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.
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