taking part in the biggest sporting event in the world, which is a fantastic number and a fantastic opportunity.

If you read our strategy document it says that we’re hoping to win 6-10 medals across the next two Olympics. Welsh athletes did amazingly well in Beijing with five medals, three of those gold. If we can equal Beijing’s haul I think that’s a fantastic achievement and we’re half way to the target that was set.

Guy’s like Dai are hugely level headed, they know their abilities. When you saw him run the world title race he beat his latest challenger into second place and what you had there was Dai knowing his ability. He’s now had a good build up and I’m sure he’s confident of his own ability. Geraint (Thomas) is certainly confident; he’s with one of the best teams in the world with British Cycling.

Along with Tom James he's the defending champion. Jade Jones, she’s the junior world champion, Olympic youth champion and world silver medallist. Helen Jenkins, she’s the double world champion! These guys are sure of their own ability. Anything can happen on the day but whatever happens to them they will have done fantastically well.

Keep track of all our Welsh athletes at London 2012 and follow @sport_wales on Twitter for all the latest news. Remember to use the #2012cymruwales hash tag!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rhythmic Gymnastics - So you want to be the next Frankie Jones?

Jo Coombs, Head of Performance and Excellence at Welsh Gymnastics is coach and mentor to TeamGB rhythmic gymnast Frankie Jones. In this blog she tells us about Frankie's early years in the sport and explains why rhythmic gymnastics is a great sport to be involved in.

Wales' Frankie Jones: TeamGB's soul individual
rhythmic gymnast at London 2012
The flawless beauty of Rhythmic Gymnastics lies in the complex combination and technique in handling the apparatus.

On 4 July Francesca Jones was officially announced as Team GB's sole individual representative for Rhythmic Gymnastics at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Frankie, who is from Wellingborough in Northampton, surprisingly started training in Artistic Gymnastics when she was ten years old and then came to rhythmic aged 12.

“In the early days of coaching Frankie she was quiet, methodical and hard working. She was very receptive to improving and generally a lovely gymnast to coach," says Jo Coombs, Frankie’s Welsh Coach and mentor.

“Frankie was potential talent from the word go. She was very capable of doing the elements of a high degree of difficulty, which would show that she actually had the talent,  as well as having a good range of movement and skill ability.

“I remember teaching Frankie a back flexion pirouette when she was younger - an element most gymnasts find nigh on impossible to learn - but Frankie had the natural capabiltities to get into that position.

“It has been those natural skills that have allowed her to progress onto more difficult skills,” adds Jo.

As a competitive discipline Rhythmic Gymnastics evolved toward the 1920s in the USSR. However it wasn’t until the late 1950s that it received the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) recognition. The individual competition premiered in Budapest in 1963 at the World Championships and Rhythmic Gymnastics was fully included in the Olympics in 1984 at the Los Angeles Games.

“Rhythmic Gymnastics  is very watchable as a spectator sport," Jo explains. "It’s elegant; it incorporates the skills of an acrobat, the dexterity of a juggler and the beauty of a dancer. It maintains the feminine form and stays true to the flexibility elements associated with gymnastics,”

Rhythmic Gymnasts perform to music on a floor area measuring 13x13 metres and they use five pieces of hand apparatus rope, ball, hoop, clubs and ribbon but only four during a competition, (which four, is decided on a rotational basis before the competition begins). Apparatus must be handled with as much variety as possible and must be in constant motion. Routines include specific fundamental groups of body movements and technical groups that incorporate a variety of shape, amplitude, direction plane and speed along with apparatus usage.

The apparatus

The Rope is made of hemp, or other synthetic material, and is proportional to the gymnasts’ height. The fundamental groups of body movement for the rope include; jumps, leaps, skips and hops. The technical elements are jumps and skips. The rope is a very dynamic piece of apparatus requiring agility, jumping ability and co-ordination.

