Tour de Force! Geraint back on podium after world's toughest cycle race
When Geraint Thomas stunned the cycling world - and sent his huge Welsh following into raptures - when he won the 2018 Tour de France, the question was soon being asked: Could he do it again? Back-to-back Tour wins are reserved for only the most elite sporting performers on the planet.
Incredibly, he very nearly did! After another gripping, incident-packed 2019 tour, Geraint came second to fellow Ineos rider - and joint team leader - Egan Bernai, whom he supported in the latter stages of the Tour. The two crossed the finish line hand-in-hand after Geraint had tweeted that he would ride to deliver his young colleague to victory in Paris - the unselfish approach which has earned Geraint legions of fans beyond the world of cycling.
When SportsAid Cymru Wales gave a support grant years ago to Geraint, when he was a promising young cyclist, not even the most optimistic sport followers could have imagined that the Cardiff lad whizzzing around the Maindy Stadium track would one day win the prestigious Tour.
One of the 'Golden Era' pupils at Whitchurch High School, along with Gareth Bale and Sam Warburton, the modest yet almost superhuman cyclist had previously worked tirelessly and selflessly in support of Sky teammates on the Tour, notably four times winner Chris Frome.
After his 2018 Tour success, thousands - including hundreds of kids on bikes - turned out in Cardiff for Geraint's homecoming, the interview requests poured in, our Geraint made it on to the Graham Norton Show alongside Nicole Kidman, Stephen Fry and Take That - and then to top it all he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2018 at a glittering ceremony in Birmingham, watched by millions on TV.
Geraint has previously attended a SportsAid Cymru Wales fund-raising lunch in aid of other emerging athletes. Go, Geraint!
... and here's another cycling superstar from the golden age of the Maindy Flyers club: Congratulations to Elinor Barker, supported by SportsAid Cymru Wales in her early career, who won the women's scratch race in the world championships in Poland (March 2019) - her 10th gold medal at Olympic, World and European level. Eli was also one of the fab four British riders who took Silver in the Team Pursuit.
Bethany Bennett - Cyclo Cross
...and while we are talking about success on two wheels, what about young Bethany Bennett of Carmarthen's Towy Riders, who, among an impressively long list of achievements, has been the U-14 winner or runner-up in 11 consecutive Welsh Cyclo-Cross League races between September and December 2018.
SACW first supported Bethany when she was 11, after she was nominated as "one to watch" by the sport's talent-spotters.
Bethany's dad, Julian, said "Firstly can I thank all at SportsAid Cymru Wales , we are very proud that Bethany has been selected for this kind grant which will help very much."
HRH Praises Athletes - and SportsAid! Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, who became Patron of SportsAid UK in 2013, has praised the dedication shown by young athletes, their families and supporters in a special message celebrating SportsAid Week 2019. The Duchess has met many SportsAid-supported young competitors who will be aiming to represent Great Britain at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The latest survey by Nunki Solutions reveals that the average spend for a SportsAid athlete annually has risen from £5,022 to £7,089 over the last decade. Travel is the greatest expenditure – athletes travel around 1,500 miles a month - followed by accommodation. The charity supported 1,058 athletes, mostly aged between 12 and 18, in 2018/19, meaning the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ had to find more than £8m to support their sons and daughters throughout the last 12 months.
The Duchess said “The staff, supporters and partners of SportsAid have played a pivotal role in many of their journeys by ensuring that all young aspiring athletes have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Vanessa Fry Photography
Edouard Guigonnet - Skiing
When SACW grant-aided skier Edouard Guigonnet rocketed down the snow-covered slopes at Jahorina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the European Youth Olympic Festival in February 2019, he was proudly flying the flag for Wales.
The 17-year-old, described by Robin Kellen, CEO, Snowsport Wales as having “huge potential,” lives in France with his parents, but his great great grandparents and his great grandmother all hail from Tenby while his grandmother was born in Pembroke Dock – not an area of Wales noted for its ski resorts!
More recently, in August 2019, Ed has been adding to his growing tally of medals, this time in Argentina. Nine international races in 12 days resulted in two overall top 10 placings and two U21 podiums , but, more importantly, two personal bests in both the Slalom and Grand Slalom! His current GB (U18) rankings are Slalom (1) Giant Slalom (3) Super G (3) and Downhill (3).
Ed’s mum Caroline wrote to SACW “Thank you for the amazing SportsAid Cymru Wales grant that Edouard has just received. You cannot imagine how important it is as we try to fund his skiing, but, almost more importantly for him, are the words in your covering letter ‘You were nominated for this award by your National Governing Body in recognition of your performance and potential’. This will mean so much to him. He will make Wales proud, I promise!”
Backing from Barclays - & Claire!
The latest SportsAid Cymru Wales fund-raising lunch at Cardiff's award-winning Park Plaza Hotel, on the eve of the Wales v England rugby international at the Principality Stadium, has made a substantial contribution to the charity's coffers, not least because of two handsome cheques from an institutional and an individual supporter.
Rebecca Davies, Relationship Manager for Barclays Bank in South Wales (pictured above with SACW Director Ron Jones and President Kim Howells) presented a
raffle-matching cheque for £800 from a previous lunch event. The bank is also match-funding the latest lunch raffle which should produce another welcome
Then David Butler, Chairman of SACW's West Wales Committee, handed over a cheque for £1,720 on behalf of Para athlete Claire Williams of Swansea (below), who ran for SportsAid in the London Marathon (full story under our archive button above). Our grateful thanks to both Claire and Barclays.
Ron Jones Stadium is up & running!
