27 Jun 2006
Over the last month the world of disability sport has been positively buzzing, and not only among our nation’s elite.
Sporting fever has penetrated the Welsh community, offering volunteers, professionals, adults and children with profound and multiple disabilities opportunities to partake in sport at social and competitive levels.
Few people are aware that the latter months of 2006 will be a critical time for the elite quarter of Welsh disability sport. Upcoming events will provide our athletes with a crucial springboard against which to gauge progress for the first time since the Paralympic World Cup, last May.
Competitions are already approaching thick and fast, sending our athletes far and wide in search of the next best PB or world record to stake their profile for the Beijing Games.
Here’s how they’ve been getting on.
Elite Success …
Porth swim sensation, Nyree Lewis, exited the pool with a new world record at the German Open International last weekend. Competing in the 200m freestyle event, Nyree was up against international swimmers but in her usual form, led the field un-phased.
Cardiff-based sprint star, John McFall, returned smiling from the Pfingstmeeting event in Rehlingen, Germany (held Sunday 4th June), where he has gained valuable race experience performing against top able-bodied British athletes like Mark-Lewis Francis, Chris Lambert and Athens 2004 Olympian, Tim Benjamin.
While a 4th place finish out of five in the 100m was not quite enough to reassure a perfectionist like John, he actually ran to a time of 13.00 minutes – only 0.1 seconds outside his new PB, showing that he’s running consistently quicker than last year.
12 year-old Philip Cochrane recently came away from the GB National Wheelchair Tennis Championships with the Men’s Singles title in Gloucester (May 27-28th).
The Welsh contingent was extremely well represented at the tournament with more Welsh players reaching finals than in any other club in the UK.
All five members of Cardiff’s Wheelchair Tennis Club, who train at the Welsh National Tennis centre, reached five finals.
In the Men’s Main Draw Doubles, Cardiff’s Matthew Faucher and Shaun Regan cruised through the early rounds to come up against No 1. seeds, Jyant Mistry and Tony Knappett, in the semi-finals.
With all four players demonstrating world class form, Matthew and Shaun raised their game to take a very tight second set 7-5 and maintained their line of attack by winning the third set 6-4 for a notable win.
Another solid performance saw them take the final in sturdy 6-4, 6-2 victory for the Welsh duo.
Other notable performances included Peterstone’s Martin French who reached the Men’s ‘C’ Division Singles Final despite being hampered by a shoulder injury, while Bryn Snowdon who lives in Roath, Cardiff, staged a spirited performance to reach the Men’s Consolation ‘B’ Final.
Upcoming Events ….
On track and field, Welsh disability athletes are in the final throws of preparation for the upcoming Senior British Athletics Championships to be held at Manchester’s Sports City, this weekend (9-11 June).
It’s vital each individual puts in a secure performance at the weekend’s tournament. With the final selection date for the World Championships looming on July 1st, our Welsh athletes only have a short time to left to qualify so expectations are running high.
The World Championships – to be held in Assen, Holland, later this summer - are a vital component in the bid for Beijing, as it will offer Welsh athletes the best chance of selection for the 2008 Games.
Welsh Junior cyclist, Nathan Tyrrell, is also gearing up to compete with his pilot, Mark Taylor, in the tandem cycling event in Manchester this weekend.
Community sport …
PARALYMPIANS SPUR ON STARS OF THE FUTURE AT MULTI-SPORT EXTRAVAGANZA
The calm corridors of Bridgend Recreation Centre were suddenly disturbed on May 9th as this year’s Multi-Sport Extravaganza kicked off with nothing less than fun, thrills and friendly competition as the order of the day.
A record number of 208 children with profound and multiple disabilities gathered to test their skills at a host of sports ranging from wheelchair football, table tennis, kurling and tail-ball throw, to boccia, cricket, basketball and Judo.
Welsh Winter Paralympians Nathan Stephens. Russell Willey and Bridgend’s Stephen Thomas were joined by former GB ice-hockey and Cardiff Devil’s legend, Brent Pope, to inspire the sporting stars of tomorrow.
They assisted the launch of ‘Hockey Blasters’ - the first indoor hockey club in Wales for children with a disability, followed by a first-time chance for competitors to tackle the field at Zone hockey.
Organised by South Regional Disability Sports Wales Development team, the annual festival provides people with disabilities the opportunity to actively engage with sport, competition and physical activity.
The festival owes its continued success once again to the commitment of volunteers, this year involving over 30 HND students from Bridgend and Pencoed College who worked with local coaches to co-ordinate the events.
WALES DISABLED CRICKETERS MUST RESTORE LEAD IN CRICKET COUNTY CHAMPS
Ashes fever has yet to take a stranglehold across Wales but the cricket stumps will be eagerly assembled by Sunday June 11th when Wales take on Hampshire for the County Championship Disability Cricket in the first home game of the season.
Organised in association with the British Association for Cricketers with a Disability (BACD) and supported by the English Cricket Board (ECB), the Disability Cricket Championships gathers some of the UK’s most talented cricketers into one fearsome tournament.
While the game is certainly not lacking in pace and spirit, last season’s County Champs saw Wales disappointingly beaten in the semi-final. Now three games into the new season, they have already lost the first fixture on away soil but are in excellent shape to restore their title bid.
It’s vital Wales pull themselves back if they are to maintain their hopes of exceeding last year’s result. The match is likely to draw crowds to St Fagan’s Cricket Club where it will start at 1pm.