The Hoop is made of plastic or wood. The groups of body movement required for the hoop are; jumps, leaps, pivots, balance and flexibility. Technical groups are rolls over the body on the floor, rotations around the hand or other parts of the body throws and catches. Handling the apparatus includes swings, circle and figure of eights.

The Ball is the elegant piece of apparatus and is made of rubber. Technical groups of body movement include throws, catches, bouncing and rolling over the body or on the floor. Handling elements involved with the ball are ‘thrusts’, swings, circles, figure of eights and flip overs.

The Club are 40-50cm long and are made of wood or a synthetic material. The fundamental body movements for the clubs are balance elements. The technical groups of body movements include mills, small circles, throws, catches and tapping. Handling elements are ‘thrusts’, figure of eights and asymmetrical movements.

The Ribbon was first introduced in 1971 at the World Championships in Cuba. It is made of satin, measures six metres long and 4-6cm wide. The fundamental groups of body movement are pivots. The technical groups are; ‘snakes’, spirals, throws, catches and small tosses. Handling elements include; ‘thrusts’, swings, circles and figure of eights. Movements with the ribbon should be large and free flowing and require strength of shoulders and arm muscles.

“Children should give Rhythmic Gymnastics a try because it improves, like all forms of gymnastics, fundamental skills for life, which can transferable onto other sports and other ways of life. It’s a sociable sport which teaches children discipline and respect, plus it’s a whole lot of fun,” Jo continues.

“Having Frankie at the Olympics will help bring the discipline to life, in-terms of creating a wider exposure for Rhythmic Gymnastics, which will be great for which will be great for existing clubs offering Rhythmic Gymnastics. It also presents an opportunity for other gymnastic clubs to start up Rhythmic sections, which Welsh Gymnastics can help support.”

Currently you can try Rhythmic Gymnastics at Llanelli Gymnastic Club, Phoenix Gymnastic Club and Barry YMCA.

For more information visit Welsh Gymnastics and follow @GymnationWales on Twitter.

Cycling - So you want to be the next Geraint or Nicole?

Ian Jenkins is Director of Cycling Development at Welsh Cycling. With Nicole Cooke and Geraint Thoamas dazzling the nation with their pedal power,  Ian tells us why any budding cyclists out there should take up the sport and how.

Geraint Thomas: Men's Team Pursuit Olympic champion

The ‘whizz’ of wheels, flash of colour and shouts of excitement can be seen at any cycle event, be it the extremes of off-roading at a Mountain Bike race, the speed of sprinting in a Road event or the thrills (and spills!) experienced on the BMX circuit.

Cycle sport is unique in allowing all abilities to compete over similar terrain, enjoying the competition whilst experiencing the ‘buzz’ of professional racing. Fancy the Olympic Mountain Bike Race? Get into the woods and race the trails! Tour de France? Sprint for the road signs! 

Cycling is a fantastic sport where participants on any bike can enjoy the thrill of racing, and where everyone can match their endeavours to the professionals…

Many people have a bike. Gathering dust in the garage – get out the hose pipe! Feeling flat in the shed – pump up the tyres and get pedalling! Cycle sport is often seen as the domain for an elite few, but opportunities exist where all abilities and ages can get involved, pin on a number and head to the start line. 

Disciplines such as Cyclo Cross are easy to enter and with a reasonable level of general fitness, ideal for those wishing to exercise their competitive spirit in the company of like minded enthusiasts! It also allows for an fun workout whilst enjoying the great outdoors.

The best way to find out where the best competitions, rides and like minded enthusiasts is through your local cycling club.

Finding a club is easy – check the ‘club finder’ link from British Cycling’s website and look for your chosen interest. Clubs are many and varied, so don’t be afraid to make contact and find out which suits you. Most clubs have a focus on specific disciplines, and many split between an interest in ‘true’ competition and personal challenges through popular ‘Sportive’ challenges and rides.

The club finder can be found from  .

