Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wales and Paralympic Pool by Huw Griffiths

Featuring a total of 600 athletes competing for 148 medals, swimming will be the second biggest competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Huw Griffiths is the National Disability Development Officer for Swim Wales.
Here he talks about competition at the Paralympics and who to look out for.
After the fantastic few weeks of sport we’ve just seen at the Olympics, this is the most anticipated Paralympics Games in history.
At the Aquatics Centre, Wales will have four extremely talented swimmers hoping to produce performances to the sell-out crowds.
Three of them have been to the Games before. Nyree Kindred (2 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze), Liz Johnson (gold and silver) and Rhiannon Henry (two bronze) bring significant experience to the table. The other is Morgyn Peters, who will be making his Games debut.
Picture: Morgyn Peters
All four have been getting access to high quality training. Liz and Rhiannon train at the British performance centre in Manchester, Nyree trains in Leominster with her husband Sasha – himself a multi-medallist in the pool – while Morgyn trains at his Millfield School. Morgyn has also been training with renowned disability coach Billy Pye at the performance centre in Swansea (alongside other Paralympians such as Ellie Simmonds) in the build up to London.
They are now in their final preparation camp in Manchester getting ready for the huge competition.
Being based in Swansea myself, I’ve been lucky enough to see Billy’s squad train and have a chat with Morgyn. He seems in great shape and is really excited about getting to London, as you would expect. Morgan is very quick and certainly a talent. In fact, I think he is one of the most talented young swimmers in the UK.
Picture: Liz Johnson
Swimming will certainly be one of the most hotly contested sports at the Games. In Beijing, 64 countries were represented by competing swimmers, while this time it will be 75. The growth is rapid with so many high-quality squads coming together for the meet.
Countries to look out for will be Brazil, Ukraine, China, Australia and New Zealand. Watch out for Andre Brasil (Esteves) from Brazil, or the Aussie Matt Cowdrey who will compete against Morgyn.
And ParamlympicsGB will be strong too. There’s Ellie Simmonds, of course, and Hannah Russell. For us, it will be people like Rhiannon Henry – who competes with a visual impairment – who will help us show that the disability is no barrier to being able to swim.
Picture: Nyree Kindred
I spent some time at Stratford for the Olympics and I must say the park is unbelievably accessible and has been built with the needs of the Paralympics in mind. I’m really looking forward to the opening and closing ceremonies to see the message they give about disability sport and the Games.
The buzz now is huge. Ticket sales for events are massive and I’m sure that the atmosphere will match what we witnessed at the Olympics.
I’m getting enquiries from people all the time asking if I have any spare tickets….but I don’t, they’ve all gone!
Picture: Rhiannon Henry
We will go into the meet with genuine hopes that our Welsh representatives will compete with the very best in disability swimming.
For more on Swim Wales visit www.swimwales.org
Follow Swim Wales disability development on Twitter @SWDisability and @SwimWales

When to watch
Rhiannon Henry  @Rhi_Henry
S13 50m Freestyle on 1st Septemer
S13 100m Freestyle on 2nd September
SM13 200m Individual Medley on 7th September
Liz Johnson @lizjohnson_gb
SM6 200m Individual Medley on 3rd September
SB6 100m Breaststroke on 5th September
Nyree Kindred @nyreekindredGB
S6 100m Backstroke on 30th August
Morgyn Peters @Morgyn_peters
S9 100m Backstroke on 31st August
Classification Information
Swimmers are classified according to how their impairment affects their ability to perform each stroke.
Classes are:
1–10: athletes with physical impairments. Class 1 swimmers’ impairment has the greatest impact on their ability to perform strokes; class 10 swimmers’ has the least impact.
11–13: athletes with a visual impairment. Class 11 swimmers have little or no sight; class 13 swimmers have limited sight.
14: athletes with an intellectual impairment compete in class 14.
Breaststroke uses greater leg propulsion than any other stroke, therefore athletes with a physical impairment often have a different class for this event compared to Freestyle, Backstroke and Butterfly.
This is also taken into account when athletes compete in the Individual Medley. This is shown by a prefix:
S before the class represents Freestyle, Backstroke and Butterfly events.
SB before the class represents Breaststroke events.
SM before the class represents Individual Medley events.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tracey Hinton: 6th Paralympic Games

London will be Traceys Hinton’s sixth Paralympic games. At the age of 42, ParalympicsGB's women's captain shows no signs of slowing down, in fact her times are getting quicker. With just days to go until the Paralympics kick off, she recalls the moment she got the phone call she had been selected for London.

