Keiran Jones

Keiran Jones keeps cool at the Welsh Athletics Championships. Pic: Owen Morgan

Keiran Jones Is Firmly In The Driving Seat As Welsh Para Stars Take Centre Stage

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By Owen Morgan

The introduction of seated shot put and discus competitions at last weekend’s Welsh Athletics Championships was described as a “beautiful thing to see” by athlete Keiran Jones.

The F34 thrower, who is ranked number one in the UK, was delighted to be competing on the same timetable as able-bodied athletes at the nation’s senior outdoor championships.

The event has long seen the likes of Paralympians Aled Davies, Hollie Arnold and Olivia Breen taking part, but Sunday also saw athletes taking part in the sitting throws after the shot put had been included in the indoor championships earlier this year.

And Jones was delighted to be one of almost a thousand competitors taking part in the weekend’s events.

“Hopefully this will be the first of many more to come,” said Jones, a former Welsh wheelchair basketball international.

“Obviously we’ve competed outdoors before, but not at the Welsh Athletics Championships.

“Normally, as para athletes, we have our own disability champs, so it’s been great to see able bodied athletes competing here as well. It’s a really beautiful thing to see.

“It makes you feel involved, definitely. The inclusion side of things has just skyrocketed.

Paralympic T38 100m gold medallist Thomas Young (left) pictued taking part at the Welsh Athletics Championships on Saturday_ Paralympic T38 100m gold medallist Thomas Young (left) pictued taking part at the Welsh Athletics Championships on Saturday_

“As you probably know, disability sport doesn’t get as much media attention. So, this is giving us more attention. It’s what we need to bring the sport up and get more people to know about it.”

Jones and his fellow competitors certainly did a good job of putting the sport in the spotlight with an excellent performance on Sunday.

The Anglesey athlete set a huge new 22cm personal best of 8.18m – taking him over the eight-metre mark for the first time.

Jones said: “I’ve kind of done what I needed to do, but I’m going to go back to the drawing board and see what else we can work on because it’s taken me maybe two years to hit the eight-metre mark and get over it.

“I’ve had a whole new coaching system in play and what we’ve been doing is working, which is good. I’ve got a couple more comps coming up in the next three, or four weeks, so just going to knuckle down, keep training and hopefully get better results and keep going forward.”

Keiran Jones Keiran Jones went over eight metres for the first time at the Welsh Athletics Championships_

Jones’ progression in athletics has been spectacular since he took up the sport because he needed to pick an extra sport during his GCSEs.

However, he admits his initial introduction to athletics wasn’t instantly encouraging.

“I’d played basketball for years – wheelchair basketball for Wales and all that stuff,” said Jones.

“And then during my GCSEs I had to pick another sport – an individual sport. I was like ‘what can I do’? And someone asked ‘have you tried athletics’?

“Disability Sport Wales got in touch with me, but I didn’t have any equipment. I asked, ‘do I throw from my chair’? And they said, ‘we’ve got a frame for you’.

“When I saw it, I thought it was a coffee table! I thought ‘why have they brought me a coffee table, how is that going to work’?

“But I picked it as a GCSE subject and just did it to get a mark. Apparently, at the time, I was good and now I’m here, doing what I do.

“I’m glad I’ve done it because it’s formed me as a person, I would say. I’m glad DSW got in touch with me and put me on the right track.”

Jac Sheehan Jac Sheehan on his way to winning the seated discus with a big personal best_

Saturday’s competition saw Jac Sheehan, also of DSW Para Athletics, finish second and Paddy Pepper, of the British Wheelchair Athletics Association, completed the podium.

Ellie Bowen, DSW Para Athletics, was champion in the para female seated shot, reaching a distance of 6.36m. The seated discus, which took place later in the day, was won by Sheehan who threw a huge new PB of 17.58m.

Paddy Pepper Paddy Pepper was one of the athletes to travelled from England to compete on Sunday_

Asked why Welsh Athletics had introduced the seated shot and discus into this year’s outdoor championships, Para athletics pathway officer Neil Taylor, said: “We’re committed to being an inclusive environment – an inclusive sport – and I think that that goes for a number of sports.

“There are a lot of sports now that are where they should be and that’s where we are – fully inclusive, fully integrated. Athletes are athletes.

“The discus at the junior championships last year was won by a para athlete, Michael Jenkins, in a field of non-para athletes. There are some para athletes, when they are competing at our main events, that are actually winning or getting on the podium. It’s really exciting.”

Ellie Bowen Ellie Bowen pictued competing in the seated shot on Sunday

Jenkins has since been selected to represent Great Britain at next month’s World Para Athletics Championships in Paris, alongside six other Welsh athletes.

All seven – Jenkins, Aled Davies, Hollie Arnold, Olivia Breen, Funmi Oduwaiye, Sabrina Fortune and Harrison Walsh, were taking part in last weekend’s Welsh Athletics Championships.

Taylor said: “They’re all here this weekend, Hollie was in the javelin earlier on, Livvy Breen in the long jump yesterday . . .

“As well as the Welsh athletes, we have other athletes like Paralympic 100m champion Thomas Young coming over from England yesterday to compete because they enjoy the event.

“And the message from Welsh Athletics is you’re welcome, we’ll accommodate you. It shows Welsh Athletics’ commitment to inclusion.

“We’re doing really well, there’s a way to go still and there will be some challenges ahead. But the bottom line is the para athlete is an athlete, full stop.”

Michael Jenkins Michael Jenkins competing in the shot put at the Welsh Athletics Senior Championships_

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