Those dusting off their bike, getting active and even making the leap into competition will get a head start on the explosion of enthused new participants expected through the ‘Olympic interest’. Welsh stars and defending Champion’s Nicole Cooke and Geraint Thomas are expected to inspire a new generation of young and old participants to get active and take to the pedals!

Welsh Cycling are particularly keen for youngsters wanting to try the sport to enjoy one of our Go-Ride coaching or competition activities. Full details of your nearest club and competitions can be found on the Welsh Cycling website. Be inspired and try cycle sport – our next Olympian could be you!

Follow @WelshCycling on Twitter.

#2012cymruwales - Sue Maughan, Games Maker (Part 2)

With London 2012 now fully up and running, we hear from Sport Wales staff who are joining the thousands of volunteers who'll be keeping the Games ticking behind the scenes. We caught up with Senior Officer, Sue Maughan who has been chosen as a Games Maker official for athletics at both the Olympics and Paralympics. 

So with selection as a National Technical official in the bag (or so I thought) May saw the start of my journey to London, quite literally.

Every Olympic event had a designated test event, a chance for various aspects of the stadium to be put to the test, whether it’s the security, medal presentations or even how athletes will be led to their event start point. The athletics test event was the BUCS Athletics Championships, held between 4-7 May with the Paralympic test event taking place on 8 May. 

Sue Maughan: London 2012 Games Maker
So, on the train to London I got, with bags packed full of officiating kit, wet weather gear and clothes for a six day stay. I suppose hitting London at rush hour, and dragging my case and bags on the tube across London, will be good practice for July but note to self; try and avoid rush hour trains and tubes next time!

So I arrived at the hotel early evening, checked into my hotel just across the road from the Olympic Park, and joined the throng of other officials in the queue to get our event accreditation. I knew a few faces but I’d know a lot more by the end of the long weekend.

That evening we had a National Technical Officials (NTO) briefing scheduled which would be inside the stadium. For me it was my first visit to the Olympic Park and site of the stadium where I’d be spending several weeks over the summer. Security was minimal at this time of night but was our first taste of things to come. I think it’s fair to say that all the officials were like little kids, all wanting our photo taken, all with big grins on our faces...We were actually here, it was really happening. 

We were given a quick behind the scenes guided tour, avoiding the construction and finishing touches that were still underway, before being briefed. We were told we were selected because we were the best but it was also made clear that we were still under test with final selections being made at the end of the month.  Time to be on best behaviour!
The Olympic Stadium in Stratford

Following technology training the competition kicked off on Friday night. What an experience for those University students who were participating…one to tell their grandkids about.

Duties for me included the pole vault, discus, javelin and the long jump and as the weekend progressed the conviviality between officials grew, we sharpened up on our presentation, marching out to competition sites, sitting smartly at event sites. Our aim was not to be seen and noticed, but to ensure the competition ran as smoothly as possible. 

Five days of completion flew by and I think we even got a bit complacent about where we were, but it still brought a smile to my face when I thought about it. The next time I’d be here would be for the Olympics where things would be on a much bigger scale, with more people, more security and the athletes competing for much higher stakes.

The end of May finally brought the confirmation of ‘official selection as an NTO’ for the Olympics and Paralympics. Emails have since been flying in around arrival times, kit collection and even how much sun-cream we can take into the stadium and what sunglasses we can wear. So now it’s next stop London on 31 July with bags getting packed as we speak.

Keep track of all our Welsh athletes at London 2012 and follow @sport_wales on Twitter for all the latest news. Remember to use the #2012cymruwales hash tag!

Triathlon - So you want to be the next Helen Jenkins?

Triathlon coach Chris Goulden met Helen Tucker when she was just 15. His daughter was a member of the same swim club as Helen and it was Chris that persuaded her to give triathlon a go.
He coached her for three years, helping her to develop the training, skills and techniques that have gone some way to her becoming the athlete she is now.
In her first year, she made tremendous progress – becoming GB Youth Champion and European Small Nations Champion. Today of course, she can boast that she has competed at an Olympics and has won the World Championships.