Tracey Hinton: Welsh Paralympic sprinter

I was really nervous waiting for the phone call, I was in work, when the phone call came at 1.55pm. Peter Errikson rung me and said, ‘Congratulations Tracey you have been selected for the 100m and 200m.'

Even though its my sixth games, the excitement is still the same.

In reality I would like to medal in both events but a medal is a bonus and I am just thrilled to going to London. I am currently ranked fourth in the world in the 200meteres and fifth in the 100metres, as well as taking gold recently in the Europeans, so I have high hopes.

I’ve trained incredibly hard and I love training and competing and the buzz that comes with it. I hate not training. When I was injured last year for four months, I still trained everyday in the gym. Being motivated doesn't come in to it, this is just my life.

I run with a guide runner called Steffan. We have known each other for 10 years and we have a great relationship, it’s important that we have a good relationship on and off the track.

We have to work extremely hard to ensure we have the best technique possible. Steffen is my eyes, he guides me round the bends and keeps me in the correct lane. 

Without Steffan, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have this year, his job doesn’t end of the track, he helps me in so many ways.

Follow Tracey on Twitter @TraceyHinton100 and her guide runner Steffan @SteffRhughes.

Check out the Disability Sport Wales website and follow them on Twitter @dsw_news for all the latest disability sport news across Wales and at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Wales plays host to Pre-Games Training Camps

With 14 nations choosing Wales as their base for pre-games training camps, Jon Morgan, Executive Director for Disability Sport Wales, shares with us the behind the scenes work that has gone in to securing these teams as well as ensuring they receive access to the best facilitates Wales has to offer and most importantly building a on a London 2012 legacy.

The Paralympic Games may be happening 158 miles away up the M4 in London but for fourteen of the competing nations all roads have initially led to South Wales.

 For the past six years Welsh Government, in partnership with Disability Sport Wales and a range of partners including local authorities, facility and accommodation providers and transportation teams, have led a campaign to bring some of the World’s highest profile Paralympic teams to Wales for their pre-games training camps.

The likes of Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico and our very own British Cycling team have all chosen Wales for one of the most crucial elements of their build up to the 2012 Games. In making this decision they have all recognised Wales as a destination where they will not only be able to access world class facilities, but also receive world class services as well as the warmest of Welsh welcomes.

Wales National Pool in Swansea: one of the training venues
Behind the scenes an enormous operation has been taking place to ensure that Wales has been able to deliver all of the necessary services which are required to meet the very high standards and expectations of our visitors. Services including meet and greets for arrivals and departures, accessible transportation and accommodation, equipment and logistics, catering, sports science and medical services, volunteer deployments and of course access to high performance sports facilities have all been needed to ensure that Teams not only enjoy a successful pre-games camp but also that they leave Wales in the knowledge that we have delivered on our commitments.

Of course whilst pre-games camps primarily focus on those all important final preparations for the athletes, there are so many other benefits that they bring to Wales. Incoming Teams provide a timely and welcome boost to the local economy – in this case nearly 600 athletes staying for up to three weeks in some cases - that’s an awful lot of ‘bed-nights’, buses and meals! The camps also provide for cultural opportunities through community engagement, an aspect of the 2012 programme that has already gone particularly well with many children, young people and sports clubs already having been inspired by these world class athletes.

Legacy hasn’t been forgotten either. Whilst Welsh Government are hoping for return visits by some of these Teams for future pre-Games camps e.g. International Paralympic World Athletics Championships Lyon 2013 / Commonwealth Games 2014 etc here at Disability Sport Wales we have been building up links with the Australian and New Zealand Paralympic Committees, working together on areas of common interest and development. We are also supporting other nations such as India, Liberia, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands and are keen to assist them in the further development of Paralympic and disability sport in any way we can.

In just a few days time a six year project will draw to a close when we bid a very fond farewell to our overseas guests. We can be satisfied that Wales has once again lived up to its reputation as a passionate and committed country when it comes to Paralympic sport. We can also feel proud that in our own Welsh way we have made a huge contribution to what will surely be the greatest Paralympic Games of the modern era by hosting 14% of all the athletes that will compete.

The Teams have contributed so much to our own pre-Paralympic party and we thank them for their warmth, friendliness, energy and spirit. They are all worthy ambassadors of their countries and the Paralympic movement.

And as we wave them off to the Games, wishing them the very best of luck, I am sure that not one of them will begrudge us the opportunity to now turn our full attention and support to our own Greatest Team who will no doubt do us all proud come Games time. Go ParalympicsGB!

Follow Jon Morgan on Twitter @JonnyMogs.