The immense contribution of SportsAid Cymru Wales Director Ron Jones to Welsh Athletics – and sport in general – was recognised in his home town of Aberdare in October 2018 when he opened a new £3 million stadium which bears his name.
Facilities at Rhondda Cynon Taf's Ron Jones Stadium include a running track with polymeric surfacing, floodlighting, changing facilities, meeting and office spaces and a 263-seat spectator stand.
Cwmaman-born Ron, MBE, a former Wales, British, European and World record-breaking sprinter (pictured second left) said he was delighted to return home to open the new athletics track and sporting facility, which could go on to be the “envy of Wales.”
Guests at the civic opening ceremony included his wife Linda and other members of Ron’s family, who still live in the Aberdare area, along with local para athlete Rhys Jones, who competed in two Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast, Australia 2018, and James Williams, Head of Operations at Welsh Athletics.
Mark Oliver, Chairman of SportsAid Cymru Wales, said “After everything Ron has achieved - and what he has put back into sport – this was a richly-deserved honour. It is a proud moment and the stadium is a fine tribute to one of Wales’ greatest athletes.”
Flying the flag for Wales
SportsAid Cymru Wales is delighted to feature three athletes who are reaching the very top of their sports on an international stage.
Emily Shawyer -
Since we last featured Emily in the exciting new international sport of Target Sprint, which combines shooting (air rifles) at knock-down targets interspersed with, typically, three laps of a 400 metre course, she has scaled even greater heights.
Following a hectic few months competing in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as in the UK, in Target Sprint and 10m air pistol shooting, Emily has emerged as Welsh and British Champion, Junior International Champion, British Junior Record Holder (u-21) having won for GB an ISSF Individual Bronze Medal, and ISSF Team Silver Medal and a Double World Championship Medal. To top it all, she passed all her GCSE A Levels with A*, A and B grades - and was interviewed on BBC Breakfast by Mike Bushell!
Emily said "It is such a confidence boost to think that I have the support of SportsAid Cymru Wales when balancing my GCSEs with training and competing in both my shooting disciplines.
"The grant will be a massive help towards my equipment, training and competition costs. A big thank you to all the organisations and individuals that donate to SportsAid Cymru Wales and thank you for the encouragement and recognition that you give to help young sports people."
Megan Surman - Tumbling
Megan, from Swansea, is dynamite in the incredibly demanding sport of tumbling.
Megan pulled off her greatest performance ever when she won the 2018 Trampoline and Tumbling World Age Group Championships in St Petersburg, Russia. In her words: "I honestly still can't quite believe ii - it hasn't sunk in yet! I went to the competition aiming to land my runs and hopefully make the final. After the prelims I made the final in third place. In the finals I scored a PB of 33.900 which means I am now the Women's 17-21 World Age Group Tumbling Champion!"
Currently on a scholarship with Warwick University, Megan said "Thank you so much SACW for awarding me a grant - it is most appreciated." To see Megan in spectacular action, here's a Welsh Gymnastics post https://www.welshgymnastics.org/news/2018/11/19/huge-tumbling-achievements-for-medal-winners-megan-and-jade/
- 400m Hurdles
SACW athlete19-year-old Lauren Williams of Caersws, is tipped as one of the most exciting prospects in British athletics.
Coming back from injury, the Maldwyn Harriers and Swansea Harriers hurdler keeps getting faster and faster, setting new personal bests in the toughest of competitions.
Lauren broke the Welsh Junior 400m hurdles record and set a huge personal best at the European Athletics Championships curtain-raiser in Berlin in August 2018. The Bath University student was competing for GB U-20s in an international match against Germany and France at the city’s Olympic Stadium. The managing and marketing student won the 400m hurdles in a time of 58.09s – knocking more than a second off her previous best time of 59.21 set in the summer 2018 England Athletics Championships in Bedford.
In 2019, Lauren's successes have included first place over 400m in the England Athletics U20 Championships, two firsts in the CAU inter-county (senior) Championships, and wins in the 400m and 60m Welsh Senior Champs in Cardiff in July. Said Lauren "I would like to say a huge thank you to SportsAid Cymru Wales for your support which has helped considerably with travel and competition entry fees.etc."
Another 91 get a helping hand from SACW
In total, 91 young sportspeople in Wales received grants from SportsAid Cymru Wales in the latest round of applications. SACW and its supporters maintain a proud 34-year tradition of being able to award grants to all applicants who meet the set criteria. Click on the Athletes & Awards tab and then Recent Award Recipients (top of left column) to see the list.
Record-breaking performance from SportsAid Cymru Wales skier Menna Fitzpatrick
They've done it again! SACW athlete Menna Fitzpatrick and guide Jen Kehoe have won gold in the women's visually impaired downhill at the Para Alpine World Championships in Sella Nevea, Italy (January 2019.)
Former Cardiff girl Menna, 20, and Jennifer, 35, won three medals in the Championships after success in the giant slalom and slalom in Slovenia earlier this month. Last year the pair took gold in the slalom at the Winter Paralympics, making them the first British skiers to win both Paralympic and world titles.
Despite having no vision in one eye and only 5% in the other, Menna took a Bronze, two Silver medals and then a Gold in the Paralympics - half Britain's total medal haul - with Army officer Jen guiding her via wi-fi headsets.
"We didn't have a great training run in Italy but we skied better and quicker in the actual race, which made us pretty happy," said Menna, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to Paralympic sport - the youngest person ever to appear on the List!
SACW Director Ron Jones said "Menna and Jennifer have posted videos made with the RNIB of how much Menna can actually see as she rockets down the slopes at speeds of up to 60mph. That takes great skill but also a huge amount of courage, especially after a fall. We are all very proud of her."