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The Other Sports of Wales – Part 2

Posted by on May 12, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on The Other Sports of Wales – Part 2

The Other Sports of Wales – Part 2

The Welsh have always produced top athletes and there is not an international competition taking place that does not have a host of Welsh athletes representing Great Britain. One of the most famous athletes to have represented Wales and Great Britain was Lynn “the Leap” Davies. At the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Davies jumped 8.07 meters to win the gold medal in the long jump. In the same games he also took part in the 100 meters and the 4 x 100 meters relay. In his career he also became the European Champion in 1966 and twice won the Commonwealth gold medal.

Colin Jackson in action

One of Wales’ most recognizable sporting faces is Colin Jackson who is now one of the main presenters on BBC athletics coverage. Jackson’s athletics career was running the Hurdles event, competing in the 110 meters hurdles outside and the 60 meters distance indoors.

His personal best time of 12.91 seconds for the outdoor event was the world record time for over a decade, and he still holds the world’s best time for the indoor race. He won the World Championships twice and over a period of 12 years was undefeated at European Championships. He won a silver at the 1988 in Seoul but it was unfortunate that he never won an Olympic Gold. Another hurdler who also won the world Championships was Dai Green who ran the event over 400 meters. There was a period in his career between 2010 and 2011 where he was simply the best hurdler in the world. Over this 16 month period he became the European, Diamond League and Commonwealth Champion as well as having his World Championship success.

In 1984 Welshman Steve Jones broke the world marathon record in Chicago by running a time of 2 hours 8 minutes and 5 seconds. It was his first marathon that he had completed and he had no idea he had broken the record, as he never wore a watch when he raced.

The following year he went onto win the London Marathon, and later in 1985 he won the Chicago marathon for a second time when he won the race in a time of 2 hours 7 minutes and 13 seconds, which remains the British record today. Also in 1985 he broke the world record for the half marathon if a time 61 minutes and 14 seconds when winning in Birmingham.

Joe Calzaghe with his championship belts

Very few boxers go through their career undefeated, but one Welshman did so and he did it in the most understated manner. Joe Calzaghe won all 46 of his fights that he took part in during his 16 year career, of which half were world championship contests. He has been described as the best super-middleweight boxer of all time. His last two fights were in the States but the majority of his contests were held in Wales. This created huge national interest and he was simply unbeatable when fighting in Cardiff at the National Stadium with the country behind him. The downside was that he never got the recognition he deserved from the American boxing fraternity as they did not see enough of him.

The dangers of boxing were tragically brought to the attention of sports fans around the world with the death of Johnny Owen in 1980. Owen was a bantamweight and his sleight frame earned him the nickname of “the Merthyr Matchstick”. The start of his career saw him wining the European and commonwealth titles and on 19th September 1980 he challenged the Mexican Lupe Pintor for the World title in Los Angeles. Despite taking a lead in the early rounds Owen was knocked unconscious in the 12th round, and he never regained consciousness being pronounced dead seven weeks later.

Two of the country’s most famous sportsman achieved great success in the world of equestrian in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. David Broome who was born in Cardiff represented Britain if five Olympic Games and was voted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the year in 1960 after winning a bronze at the Olympic Games.

At many of the events he participated in one of his main rivals was his fellow country man Richard Meade who was born in Chepstow. Meade won three Olympic gold medals plus five world championship medals, which included two gold’s. Meade was regarded as the better horseman but putting these two together gave Britain a great team.

The Other Sports in Wales – Part 1

Posted by on Apr 20, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on The Other Sports in Wales – Part 1

The Other Sports in Wales – Part 1

Despite Wales being known around the world for the passion of its rugby union, it is not the only sport that is played and followed in this sport mad nation. Wales regularly produces international sports men of the highest caliber, and while the national team may not be able to compete with the very best international sides, those individual players are held in the highest regard. One such sportsman is Ryan Giggs who played football for Wales on 64 occasions scoring 12 times. He is however,best remembered for his club career with Manchester United. In over 15 seasons he played 672 times scoring 114 goals.

Gareth Bale speaking with Ryan Giggs

During this period the side won the league title on 13 occasions and the European Champions League twice, plus many other domestic trophies. His contribution was recognized by being named as the PFA player of the year, and also captaining the side on many occasions.

Gareth Bale is the player today in Wales who as well as representing the nation, is seen as one of the best players in the world. In the last 5 seasons he has been playing in Spain for Real Madrid where he has scored 62 goals in 118 appearances during a period of great success for the Spanish giants. He started his career with Southampton, but he made his name at Tottenham Hotspurs, where he scored 42 goals from 146 appearances. During his time with the national side he has been the inspiration behind many of their performances, and he has scored 26 times in the 68 caps that he has won.

Swansea are the only club who play their football in England’s Premier League. For years they used to play their home games at the Vetch Field but in 2003 they relocated to the newly built all-seat Liberty Stadium. The ground hold 21,000 spectators but the passion of the home fans is one of the reasons why the side has been in the Premiership for the last 7 seasons.