Check out the Disability Sport Wales website and follow them on Twitter @dsw_news for all the latest disability sport news across Wales and at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Peter Errikson: UKA Paralympic Head Coach

Peter Errikson is UK Athletics Paralympic Head Coach. An undoubtedly successful Paralympic coach, he has coached athletes to win an incredible 119 medals at Paralympic Games since 1984.
He shares with us his advice to athletes going in to the London Paralympic Games, the changes that have been implemented within the performance team, as well as his thoughts on the Disability Sport Wales Academy and Performance structure.

Some of Wales' selected athletes heading for London
For the younger and less experienced athletes going into London I would advise them to be prepared. We have a good system with young and new athletes and the youngsters have somebody to look up to.

Getting to a big Games, like London for the first time, is a big shock. You have to go in there and do your best but at the same time you have got to have fun. If it becomes a panic situation, then you’re not having fun and you’re not going to want to do it again. 

There has been major change in performance in the run up to London, the most significant change being the culture of elitist sport; there is no excuse for not being well prepared.

There is the same approach as the Olympics team; same coaching, and same expectations. It is an investment in medals and I have said from day one, we continue hammering away at it, the athletes that have been on the rewards programme disappearing even more so after 2012.

The changing of the culture and training with Olympic athletes and Olympic coaches to see what it takes. Isolate yourself from the reality and the big world of elite sport doesn’t help you at all.

If I could  assist a first time athlete in the run up to London,  I would tell them; you can only do your best and then it is the question of being prepared, how well did they prepare and that will be the outcome of how well you do.

As for the Disability Sport Wales Programme, it is evident that is it the programme that is the most functional, from the academy team to the national team and its coaching. If you look from the perspective of a programme, that is the programme.

Finally my three key pieces of advice to any athlete is, have fun, do your best and never give up.

Check out the Disability Sport Wales website and follow them on Twitter @dsw_news for all the latest disability sport news across Wales and at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Anthony Hughes - London 2012 Paralympics

Anthony Hughes, has been the National Performance Manager for Disability Sport Wales for 14 years, he will be one of the lead UK Athletics throws coaches in London as part of the ParalympicsGB team. With 38 Welsh athletes in London he is sure to feel at home.

Anthony Hughes: Sport Wales Coach of the Year 2011
My key responsibility at the Games is to work alongside the Welsh athletes based in the ParalympicsGB athletics team, some of whom I coach in a variety of throws events.

Having said that I am also keen to ensure that I offer any support that is needed for  any of the Welsh members of the GB Team.

I have no doubt that as far as our  first time Welsh paralympians are concerned London 2012 will be an incredible  experience for them, and in some cases it may be overwhelming.

There will be a huge expectation and pressure on the shoulders of our young competitors.

Given my experience over many Games  I feel that I will be able to manage and support the ambitions of my own athletes as well as assisting other Welsh athletes from other sports.

Sometimes a friendly face at Games time can make all the difference. Keeping pressures at bay such as the media and other Games distractions is critical if we are to ensure that the athletes can focus on their performance.

We are here to provide a support network both inside and outside of the games; this has been paramount to our success in the past.

This will be my sixth Paralympic games, with varying degrees of responsibility from athlete to performance manager, and now to personal coach to some of our Welsh athletes.

This will also be my first games based in the athletes village as a member of the ParalympicsGB staff.

Being part of the GB staffing team is a honour indeed.

When I competed in Barcelona, in 1992, it was all about my own expectations and performance. Now, in London, it will be about ensuring that the things that just didn’t go right for me in Barcelona, don’t reoccur for our young squad.

This will be about ensuring we deflect as much pressure and external expectation as is possible. It is an immense honour to be linked to such incredible talent.

Wales has a proud reputation in Paralympic sport and I totally believe that our young competitors will make amazing history in London.

Check out the Disability Sport Wales website and follow them on Twitter @dsw_news for all the latest disability sport news across Wales and at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Sara Head - Road to the London 2012 Paralympics

Our latest blog comes from ParalympicsGB Table Tennis player Sara Head. London 2012 will be her first games after narrowly missing out on Beijing in 2008. Sara shares her story from her disappointment before Beijing through to her selection for London.

Sara Head: Welsh table tennis star

After failing to make Beijing in 2008, I was sitting in Chicago airport on New Year’s Eve, at the last competition of the year, knowing that I had failed to qualify by a narrow margin.

The run up to Beijing had seen me placed as possible wild card, as well as first reserve. I had the same training schedule as the selected squad and, as you can imagine, it was one of the hardest years of my life.