Back then I was National Coach for Wales and I was asked to put together a team to compete at the European Youth Challenge event in Hungary. I was struggling for team members so I asked Helen if she’d give it a try and she said yes.
I knew she could swim but then we had half a dozen trial sessions and she really stood out. She is such an aerobic animal and seemed to just effortlessly and efficiently develop her skills.
She is such an unassuming person and doesn’t shout about her herself. So polite and well-mannered as well but with an inner determination to succeed.
As with a lot of the younger triathletes she had some setbacks and quite a few tumbles from the bike. But it didn’t phase her, she’s quite a tough cookie.
At the age of 15, being quite a talented swimmer, Helen had the chance to try something different and lucky for us it was triathlon. Timing is everything as they say.
Triathlon seems to be really growing in popularity and participation at the moment. In the mid 80’s when I started it was quite a niche sport. We’ve seen things like marathon running have a boom but now sports like triathlon are seeing it.
I speak to many people and they like having the chance to tackle the three different disciplines, from the short sprint events up to Ironman.
The pride in seeing Helen develop into the World Class athlete that she is today is hugely satisfying and will remain with me all my life. It’s very difficult to put into words, but it’s been a most worthwhile and rewarding experience.
Triathlon has provided me with superb memories, great friends, kept me fit and provided challenges completely different to those you’d come across in normal working experiences.

Hockey - So you want to be the next Sarah Thomas?

As we enjoy seeing Sarah Thomas in action with the women's TeamGB hockey team at the London 2012 Olympics, Matt Davies, Business and Communication Officer at Hockey Wales tells us exactly why people in Wales should pick up a hockey stick.

TeamGB's 'Welsh Wizard' Sarah Thomas 

Hockey is the perennial outside sport, a competitive game of 11 v 11 that stays agonisingly close to the mainstream, but never finding enough traction to push it into the wider public view, a sport (which to some) conjures up images of cold playgrounds, skimmed knees and angry PE teachers.

With London 2012 now in full swing, Hockey may finally have its chance to shine and throw off these old shackles and show the public what it’s been missing all of these years. A chance to show that the sport, is a vibrant, fun and energetic past time which is as far removed from the freezing cold pitches of years gone by.

The 2012 Olympic Games brings together two GB squads that are both hungrily eyeing up the medal positions. This year we are all delighted to see that the “Welsh Wizard” Sarah Thomas (or Tommo as she is known to the team) gets a second chance at Olympic glory.

Sarah, who started her career at Dowlais Ladies Hockey Club, has gone from strength to strength, including making the massive step of moving from Wales to Holland to play for Rotterdam Hockey Club in Netherlands.

So while Sarah is out on the field in London, we here are Hockey Wales are getting ourselves ready with tons of really exciting events happening across Wales. Our Clubs are the best way of getting involved in Hockey, not only so someone can show you the ropes and get you started but they will also make sure you have a great time.

The #hockeyfamily is one of the friendliest groups in Sport so you will always find a help.
If you’re ready to go we always suggest you bring shin pads and mouth guards (just to be sure) but most clubs can loan you a stick until you’re ready to buy your own!

You can also check for more information as we will be posting up lots of great activities happening during and after the games themselves!

So get behind Team GB and why not follow @HockeyWales on Twitter. Join in the London 2012 celebrations on twitter and be sure to use the #2012cymruwales hash tag to show your support for our Welsh athletes!

Taekwondo: So you want to be the next Jade Jones?

David Baker, Head Coach of Matrix Taekwondo was Olympic taekwondo star Jade Jones' first ever coach during her early years in the sport. In this blog he tells us about those early years and explains why any youngsters feeling inspired by Jade should get involved in taekwondo.

I first met Jade on Saturday 29 January 2005 at the Morgan Llwyd Sports Centre in Wrexham. Paul Green had come to do a Sport Taekwondo seminar for my club Matrix Taekwondo. You might not know the name but Paul Green is a ten time British Champions, multiple European Champion, World Silver medalist and Olympic quarter finalist.

