By Owen Morgan
More than 40 Welsh athletes have been named for various levels of funding and support to help them achieve their ambitions of competing at major global championships.
Welsh Athletics have named 41 athletes on their Commonwealth Games funding programmes, including 20 young up and coming stars on their Commonwealth Games Futures programme.
Meanwhile, endurance runners Dewi Griffiths and Melissa Courtney have been named on the British Athletics Olympic World Class programme. Rising stars Jeremiah Azu and James Tomlinson are named in the Olympic Futures Academy.
Welsh Athletics’ selection for support includes a mix of youth along with experienced senior athletes like World Championship competitors Josh Griffiths, Andy Davies, Bethan Davies and Ieuan Thomas, as well as Commonwealth Games athletes such as Osian Jones and Heather Lewis.
Other established Welsh and GB internationals included are sprinter Sam Gordon, along with endurance athletes Jenny Nesbitt and Charlotte Arter, who also have Commonwealth Games experience.
Nesbitt, who along with Arter helped Great Britain to a team gold medal in the senior women’s race at last weekend’s European Cross Country Championships, explained the importance of the support.
The Cardiff-based athlete said: “All the physio, nutrition, strength and conditioning, and psych support we get is so invaluable, and can be underrated.
“This, the training camps, and the financial contribution all come together to make such a difference.
“It helps ensure you can train, recover well and stay injury free meaning you get those marginal gains that can turn a top 10 performance into a top five, which can be the difference between making a British team or not.”
Former 400m World Champion Dai Greene is also named, alongside 400m runner Owen Smith, in the associate athlete category which supports experienced individual athletes with ambitions to compete at a major championship in the next two years.
The large cohort of 20 developing athletes named in the Commonwealth Games Futures programme reflects Welsh Athletics’ ambition to maximise the number of athletes delivering their best performances at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and 2026.
One of the promising youngsters included is Lauren Evans who broke into the UK top 10 for the heptathlon U20 rankings in 2019.
The Cardiff Athletics all-rounder, who is coached by Matt Wood, said: “I had support last year and found it really helpful, funding for competition entries and then the physio support was great – training for seven events, six times a week is tough!
“Getting a massage and having the peace of mind that the support is there if you get a niggle helps so much.
“I’m hoping to break 5,000 points this year, with the Home Countries International my main target in August, with some indoor competitions before that as stepping stones.”
Over the past 12 months, Welsh Athletics has been working hard to clarify the offer to its young developing athletes, making sure the Commonwealth Games Futures standards are aligned to the equivalent programme at British Athletics level.
The hope is that more Welsh Athletes will transition onto British Athletics’ World Class performance programme in future.
As part of a new strategic vision for athletics in Wales, the governing body has a goal to “inspire by developing a nation of champions who inspire the next generation”. The goals include:
- ensuring Wales is represented at every global and European championships
• increasing the number of top six performances at the Commonwealth Games
Welsh national coach Chris Jones said: “Our programme offers layers of support, both from our own coaches and expert staff, and from specialist colleagues in Sport Wales, that look to raise the bar.
“We’re looking for an honesty in our approach. We want to identify and convert more of our top athletes not just into Commonwealth Games athletes, but also increase Welsh representation in GB teams at European level and stretch ourselves to produce Welsh Olympians.”
Included for Great Britain support are marathon runner Dewi Griffiths, who was pre-selected for this year’s World Athletics Championships but subsequently forced to withdraw.
The Swansea Harrier is included in the Olympic Podium Potential programme, alongside Courtney, who narrowly missed out on selection for Doha following an outstanding 2019 season.
Meanwhile, sprinter Azu, who became Europe’s fastest teenager over 100m in 2019 and discus thrower James Tomlinson, who captained GB at the European Under-20 Championships are included in the British Athletics Olympic Futures Academy.
The full list of Welsh Athletics Commonwealth Games programmes supported athletes for 2020 is:
Commonwealth Games Programme
Bethan Davies, Heather Lewis – 20K Walk; Jenny Nesbitt – 10K and 5K; Osian Jones, Jac Palmer – Hammer; Josh Griffiths, Natasha Cockram – Marathon.
Commonwealth Games Potential
Sam Gordon – 100m; Charlotte Arter – 10K; Ieuan Thomas, Jonathan Hopkins – 3Ks/c; Adele Nicoll – Shot Put; Andrew Davies – Marathon; Jake Heyward – 1500m; Joe Brier – 400m.
Dai Greene – 400mH; Owen Smith – 400m.
Commonwealth Games Futures Athletes
Lauren Williams – 400mH; Hannah Brier – 100m; Kristian Jones – 100m/200m; Owain Lloyd Hughes – 100m; Remi Adebiyi – 3Ks/c; Cari Hughes – 1500m/3000m; Ben Thomas – 3K s/c; Oliver Barbaresi – 3000m; Ben Reynolds – 1500m; Osian Perrin – 3000m; Kiara Frizelle – 1500m/3000m; David Locke – 800m; Harry Davies – Discus (U17); Jay Morse – Discus (U20); Tom Hewson, Bethany Moule, Bethan Rees – Javelin; Ffion Palmer – Hammer; Cerys Thomas – Hammer; Lauren Evans – 100mH/Heptathlon.