I did everything the selected squad had done for Beijing except get on the plane. My team partner and I, watching the snow falling and wondering if we would fly home that night, made a pact that together we were going to work so hard for the next four years to qualify for London 2012 and it started from now.

The year 2009 was a pivotal one for me. Qualification for the World Championships 2010 was a must; this was a big stepping stone that was needed for my qualification for London 2012. It was a successful year, ending in qualification and selection for the World Championships, which kept me on track for my London 2012 journey.

Then 2010 was my most successful year yet, winning the team event bronze at the World Championships, bringing home the only medal for Great Britain.

Going in to 2011, selection year for London, brought back all the nerves and feelings of what happened to me prior to Beijing. This was a hurdle I had to clear.

A very successful year brought me even closer to London, after becoming World number five, with the highlight of becoming team champions.

Sara has succeeded in her dream to reach the Paralympics
I can honestly say I gave it all I had; it was now in the hands of the selection committee and ParalympicsGB.

It was a nervous wait over the New Year but nowhere near as nervous as 2007. This time I had achieved something I never had five years ago. My dream was still alive.

During a training camp in Sheffield we had a team launch and we were told our selection had been confirmed. I was ecstatic beyond words and the best thing; my team partner had also qualified.

We had achieved our pact, with no time to celebrate we were back training.

With the games edging closer, it is getting more exciting, seeing the momentum build. I cant wait! My family are coming to watch me compete for the first time, what more can I ask for?

I have incredible support from Disability Sport Wales, Team GB, Jim Munkley in particular - who always believed in me - as well as the staff at Sport Wales that fix me and send me back off and the overwhelming support I get at the Sport Wales National Centre.

Follow Sara on Twitter @saraheadtt.

Check out the Disability Sport Wales website and follow them on Twitter @dsw_news for all the latest disability sport news across Wales and at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keeping the volunteering flame burning - Sue Maughan

In our final Olympic blog, before we ratchet up the excitemnt levels for the Paralympic Games, Sport Wales Senior Officer, Sue Maughan, recounts her highlights as a Games Maker official for athletics at the Olympics. 
Sue (centre) at Olympic Park with fellow sport Wales Games
Makers Rich Dando and Claire Knowles
The Olympic flame may have been extinguished, but the passion and fire for sport thankfully lives on… you can feel it in the air and we need to make that feeling last. We who work in sport have a responsibility to make sure this happens.

Personally I’ve been extremely privileged to have played a role in what was from an athletics point of view, officially recorded as the Best Olympics ever (I have the emails from the IAAF and LOCOG’s Athletics  team to prove it). 

I’m sure the same can be said of the Games as a whole. It was two weeks of my life which gave me amazing experiences and memories that I will cherish for ever.

At our first field event briefing meeting the field referee recounted his personal account of his affinity with the Olympics and the challenges he personally faced to be there, bringing a tear to the eyes of even the most hard hearted person in the room…and that’s the power of sport. 

We laughed, we cheered, we cried. We heard stories of personal battles to achieve amazing things. We saw genuine talent on show and wherever you walked in the park you saw happy, smiling people, living every minute, loving every minute, soaking it in and enjoying! If only we could bottle this up and sell it!

I’ve been asked what was my highlight of the Games, but  just one is impossible to pin down, so here’s a selection.
    Sue officiating at the discus inside the Olympic Stadium
  • Having the privilege of walking into the stadium everyday and then play a part in someone achieving their lifetime dream s and goals.
  • Standing in the middle of the discus sector trying to concentrate whilst Jess Ennis runs her 200m and the wall of sound follows her around the stadium.
  • That sound...Turning from a cheer to a roar which almost hits you on the back of the neck when you’re in the centre of the arena.
  • Witnessing that 100m men’s final.
  • Seeing close hand what success meant to the German Discus thrower winning gold…he was the one who ripped his shirt open and then jumped the hurdles!
  • The crowd doing the YMCA before the men’s decathlon Pole Vault got underway…and what a competition that was!
  • Watching the closing ceremony.
  • I could go on and on...
The 220 track and field National Technical Officials
Away from the frontline athletics there were also the experiences of the workforce of volunteers who made the event happen. Just from a track and field point of view there were over 220 National Technical Officials required to put the event on. The camaraderie amongst us all was something else that will stay with me – the atmosphere in the hotel bar on Super Saturday was ‘bouncing!’ 

Volunteers are vital to make sport happen and hopefully the Olympics will not only inspire future generations of champions but encourage others to get involved behind the scenes. 

As I said in my first blog, I never imagined my involvement as an athletics official would result in me being part of the greatest show on earth.  But fortunately my journey isn’t over yet as next week sees me returning to officiate at the Paralympics…my bag is packed and ready to go. I can’t wait!