Jade was doing a semi-contact style of Taekwondo with an independent taekwondo group in her home town of Flint so this seminar was her first try at WTF Olympic Taekwondo. I doubt whether Paul Green remembers Jade from that day but he now coaches her full-time at the GB Taekwondo Academy in Manchester.

Jade at the Paul Green Seminar at Morgan Llwyd Sports Hall in Wrexham

The next day on 30 January we held a competition at the Morgan Llwyd Sports Hall called the Anglo Welsh Taekwondo Cup (WTF). Jade’s Granddad, Martin, sent me Jade’s application form for the Paul Green seminar with a covering letter asking if Jade could take part in the competition the next day and if so would I be able to coach her. I agreed and remember her first match quite well. Jade really looked like she was enjoying herself and won the match. I remember saying to Martin afterwards that I thought she would be better suited for the WTF style rather than a semi contact style.

I didn’t see Jade again until 2006. Jade and Martin contacted me saying that Jade wanted to have a serious go at the Olympic style of Taekwondo and she started travelling the 20 mile journey from Flint to Wrexham each week to train with us. A few weeks later Olympic Bronze Medalist, Sarah Stevenson and her fiancé (now husband and another of the GB coaches) Steven Jennings came to the Morgan Llwyd Sports Centre in Wrexham to do a Sport Taekwondo Seminar for Matrix Taekwondo. Jade came to this seminar and I could already see big improvements in her change of style.

As well as training for Sport Taekwondo Jade also had to learn a new martial art with new patterns so that she could get a Kukkiwon WTF Black Belt to enable her to compete at a high level. Jade and my daughter Danielle used to spar together in training and Danielle also taught Jade the new patterns. Jade did not complain about the extra work she had to put in. In fact Jade never complained about anything but I did notice a few times that Jade looked unhappy if the training wasn’t hard enough. She continued learning the new patterns and eventually got her Kukkiwon Black Belt at the UTA Dan Grading in Manchester headed by Grandmaster TW Shin who she had been doing extra training with to get ready for the grading.

2008 British Champions: Danielle Baker and Jade Jones
On the Sport side Jade had started doing well and was catching the eye at Taekwondo Opens in the UK as we travelled regularly to places like County Durham and Barnsley. Then it was time to go to Europe; so we went to the Dutch Open in Eindhoven. Straight away Jade was competing well against some of the best Taekwondo players in the World and Europe. We were very lucky to have Paul Green and his Father Brian Green working with Jade. At the British Championships in September 2008 both Jade and Danielle became Junior British Champions in their weight divisions.

It was time to move up another level so I contacted Sport Wales and arranged a meeting at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff. We discussed Elite level Taekwondo and funding. Jade had now been noticed by the GB Taekwondo team and, with initial funding help from Sport Wales, she got a place at the full time academy in Manchester. Soon after Jade won Silver in the Junior World Championships and qualified for the Youth Olympic Games where she won Gold. In her first Senior World Championships Jade won Silver, which shows how remarkable this teenage fighter from Flintshire truly is. We will see Jade next on 9 September 2012 at the London Olympic Games. Whatever happens I'm so proud of her!

What makes Taekwondo such a great Sport?

Taekwondo is a Sport based on a Korean martial art. It is known for its kicks so with Boxing and Judo already in the Olympics it is the obvious choice to be included. It is very dynamic and energetic and you feel great after a good training session and even better after a good match. The training improves your fitness, stamina, flexibility, and confidence.

Why should people give it a try?

Taekwondo is not as well known in Wales, and the UK, as it is in other countries. The Olympics will introduce the Sport to more people in the UK and if Jade does well the Sport will have a bigger profile in Wales.

It has something for everyone; it is not just for people who want to enter competitions. We have the patterns and the traditional side of the art. It is a lot of fun and you get to learn something as well as the self-defense benefits.

