Tour de Force! Can Geraint win the world's toughest cycle race for a second year running?
Can he do it again? When SportsAid Cymru Wales gave a support grant years ago to promising young cyclist Geraint Thomas, 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 Tour de France, arguably the most physically demanding sporting event on the planet.
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.
All that changed when Geraint hung on to the leader's Yellow Jersey in successive stages of the 2018 Tour until it became clear that he wasn't going to be beaten!
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.
But all that was last year, as Geraint would say. His focus now is on repeating his stunning triumph in the 2019 Tour. The modern Tour de France consist of 21 day-long stages over a 23-day period and covers around 3,500 kilometres (2,200 miles).
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."
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!
Other highlights of Ed's season were his results at the British Championships in Tignes in the French Alps in April, which included 3rd U18 overall in the National Championships, 3rd overall Junior (U21) & 2nd overall U18 in the Junior National Championships. 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. 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 May, she represented GB Juniors at the Loughborough International meet with a time that elevated her to UK No.1 in the women's u-20 400m hurdles. 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."