Celebrate the volunteers and coaches who keep community sport alive in your area by nominating your local heroes today for one of our Coach of the Year awards.

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!

Back the background team by Paul Thorburn

Welsh ruby legend Paul Thorburn kicked Wales to their best ever finish in the Rugby World Cup.
He kicked the conversion for Wales when they pipped Australia 22-21 to take third place at the 1987 tournament, and now the Sport Wales Board Member is calling for the public to recognise the importance of coaches and volunteers to Welsh sport.

What a summer of sport we have had so far. And there is more to come, not least with the Paralympic Games now upon us.
One of the things that struck me during the Olympics was how often during their media interviews the athletes spoke so positively to recognise their coaching and support staff. And even their parents and people close to them who had helped them reach their dream of competing at the Games.
Looking back on my own career, I think all my coaches played a fundamental role in my development.
Having good quality coaching and support in the early stages of development is important for any youngster. I had my parents who encouraged me, particularly my dad who played rugby.
I am full of admiration for the people who give their time to volunteer in sport. Volunteers and coaches are key to the continued success of Welsh sport.
On that very note, I hope the public can help recognise and celebrate the people in their communities who help drive participation and success in Wales.
In my role as Board Member at Sport Wales, we are on the lookout for the nation’s sporting heroes – the coaches and volunteers at the heart of what we do.
Nominations for our annual Sport Wales Coach of the Year Awards are now open to the public. Until 21st September, we are asking for people to nominate coaches or volunteers who really make a difference to individuals, clubs or groups involved in sport.
There are a number of different categories for nominations covering grassroots sport, young leaders and volunteers, to those invovled in elite sport.
This is the public’s chance to show their appreciation for the people who put in hours and hours of work across Wales.
I would urge people to take some time to nominate their local hero.
For a nomination form visit www.sportwales.org.uk/coachoftheyear or phone 0845 045 0904.

Yours in Sport.

Paul Thorburn
Sport Wales Board Member

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Making volunteering 'cool' again - Richard Dando

The dust has barely settled on a memorable London 2012 Olympics and already excitement is building for the Paralympic Games. Much deserved praise has been heaped on the army of volunteers who are so instrumental in making the Games run so seamlessly.

One such person is Sport Wales Senior Officer, Richard Dando, who was chosen as a Games Maker official with the Event Services team based at the Olympic Stadium. Here he sums up his experience of pitching in at the Olympics.

The Olympics may have ended and the Paralympics may be about to start but the experiences and memories I have of being a Games Maker will live on for a long time.

Following the opening ceremony I had ten days before my next Games Maker shift at the Olympic Stadium so I managed to cram in a few days in my ‘real job’ at Sport Wales and some of the free sporting events like the cycling road race, the cycling time trials and watching Wales’ triathlon champ Helen Jenkins. 

The atmosphere wherever you went was incredible.

The Olympic Stadium: Richard's 'office' during the Games
Sunday 5 August soon came around and a run of six shifts in seven days was about to begin, the fact it coincided with the men’s 100m final only added to the excitement! 

The Stadium Events Services team role was to ‘host’ spectators visiting the stadium by answering their questions, pointing them in the right direction, checking their tickets, directing them to their seats, taking pictures for them and directing them to Stratford station when it was time to go home. 

It might not have been the most glamorous of roles but I enjoyed meeting spectators, athletes and coaches from all over the world and making sure that however trivial the role seemed, I had helped to make their London 2012 experience an enjoyable one. 

Each night I had a different role, with new people, in a different part of the stadium which provided too many highlights and memories to write about them all in a blog!

My final shift was Saturday 11 August and I was back on pushchair and wheelchair storage duties where it all started three weeks previous! It had its perks; I was on the 100m start line so when all pushchairs and wheelchairs were safely stored I was in the perfect position to cheer Mo Farah down the home straight in the 5000m and watch Johan Blake hand the baton to Usain Bolt in the 4x100m relay!

I was lucky, I had a Games Maker role in a sporting venue so I combined volunteering with watching some of the sporting action. Many more thousands of Games Makers were not so lucky and were positioned in the Olympic Park or on transport links or behind desks and didn’t see any sport. 

To me these were the ‘star’ Games Makers as their spirits didn’t dampen as they revelled in their roles knowing they were contributing to the positive image of the Games.
Perks of the job: Watching Mo Farah win his second gold

Most of us working in sport know that community sport doesn’t happen without volunteers. After the glowing publicity across the world around the contributions of the Games Makers to London 2012, a lot more people are aware that sport, even on the grandest scale doesn’t happen without volunteers. 