Where can they go if they want to join a club?

If you are in North Wales visit Matrix Taekwondo.
For the rest of the UK you can visit the British Taekwondo club finder.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weightlifting - So you want to be the next Natasha Perdue or Gareth Evans?

As we look forward to our Welsh athletes competing at London 2012 this blog comes from weightlifting coach Ray Williams (pictured left). The 53-year-old former Royal Welch Guard Fusilier won gold at the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games and now proudly holds the title of Welsh Weightlifting Federation Head Coach.

Ray is a pillar of the Holyhead community and his Mill Bank club produced London 2012 Olympic weightlifting team member Gareth Evans. 

I first met Gareth back in 2003 when I left the army and took over as club coach. I could tell straight away that this young lad had bags of potential – he’s just so athletic.
He is such a nice lad as well, so full of life and the ‘life and soul’ of the place wherever he goes.
The psychology is so important now and seeing the competition in the mind to have that mental build-up. I’ve told Gareth, imagine yourself making that lift successfully 1000 times, keep thinking it, imagine how you are going to do it.
Of course, London 2012 is such a big event that another important aspect is to control the excitement. It’s important to relax and be ready to explode on that stage when the right time comes.
As well as wanting to do well in London, I think Gareth can really put down a marker of his ability to do well in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.
I’m going to watch Gareth and I think I’ll be the most excited person at the ExCel Centre after his mum and dad.
I think those of us in the sport love the sport of weightlifting because it’s all about wanting to be stronger than the next person. I think it’s the sport that’s most based around power – a bit like the pole vault is for athletics.
Weightlifting is always one of the most visual and popular parts of any major Games and London will be no different. If people see the sport and want to give it a go there are more opportunities now than ever. As well as gyms like ours in North Wales there is the massive growth of Crossfit, which is doing wonders for our sport.

I applaud Crossfit for the work they are doing because I think people in the Northern Hemisphere and becoming more aware of what people in the Southern Hemisphere have been doing for a while and bringing those fitness concepts here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Back of the net for football coach Stuart (#walescoty)

When Stuart Robson joined Caerphilly Castle Ladies and Girls FC in 2004 it had a small junior section and a ladies team.

Since then he has totally reformed the club and grown membership at a rapid rate. The club now caters for teams at under 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, youth and senior age-groups.

As well as helping the under 16's to one of their most successful seasons, he has provided the players with support to enable more than 10 players to achieve positions on the South Wales Girls League (SWGL) development squad. One player has even represented Wales in the home nations’ competition.
In recognition, Stuart was made Volunteer of the Year at the 2011 Sport Wales Coach of the Year Awards.

I was nominated in 2011 for the Sports Volunteer of the Year, which came completely out of the blue.

The nomination brought with it mixed emotions, initially you have the surprise, excitement and joy having been nominated, this then changed and I found it rather humbling given how many other people in my eyes do a lot more in the community with little or no recognition.

Having got over the shock of the nomination I was then even more surprised at the event itself, it was like being at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year! At the event I was once again shocked, humbled further but also elated when I was announced the winner of the Volunteer of the Year category.

There are so many volunteers whether in coaching roles or support roles in many sports clubs across Wales with little or no recognition. The amount of times people have said to me that they did not realise just how much time and commitment people gave to the club just emphasises how undervalued our volunteers and coaches are.

Whilst this awards ceremony addresses some of that recognition it does not probably go as far as what would be more beneficial to the hundreds and thousands of volunteers in Wales. I would strongly support and promote the event and advise everyone to nominate individuals and show their support and thanks to the many volunteers in sport and in Wales.
For more information and to nominate someone for the 2012 awards visit

Thursday, July 19, 2012

From spotlight to torchlight

Among the impressive winners at the 2011 Sport Wales Coach of the Year Awards was Young Coach/Volunteer of the Year Steve Thomas from Flintshire.