Matthew Maynard with the 1997 Championship trophy

If anyone doubts the popularity of football in Wales then they must visit a match between Swansea and their local rivals Cardiff City. Cardiff has also recently located to a new stadium, moving in 2009 from their old Ninian Park Ground to the 33,000 all-seat Cardiff City Stadium. The side are currently in second place in the Championship as they chase promotion into the Premier League. The owners and supporters of the club truly believe that they are a premiership side waiting to rightfully return to the top league. Their rivalry with their Swansea neighbors is intense.

The main summer sport in Wales is cricket with Glamorgan being Wales’ sole representatives in the County Championship. They play their home games at Sophia Gardens which is located in Cardiff. The Ground has recently undergone intensive redevelopment, and is now a test match venue for England’s home games. The county team are currently in division 2 of the championship but have an illustrious history. They have won the county championship on 3 occasions with their last one occurring in 1997 under the captaincy of Matthew Maynard who also represented England.

Another player who also appeared in test match cricket was Robert Croft. He played 21 times for England, primarily as an off spinner in which he took 49 wickets. In his career for the Welsh county he played in 407 first class matches taking 1,175 wickets. In 1969 when the county won the County Championship they were captained by Tony Lewis. He went on the become the only player from Glamorgan to captain England which he did so on 8 occasions. In his career for Glamorgan he played 409 first class matches and scored a total of nearly 21,000 runs.

Glamorgan are one of the best supported sides in county cricket and this reflects the popularity of the sport in Wales.

Rugby in Wales – Part 2

Posted by on Mar 28, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on Rugby in Wales – Part 2

Rugby in Wales – Part 2

A good example of the relationship between the close-knit communities of Wales and their rugby tams was at LLanelli RFC, the club that produced both Phil Bennett and JJ Williams. It was a hard working steel town which was dominated by the rugby club. Men would finish a hard week’s work and go down to Stradey Park and support their workmates playing for the club.

This was in the amateur era and although the players did receive unofficial payments, they still had full time jobs. In 1972 Llanelli beat the All Blacks at Stradey Park 9-3 in front of 26,000 supporters. The atmosphere created by the community provided the back bone to the victory and also goes a long way to explaining how these world class players were produced.

Stradey Park packed to support their local heroes

The local sides reflected their community and the battles between the top clubs were as keenly contested as international games. During these times all of the Welsh sides would play teams like Bath, Gloucester and Bristol from the West Country of England. With rugby turning fully professional it has changed completely the club structure of Wales. There are now four regional rugby sides that play in the Pro 14 League. The other sides in the league come from Scotland, Ireland, South Africa and Italy.

The Scarlets are made up from the old club sides Llanelli, Carmarthen Quins and Llandovery. The Ospreys saw Neath and Swansea coming together. The Dragons is a combination of Newport, Ebbw Vale and Cross Keys. The last team are the Cardiff Blues which was formed as a result of Cardiff joining forces with Pontypridd.

There is no doubt that the club rugby has lost a lot of the community spirit that it had with the older system but it has resulted in better facilities and better foreign players being attracted to play in the region. Also the standard of rugby has been improved from week to week as the Welsh teams are playing the other country’s top club sides.

The Principality Stadium, Cardiff

There has been a similar transformation with the International team. The side now play their home fixtures at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff which was built in 1999. It is home to many sporting events but the 74,500 capacity venue is principally the home of the Welsh RFU. The venue is fast becoming many rugby players favorite international stadium and has the benefit of being able to close the roof when wet weather is forecast.

The Welsh team also has its training home just down the motorway at the Vale Resort. Located just 10 miles from the center of Cardiff the resort consists of 2 championship golf course a hotel and the largest spa in Wales. The Welsh team now have their own indoor training facilities plus outdoor pitches as well. The construction of two administration blocks means that the whole of the Welsh Rugby Union is now based here. The transformation of ruby in Wales in recent times has had no effect on people’s perceptions of the game in Wales as it is still the national sport of the country. As well as the Welsh sides having the reputation of being very good they always play with a certain style.

The recent form of the national side is inconsistent. On their day they can beat any side in the world but at the current time they do have the same standard of players available to them that previous generations have had. When a Welsh player plays rugby for his country he is left in doubts the enormity of the occasion.

Rugby Union in Wales – Part 1

Posted by on Mar 15, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on Rugby Union in Wales – Part 1

Rugby Union in Wales – Part 1

The national sport of Wales is Rugby Union. It is the dream of nearly every child growing up in Wales  to one day wear the famous red shirt and run out onto the pitch at the National Stadium, before handing out a good old fashioned thrashing to their fiercest rivals, England. It has been the case for many years and any miss-justice that the Welsh feel has gone against them in dealing with the English, is stored in the nations memory banks, so that retribution will hopefully be carried out the next occasion that the two nations meet on the rugby field.

The Welsh team singing the National Anthem at the Principality Stadium

Representing the Welsh rugby team is more than just the 80 minutes of rugby being played. The build up to the game and the coverage in the local media is intense. The day of the game sees the crowd arriving early to sing songs, and when the national anthems are being played the home team is lifted by a rousing rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.

Of the 131 matches that the games have been played between the two nations England have 62 wins ad Wales have 57. To put this into perspective, Wales pick from just over 3 and a half million people, while England can choose from a population of over 53 million. The simple fact is that the Welsh are very good at this sport and they regularly produce players that are among the best in the world.