How do we capture this enthusiasm for volunteering in our local communities alongside the increase in sports participation that we are all hoping will take place? 

Games Makers has become a well-known brand for sports volunteering and has made volunteering ‘cool’ again! Should we continue with this brand in community sport? 

Games Makers have been made to feel part of the Olympics, whether that’s a thank you email, a pin badge for every shift turned up for, positive media coverage, a pat on the back, a personal thanks – they are all things that can be implemented in community sport to value the contribution of the volunteers to ensure they come back again.

Every other Games Maker or member of the public that asked me what I did for a living outside the ‘Olympic bubble’ responded with; ‘that sounds interesting,' ‘lucky you’ or ‘are there any jobs going?’ when I explained I worked for Sport Wales and that we want to get ‘Every Child hooked on Sport for Life.' 
So yes, I did have the Olympic blues coming back into work but knowing I was coming into work to help partners harness the impact of London 2012 in their local communities made it a whole lot easier!

Celebrate the volunteers and coaches who keep community sport alive in your area by nominating your local heroes today for one of our Coach of the Year awards.

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!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sport and Schools together by Laura McAllister

With much tal of sport at school, Chair of Sport Wales Professor Laura McAllister talks about the importance of school sport and the work with the education sector.

Professor Laura McAllister, Chair of Sport Wales;
“Working with education on the important role of schools to sport in Wales has been high on our agenda for some time.
I cannot overestimate the importance of education – it is absolutely crucial if Wales is to witness a significant increase in the numbers of young people playing sport. Schools play a fundamental role in developing and sustaining a child’s love of sport.

“Of course, education is a devolved responsibility in Wales and we have had ongoing discussions with the Welsh Government over how we can create a generation that is hooked on sport for life.

“Along with my colleagues, I have spoken regularly with Welsh Government Ministers with responsibility for sport and education, and I am very encouraged by their views towards sport in school.

“The Education Minister has even gone on record to talk about his commitment for physical literacy to be as important a developmental skill as reading and writing. This is reflected in the Programme for Government and a new task group has been set up to look at the continued development of this work.

“It is important that young people can develop the skills to take part in sport from a very young age and we see our role as supporting this alongside schools, clubs and community leisure venues.

“We have developed vital resources such as Play to Learn, designed to improve physical development and creative movement skills for 3-7 year olds.
“In September, we will be launching a new variation of our Primary School-aged Dragon Sport programme (to Dragon Multi-Skills and Sport) to focus on embedding basic skills - such as agility, balance and co-ordination – that give the essential building blocks, before moving on to playing a specific sport. We want the lasting legacy of these Games to be a generation of children and young people with the competence, confidence and motivation to participate in sport. This will not happen overnight, but through working together with our partners we believe that all children can reap the benefits that participating in sport brings.
“In secondary school, the 5x60 project is in place to complement curricular sport and PE.
“Looking specifically at schools, we see some excellent work being carried out in gyms and on playing fields across the country. But this is often happening in pockets and we must be sure that high quality is the norm and that good practice is shared across the board.

“We need to see every child accessing two hours of high quality PE every week. This needs to be supported by at least three hours of extracurricular or community sport.
“I believe the most important factor in all of this is that of the headteacher. Those that embrace the importance of vibrant school sport and are passionate about it place sport high on the agenda. They ensure that opportunities, designed by the pupils that meet their needs, are provided and that they link with the community and local clubs.
“This must be coupled with teachers who are trained and supported to provide engaging PE sessions within our schools. Sport Wales is a firm believer that greater priority should be given to the training of teachers in this area so that they are up-skilled and confident in the delivery of physical education. 
“We need to be ensuring that pupils are engaged with their sporting experience at schools, utilising Young Ambassadors to inspire and support their peers. Young Ambassadors can be at the top of a whole school workforce. Sports leaders and young people delivering activity really motivates their peers, giving them this responsibility is a win-win for us all here development in employment skills and us in having motivating volunteers.

“Last year we undertook the largest survey of school children in Wales. There were some pleasing results, including the sheer number of primary school pupils involved in school sport. But there are challenges as well, including addressing a drop-off by girls when they get into their teens and ensuring that pupils have a voice in their provision.

 “How we package sport will be important because we know that many young people love the competitive nature, where some are motivated by more participatory activities. We need to be able to cater for the demand.