The Glyndŵr University graduate, and Platinum Young Ambassador, from Holywell, was Wales’ first Young Ambassador – a movement that aims to empower young people to become role models through sport, using the Olympic and Paralympic values to inspire others.

He was appointed Chair of Wales' Young Ambassador Steering Group and was nominated to be a Torchbearer ahead of the London 2012 games.

Thanks to him more than 6,000 Flintshire youngsters took part in sport during school holidays this year alone and his Olympic torch project is firing up children across all 88 schools in the county.

It was a huge honour to be nominated. To be recognised in this way was a huge reward for the work that I do in trying to get more children in schools, clubs and communities physically active and hooked on sport.

The Coaching Awards is a prestigious event and eclipsed everything I expected it to be. The awards recognise the achievements of people coaching in different sports and all levels of the coaching pathway from grassroots right through to elite. All of these coaches have a positive impact and make a significant difference to sport whether it be at local, regional or international level.

Coaches are pivotal to sport in Wales - they are the workforce that help organise, deliver and enable sports participation right across the country. They deserve to be celebrated because of the time, effort and commitment they put in to improving peoples sporting lives, which often goes unnoticed.

Coaches and volunteers don’t get the appreciation they deserve - they turn up in all weathers, they wash the kit, they organise fixtures, they coach sessions, they do all of the admin work - the list goes on! If they were to disappear tomorrow - where would that leave sport in Wales? When you think about that question - it makes you realise their importance to sport in our country.
If someone is making a positive difference to sport in your local area then I encourage you to nominate them. It is an opportunity to give them their 'moment to shine' in reward and recognition for all the hard work they put in.

For more information and to nominate someone for the 2012 awards visit

Monday, July 16, 2012

#2012cymruwales - Richard Dando, Games Maker

London 2012 is on its marks with less than two weeks to go until the Opening Ceremony kicks off. We've been hearing from Sport Wales staff who are joining the thousands of volunteers who'll be keeping the Games ticking behind the scenes. Here we hear from Senior Officer, Richard Dando who has been chosen as a Games Maker official with the Event Services team based at the Olympic Stadium.  

My journey as a London 2012 Games Maker started back in the summer of 2010 when I completed the online application form in the hope of being one of the 70,000 volunteers needed to help London stage the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I do a bit of volunteering for my local athletics club and have helped out at various sporting events but saw this as a chance to further practice what I preach in the day job.

In February 2011 I responded to a request from the nWelsh Government’s Nations and Regions team to interview the local Selection Event Volunteers (SEV’s) needed in Cardiff, who themselves would then interview potential Gamesmakers. I then volunteered to become an SEV myself and in June 2011 carried out a number of shifts at the Coal Exchange, Cardiff which was the dedicated Gamesmaker Selection Event for Wales. 

I found interviewing SEV’s and Gamesmakers very humbling; as I listened to people from all walks of life tell me their amazing volunteer experiences, passions and reasons for wanting to volunteer at the Games.  I managed to squeeze my Gamesmaker interview in at the same time and finished that fortnight inspired and glad I had put my name in the hat.

At the end of each Gamesmaker interview I had to tell the candidate that they could expect to find out between November 2011 and April 2012 as interviewing over 100,000 people was going to take a long time. Come March 2012, I still hadn’t heard anything and started to question my own advice about waiting until April!

Had they lost my interview? Or didn’t I have the skills necessary to volunteer?! It was mid April when I got an email confirmation that I would be part of the Event Services team based at the Olympic Stadium. That didn’t sound too bad to me!

I have subsequently made several trips to London to collect my Gamesmaker kit, attend ‘role specific’ training at Hackney Community College and more recently ‘venue specific’ training at the Olympic Stadium, which included a sneaky tour around!

So what will my role be?  The Events Service team have been called the ‘unofficial face of the Games’ and will be involved in front of house activities like ticket scanning, accreditation checking, queue management and showing spectators to their seats.  My first shift is Monday 23rd July which is the first public practice session of the opening ceremony and then I’m there for the opening ceremony on 27th July and 6 nights of athletics, which includes the showpiece 100m final!

