Funmi Oduwayie & James Ledger

Funmi Oduwayie & James Ledger

Welsh Para Stars To Shine On Big Screen Ahead Of Paris Games

All wales sports

By Gareth James

Welsh Paralympic hopefuls James Ledger and Funmi Oduwaiye are two of the athletes who star in a new feature-length documentary, released on June 13.

The pair – who are both gearing up for the Paralympic Games in Paris in August – fall under the spotlight in “Transatlantic Storytelling”.

Shot and discus thrower Oduwaiye’s remarkable transition into para sports after injury and Ledger’s inspirational career as a visually impaired sprinter are the stand-out stories in a film which aims to capture the essence of Welsh sport.

The documentary is the result of a pioneering partnership between two universities – Cardiff Metropolitan in Wales and Ball State University in Indiana, USA.

With the Paris Olympics and Paralympics now just weeks away, Dai Sport has some exclusive clips and details to share from the project.

The universities might be situated over 3,500 miles apart but media students and staff from the two institutions combined their creative forces this year to create a film which follows the fortunes of some amazing athletes and coaches who live, train, work or study in Wales.

The makers of the film say it, “aims to get under the skin of Welsh sport” and show what sport means to the people of Wales.

“From January, our two cohorts hooked up online every week and discussed potential subjects, stories, locations and characters for the film.” says Cardiff Met Sport Broadcast lecturer Joe Towns.

“Then, in March this year, the American students arrived in Wales for two weeks and worked tirelessly with our cohort gathering material, shooting interviews, attending sports fixtures and training sessions and filming scenic shots all around South Wales, not to mention a few nights out! They are students, after all.”

As well as telling the stories of Swansea sprinter Ledger and Wales basketball star turned para thrower Oduwaiye, the students also point their lens at another Paris-bound para athlete, Jade Atkin.

Jade, a Cardiff Met student who plays for the Archers basketball club, is set to shine for Team GB in wheelchair basketball at the Games.

In the film, her family reveal the emotional journey Jade has been on to get to this point.

It’s not just British athletes on screen. There’s also an international flavour to the film, with a cricket storyline which shows young Indian cricketer, Bhavya Doshi, as he tries to make it as a professional cricketer in Wales, whilst also adjusting to local food, wickets and weather.

And there is a lively house full of Americans who have come to Wales in search of the ultimate rugby experience.

Where better than the Cyncoed Campus to come for your rugby education? It’s the place where rugby legends like Gareth Edwards, Non Evans and JJ Williams studied and played as teens.

Possibly the most impactful section of the film is not with a powerful athlete but with a man who harnesses the power of sport to change lives.

Liam MacKay, from Ely, uses boxing to help young adults, who have been in trouble, get their lives back on track.

He takes them to some of Cardiff’s toughest gyms to learn the ropes from the likes of former world champion Steve Robinson.

“Instead of being downstream, fishing them out of the river, we want to go upstream and stop them from falling in in the first place,” says MacKay, a massive character and community leader, who is the director of “Step into Sport”, a scheme run by Cardiff Met Sport and South Wales Police.

The film then skips back in time 60 years to that golden moment in Tokyo where a young Cardiff Met student, Lynn Davies, leapt into the history books.

“You have to seize the opportunity of a lifetime, in the lifetime of that opportunity,” says Lynn of his gold medal-winning long jump of 1964.

That’s just one of many inspirational, motivational one-liners in the documentary, so prepare to finish watching and be ready to take on the world.

So, why Wales?

“The idea of this project is to create an immersive, cultural learning experience. We want our students to find and tell local Welsh stories that resonate globally,” says American Chris Taylor, a teacher who specialises in storytelling.

His students on the Ball State “SportsLink” course have won numerous Emmys for their hard-hitting sports docs and this project, which will air on ESPN across the States this summer, is already being talked about as a winner in the major student awards next year.

“I think it taps into the human side of sport, the sacrifices and challenges that come with elite sport, the sweat and tears, overcoming adversity, on and off the field. Those are the stories we look for.”

Taylor’s Welsh counterpart, Towns adds: “We wanted the students to tell stories which epitomise the diversity of sport in Wales, stories which reflect the role of sport in Wales, whether that’s in shaping our identity and communities, attracting people from other countries and cultures to come here to play, or reminding younger audiences about the achievements of athletes like Lynn, or simply showing people how sport can be a force for good.”

There’s music and poetry, too, in between the sweat and the sport.

“Whilst in Wales, the American film crew were introduced to Cardiff performance poet and rapper, Duke Al Durham” says Towns, “and they told him about a line they’d heard someone say during one rainy day in the city centre – ‘If you want something to grow, plant it in Wales’.

“They gave the line to Duke, and he turned it into a poem called, The Seed, which runs throughout the documentary as a returning narrative device.

“It’s A fitting metaphor for the growth and potential of sport in Wales. Plant it and it will grow.”

The Transatlantic Storytelling film is released on YouTube on Thursday June 13th.

All wales sports

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.