“There are also the opportunities through technology, which some schools have been leading the way in using, and the increasing popularity of different versions of sports and new emerging activities – like futsal - that we must all take advantage of.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wales and the Water by Robert James

Robert James is Chief Executive of Swim Wales and a Board Member of British Swimming.
Here he talks through Welsh performances in the Olympic pool and his hopes for the future.

Once again, the Olympic swimming has produced one of the toughest competitions of the Games. We have seen a mix of established stars, and some remarkable young talent, pick up medals and it is clear that swimming is at a standard above what we have seen in the past.
Make no mistake, this British Swimming squad was strong and it was a battle for our five Welsh swimmers to win a place to swim in London.
And I was encouraged by the performances we have seen.
Jemma Lowe finished sixth in the 200m butterfly final - an event in which she finished ninth in Beijing in 2008. Jemma is a gutsy performer who is proving consistent on the World stage.
Georgia Davies produced a personal best morning swim and qualified sixth fastest overall in the heats in the 100m backstroke. In the semi-final, after putting so much effort into the heats, she was unable to replicate the time and make the final. It was Georgia’s first Olympics and she will benefit greatly from the experience. Her heat time showed the improvements she is making as she looks towards future meets.
Ieuan Lloyd, just 19 and also at his first Olympics, swam the fastest leg for the British 4x200m relay team when they finished their final in sixth place.
Marco Loughran is another who has got valuable Games experience as we look at how we can improve on our four medals won in Delhi when the Commonwealth Game comes to Glasgow in 2014.
And finally David Davies. David is one of Wales’ greatest ever Olympians and has been mixing with the World’s best distance swimmers throughout his career.  A third Olympic medal was just a bridge too far, but we all appreciate the work and dedication he has put in and it was an honour to watch him swim at a home Games in London.
Now the major focus for us at Swim Wales is preparing and planning for Glasgow in two years’ time. In Delhi we were Team Wales’ most decorated sport and we want to win medals again. Everyone is back at the beginning of September and we’re straight into the hard work again.
The swimmers mentioned above will have big hopes after their London 2012 experience.
There are also swimmers like Jazz Carlin, a double medallist in Delhi, who has fought hard with illness recently and just missed out on a place in London, who will be looking to peak again in Scotland.
We have some great young talent coming through.
At the Commonwealth Youth Games last year we won nine swimming medals, including a big haul for Ieuan Lloyd that highlighted his growing potential. We also have a strong young men’s relay squad who took gold.
Fifteen year-old Chloe Tutton recently won two medals at the European Junior Championships in Belgium.

The structure for identifying talent is growing all the time. We recently had 4,000 entries for our Summer Nationals – our highest ever.
Away from the elite level, we are working hard on all other aspects of swimming in Wales.
We know that positive experiences at an early age through school swimming or at a local swimming pool will encourage young people to want to swim more.
With our partners we are working hard on new resources, technology and marketing to make swimming and learn-to-swim a consistent model across Wales.
Currently around 63% of children in Wales can swim by the age of 11, just under 11,000 swimmers are a member of a swimming club and just under 4 million social participation swims take place in the country each year.
But we want every child to be a swimmer by 2020, 100,000 aquatic members by 2020, and 6.5 million social participation swims by 2014.
It’s all about trying to engage better and make swimming as fun and appealing as possible. As a governing body we have to use things like technology and keep up with social and cultural trends. A new online tool for young people and families to chart their learn-to-swim progress is one thing on the horizon.
Currently there are around 80 swimming clubs in Wales with 65 being development clubs for competition, and other forms aquatics such as water polo, while for the more gifted swimmers Swim Wales has 10 performance clubs working to maximise potential at Commonwealth or Olympic level.
It’s our job to make sure that those opportunities are available to all young people in Wales. We want clubs to work together with local authorities and private providers so that those different stages are available for young swimmers to move along.
I’m looking forward to seeing how our Paralympic swimmers perform in just a few weeks’ time. They have won medals in the past and we now have a chance to cement our reputation in disability swimming. We will talk more about disability swimming developments in the coming weeks.
See the new Swim Wales website www.swimwales.org

Monday, August 6, 2012


William Ponissi of Welsh Athletics is our latest guest blogger. He spells out why we should take up athletics! 

Athletics is considered the king of Olympic sports, and it is not difficult to see why. Who can run the fastest?, jump the highest? or throw the farthest? – these questions have been in mankind’s mind since the beginning of times, and it is no wonder most of the track and field disciplines we know now were part of the original Games taking place in Olympia!

In addition to their historical significance, athletics disciplines are a great way to get fit and prepare for any other sport you may want to try: running, jumping and throwing are basic skills that can be transferred to every other discipline, from rugby to tennis, from gymnastics to judo. A good athletics base is a great way to build up for success for all sportspeople and it is not unusual to see footballers and others training on a track alongside full time track athletes.