It may not be the most glamorous of roles and I may have to say ‘This way please’ or ‘can I see your tickets please’ many times, but I’ll make sure I do it with a smile on my face knowing that my small role in the world’s biggest sporting event may inspire more people to participate in more sport and physical activity or to try it for the first time.

Watch this space for a day in the life of an Event Services Gamesmaker at the Olympic Stadium during games time.

Keep track of all our Welsh athletes at London 2012 and follow @sport_wales on Twitter for all the latest news. Remember to use the #2012cymruwales hash tag!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Today I took a sip of the jar where I wash my brushes.
That didn't happen for years.
I felt like a "real artist" again : )

Monday, July 9, 2012

#2012cymruwales - Sue Maughan, Games Maker

With less than a month to go now until London 2012 bursts into life, we hear from Sport Wales staff who are joining the thousands of volunteers who'll be keeping the Games ticking behind the scenes. Here we hear from Senior Officer, Sue Maughan who has been chosen as a Games Maker official for athletics at both the Olympics and Paralympics. 

Welsh Athletics official, Sue Maughan
From an early age Athletics was in my blood. My mum had competed for Cheshire schools and was a coach but if you’d said to me at the age of eight, when I followed in her footsteps and joined Colwyn Bay Athletics Club, that I’d be going to the 2012 Olympics I wouldn’t  have thought that it would be possible - especially not in the way that it has now worked out. 

I was a pretty good club runner and donned a Welsh vest a few times but in reality was never good enough to make it to the British, never mind the World stage, but my passion for athletics continued. As many people do I got the usual raft of coaching and officiating qualifications when I was at university including for athletics. I’m sure my first officiating duties were at a Midlands athletics fixture at Northwood stadium in Stoke-on-Trent.

My first job took me to Essex where I joined the newly formed Castle Point Athletics Club at the track in Canvey Island. Being a new club, volunteers were few and far between. So rather than resurrecting my athletics career I was soon helping out coaching at the club as well as officiating for the club at league fixtures on weekends. Out of interest, one of the new club members at the time was a certain Dean Macey…didn’t he go on to be quite a good athlete?!

Sue takes officiating in her stride!
A change in jobs took me back to Wales, but this time to the southern end of the country, where I signed up with Welsh Athletics as an athletics official. My mum and dad were also involved in officiating and it became the standing joke: "My parents are down this weekend," I'd say. "Oh, you’re officiating then?" But it was something we could share and continued to share for many years. I got more experience, officiated at different levels, and worked my way onto the UK National list for officials.

So how is it that I’m now off to the Olympics? Well with a once in a lifetime opportunity I signed up in August 2009, via UK Athletics, to be a Games Maker volunteer thinking that it would be great just to be part of this once in a lifetime experience. Then, in April 2011 the email arrived...

“We are delighted to confirm that you have been provisionally selected as a National Technical Official in Athletics for the Olympic Games in 2012.”

Colleagues in the office must have wondered what had happened with the shouts and cheers that came out of my mouth! Those cheers were to be repeated in September when I also received provisional selection for the Paralympic Games.

People often say that time flies. How true. It seemed so far off when I first applied to be a volunteer back in 2009, or even when the email came through in April 2011, but here it is less than a month away. 

I regularly just sit with a smile on my face in the office, or at home because I am going to the Olympics and Paralympics, and that distant dream will now become a reality.  My mum would have been so proud!

Keep track of all our Welsh athletes at London 2012 and follow @sport_wales on Twitter for all the latest news. Remember to use the #2012cymruwales hash tag!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A day in the life of a (feminine) feminist

We discussed in the alphanova-galery about chicksoncomics and feminism.
In the train back home I was sexually harrassed.
My mobile didn't know the word "feminism" but suggested the word "feminin" instead.