The reputation for their rugby comes from the performances from the national team in the early 20th century. Wales were the top side in The British Isles between 1899 and 1910 winning the Triple Crown twice and finishing runners up on three other occasions. In 1905 they beat the visiting New Zealand national team, the All Blacks, and this was their only defeat on their 35 match tour. The second golden period for the Wales team was between 1969 and 1979 when the side contained a large group of players that could get in any side in the world. During this period the side only lost on seven occasions, winning three Grand Slams and three Five Nations titles.

Another try for Gareth Edwards

At the start of this period the side was inspired by their fly half Barry John. He was the player who drove the team forward with his accurate kicking and his even balanced running. It was a day of mourning in Wales in 1972 when it was announced that he was retiring from the game at the age of 27.

John was so revered in Wales that the high levels of expectation simply got to him, and he could not cope with the pressure that was put on top his shoulders. However, Wales had another great player to take the number 10 shirt, and that was Phil Bennett the fly half who was playing his club rugby for Llanelli RFC. Bennett was only a small man but his was quick and well balanced. He possessed an incredible side step, and it was due to his piece of magic that led to one of the greatest tries ever scored, during a game between the Barbarians and the All Blacks in Cardiff in 1973. The try was eventually scored by Gareth Edwards but it was started by Bennett.

Gareth Edwards was the scrum half who played with both John and Bennett. Many people regard Edwards as the greatest scrum half to play the game. He was as quick as any player on the pitch and his passing was fast and accurate. He scored 22 tries in 53 appearances for Wales and as also the stand out performer for both the British Lions and the Barbarians.

There were other famous Welsh players from this era including Mervyn Davies, John Taylor, JJ Williams and Dr JPR Williams. The list was endless and it was a mystery how these players were emerging from such a small population. But that also was the secret behind the success.

The Geography of Wales

Posted by on Mar 2, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on The Geography of Wales

The Geography of Wales

Wales is situated on the western side of Great Britain, bordered by the Irish Sea to the west and surrounded by England in the other directions. The country is roughly around 170 mile long and 60 miles wide, and is a geographers dream. It is a mountainous country with three National Parks being located in its region. Considering the wilderness nature of the country is fairly well populated with a population of just over 3 million people, but the majority of these people tend to be concentrated into the lowland flat areas.

The general topography of the region has been formed by plate tectonics up lifting and folding the rocks into the mountains that are found today. There are 15 mountains in Wales over 3000 feet, and the highest of these is Snowdon with its summit at 3560 feet.

Llyn Ogwen in the Nant Ffrancon valley

The mountains have been sculptured and shaped by last ice the country’s age. This has left behind a spectacular landscape which attracts many visitors into the three National Parks. The National Parks as well as protecting the natural environment has helped make the region more accessible to its visitors. The upland regions are home to glaciated landscapes that have produced many landforms that are often used as examples in geography text books. The Snowdonia National Park is often used in case studies to provide evidence of the work of glaciers. The huge U shaped valley at Nant Ffrancon has many features including the long ribbon lake, Llyn Ogwen.

Spilling into the lakes are waterfalls that descend from truncated spurs located along the valley’s sides. Further up the valley are small corrys, such as the one at Cwm Idwal, which is occupied by a small lake. The whole area has many example of striations cut into the rocks where the ice has worn against the valley bottom and sides.

The country no longer is affected by glaciation but its mountains have a huge effect on the region’s climate. As warm moist air approaches from the Atlantic it has to rise above the mountains. This produces relief rainfall and the whole of the country experiences high amounts of rainfall during the year.

The River Taff flowing through Cardiff

The sea has the effect of cooling the country in the summer and warming it in the winter. Due to the high altitude the mountains do get snowfall in the winter but not as much as the highlands in northern England and Scotland. However, the climate does change around the country with the highlands being wetter and cooler than the lowland areas. The high rainfall in the region has resulted in numerous rivers draining the land. The River Severn acts as the border between England and Wales for many miles before flowing into the Bristol Channel. This direction is also followed by the rivers Towy, Tusk, Taff and Wye.

Other rivers flow northwards and empty into the Irish Sea. The largest of these that flow into Liverpool Bay are the Rivers Clwyd, Conwy and Dee. The Rivers Dovey and Rheidol also reach the Irish Sea but through Cardigan Bay.

This dense concentrating of rivers has resulted in the lowland floodplains being utilized by the country’s population for agricultural purposes. Wales has a rich farming history and it is able to make the most of both the floodplain areas and also the upland regions where the soils are thinner. The low-quality soils in the upland areas has led to the farming of Sheep and the county is famed around the world for the quality of its lamb. Large areas of the exposed upland regions are dominated by moorland where the toughest species can survive on the thinnest soils.

The geology of the country has presented Wales with large natural resources. During the Industrial Revolution South Wales became the heartland of Britain’s manufacturing Industry. Huge local supplies of coal and iron ore resulted in many jobs being created. It also resulted in the Steel industry have large plants in the local area. The geography of Wales has always been important to the nation.