 Joining a club is easy, with more than 75 affiliated to Welsh Athletics all around Wales, and can be done at any age. Clubs offer qualified and experienced coaching staff to assist with athlete development in a safe and healthy way, and by joining you can get access to a wide range of competitions in multiple disciplines such as track and field, cross country running, mountain and trail running and road races – there is something suited to everyone, 12 months a year.

The London 2012 Olympic Games promise to be a special moment for the sport in Wales, with an incredible five athletes from Wales called up to Team GB. Christian Malcolm, at his fourth Olympics, Brett Morse, Rhys Williams, Gareth Warburton and team captain Dai Greene are all products of the excellent club setup we have in Wales and testament to how our country is preparing for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where a record medal haul is on the cards.

Each of our Famous Five athletes was inspired, in their youth, by watching British Olympic stars’ successes at previous Games and we hope they will provide a similar example to all Welsh youngsters watching from home. London 2012’s aim to “inspire a generation” rests in the incredible power of inspiration Olympic success has – and our moment to shine is now.

Here's a list of your local athletics clubs - or call the Welsh Athletics office at 02920 644870.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Weight of Expectation by Jonathan Roberts #2012cymruwales

Jonathan Roberts is a former Commonwealth Games weightlifter who competed in Kuala Lumpur in 1988. Now he combines his time as a senior officer for Sport Wales with a role as chair of the Welsh Weightlifting Federation.
Here he talks about Olympic performances and the prospects of future success.

I genuinely believe weightlifting in Wales is in a good place at the moment and we’ve got real signs of optimism good into the next few years.
The first things to say is how proud I, and everyone in Welsh Weightlifting, was when it was announced that two of the five strong GB weightlifting team were our own Welsh lifters.
It was a fantastic achievement to make up 40% of the squad. Most of all, it was reward for the dedication and hard work that Natasha Perdue and Gareth Evans put in to compete at the very top level of their sport.
Both have had to make sacrifices and moved away from their families in Wales to train at the national performance centre in Leeds, which is a very difficult choice to make.
Having two athletes on such a small squad was such a massive boost for weightlifting in Wales and shows the next generation of talent that we are able to produce quality lifters.
Weightlifting is a minority sport in Britain. We read daily about football and rugby on our newspaper back pages. In some countries, such as China, India and Eastern Europe, it is the weightlifters who are among the sporting superstars.
These countries have a depth of talent that makes it hard for competitors from this country to medal. Tash finished 12th and Gareth 17th, fantastic achievements on the Olympic stage.
Looking ahead, Gareth lifted personal bests in both the snatch and clean and jerk disciplines. As a lifter, you want to be improving and making personal bests. With two years until the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, Gareth will be in confident mood that he can work his way onto that podium. The only other Commonwealth athlete placed higher than Gareth in London was the Indian lifter in 15th place.
Tash is moving back to South Wales from Leeds and, no doubt, will be pestering me for training sessions.
But away from those two, the young talent coming through in Wales is exciting.
Teenage super-heavyweight Darius Jokarzadeh, a relative newcomer to the sport having only taken it up two years ago, just missed out on making the Olympic standard himself.
In my opinion, he is one of the most exciting young sporting talents in Wales at the moment.
The highlight of his short career so far came in October last year when he broke the Great Britain under 18 record on his way to junior gold at the Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships in South Africa.
The first place in the under 20 competition for 105+ kg super heavyweights just another sign of his potential. And he’s smashed more records since.
Just like Darius, Caldicot’s Jake Davies won gold in South Africa. Jake’s success capping a good trip for Wales as he took first place in the youth (under 18) 94kg class.
At the recent British Championships Flintshire lifter Stephanie Owen won the women’s 69kg class while Gemma Williams took the 75+kg class.
We now have coaches in North and South Wales who are having quality contact with our emerging talent.
A big plus for the sport is that the last few years has seen a huge growth in CrossFit. CrossFit is a global exercise and fitness programme – much like circuit training – that includes Olympic weightlifting as part of its routines. With a number of CrossFit venues across Wales, it has enabled more people to try Olympic weightlifting and for us to hold master classes and do talent ID for potential for us to work with. We have also been training coaches at CrossFit venues.
This is as well as venues like the Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Centre, which has seen massive investment recently.
My hope is that we can continue momentum, and jump on the back of brands like CrossFit and get the message out there that weightlifting is accessible for the new generation of people looking for sport and exercise.
Try weightlifting or CrossFit: