From the heroic efforts of the Welsh Rugby World Cup squad to gold medal wins around the globe, UK Government Ministers will today see the confidence and ambition that is driving the sporting sector forward in Wales.
Wales Office Minister Alun Cairns will welcome UK Sports Minister Tracey Crouch to south Wales to visit some of the facilities that are quickly becoming the breeding grounds for Welsh sporting success.
The Ministers along with the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates will visit the Welsh Rugby Union’s National Centre of Excellence – a high performance “finishing school” opened in 2009 to provide high quality training and back-up facilities. Sport Wales invested £1.5 million of National Lottery funding towards the impressive Centre of Excellence.
While at the centre, the Ministers will help launch this season’s British and Irish Cup, a competition that brings together clubs from across the home nations and helps bring on rugby’s rising stars.
The Ministers will also watch the Wales Rugby Sevens and Wales Women Sevens squads as they are put through their paces during a training session.
To see how the next generation of rugby stars are being trained and inspired by the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Alun Cairns will then visit Eastern High School in Rumney to meet some of the students taking part in the rugby development programme, the Club Hub.
Wales Office Minister Alun Cairns said:
Passion and commitment to sport is a defining feature of Wales. For a small nation, we punch well above our weight on the global sporting stage, with successes across the board.
Our brilliant teams and athletes are inspiring the next generation of sporting stars and promoting Wales as a leading destination for world class sport – contributing millions to the Welsh economy and attracting visitors from around the world to our stadiums.
UK Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said:
The 2015 Rugby World Cup brought the UK together to be the biggest and best to date, and we should all be proud to be part of a tournament that welcomed fans from around the world with open arms.
Wales played their part both on and off the pitch, and I have no doubt the Welsh team has inspired many youngsters with their performance and determination. This is a great foundation for Wales Rugby to build a strong legacy upon.
Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport in Wales Ken Skates said:
Our Welsh sports men and women continue to prove they are a force to be reckoned with on the international stage.
A great example is Wales’ recent performance at the Rugby World Cup where despite many injuries, Wales showed courage, determination and beat off some very stiff competition during the pool stages of the tournament.
Furthermore, performances such as this inspire others to get involved in sport and physical activity and help us to become a healthier and fitter nation.
WRU Head of Rugby Josh Lewsey said:
Our focus, over the last couple of years and in particular ahead of the Rugby World Cup on home shores, was to put the underlying structures, systems and plans in place to underpin the health of the game in Wales, underpinning both the elite and community game.
Our commitment is not only to increase participation in the game at all levels, but to utilise the values of rugby union to develop good people and inspiring role models.
2016’s international sports calendar will bring the European Championships in France, with Wales qualifying for the finals of a major international football tournament for the first time in almost 60 years. That will be followed by the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games where Welsh athletes will represent Team GB and Paralympics GB in Brazil’s capital.
Wales has 78 elite athletes on UK Sport’s World Class Programme. Funded by the National Lottery and UK government investment the programme ensures that Britain’s most talented athletes have every chance of realising their full potential at the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Notable recent Welsh successes include a gold medal performance from Olympic Taekwondo champion, Jade Jones at the Taekwondo Grand Prix in October. Paralympic athlete Aled Sion Davies also won two golds in the Shot Put and discus events at the IPC Athletics Championships in Doha.
As part of a new Elite Sport Strategy launched in October, Sport Wales will now work more closely with UK Sport and the home nations to sustain the podium prospects of Welsh athletes. The strategy also includes new medal targets for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020 and 2024, and for Team Wales at Commonwealth Games in 2018 and 2022.
Key recent performances by Welsh athletes include:
- Non Stanford’s 2nd place at the World Series Triathlon Finals in Chicago (she was world champion in 2013)
- Jazz Carlin, 3rd in 800m freestyle at the World Swimming Championships in Kazan
- Gold medal for lightweight Joe Cordina at the European Boxing Championships
- Paralympics athlete Aled Davies won two golds (Shot Put F42 and Discus F42) at the PC Athletics Championships in Doha as part of GB’s 13 golds and 32-medal haul which surpassed the 10-12 golds and 26-30 medal target set by UK Sport.
- Owain Doull won gold as part of men’s team pursuit quartet (alongside Sir Bradley Wiggins) at the European Track Cycling Championships
- Lee Selby retained IBF featherweight boxing title against Fernando Montiel in Arizona
- Jade Jones - Welsh Olympic Taekwando gold medallist won gold in the 57kg division final at the World Taekwando Grand Prix in Manchester
- Welsh cyclist Elinor Barker won a gold medal as part of women’s team pursuit team at European Track Cycling Championships
- Ciara Horne won two medals at the European Track Cycling Championships this weekend - a bronze in the individual pursuit and also picked up a gold as she took part in heats of British women’s team pursuit gold medal campaign.