Wales' Year of Legends

 

Following on from the 2016 Year of Adventure, we now enter the Year of Legends - the Welsh Government-led marketing campaign designed to galvanise the tourism industry and to showcase the very best of Welsh culture during the year. It's an opportunity to celebrate a wealth of sporting and cultural events and icons, and here at Sport Wales, we plan to do just that!

Here, are our legends...

 


October 2017

Hayley Edwards

Edd's Eagles

Hayley Edwards 1

Our #YouSportLegend for October has been on a huge personal journey - and she's using her experiences to help others.

Weighing 23 stone, Hayley Edwards from Blaina near Abertillery, decided to make some drastic life changes, for the sake of her family and her health.

Thanks to a Slimming World eating plan and exercise at her local Leisure Centre, she lost a whopping 11 stone and was motivated by her husband to give running a go - something she had always wanted to try.

Starting with a slow walk-jog with the dog, she managed to reach her 5k target at a Race for Life event. Catching the running bug, she went on to raise money for a hospital by running 10k. On the finish line she decided she wanted to run a half marathon, and signed up and completed the Cardiff Half. Now, there's no stopping her!

"Here I am 10 half marathons later, a huge boost to my confidence, 12 stone lighter and feeling 100% fitter" she explains. "Running was my baby and I couldn't tell enough about the wonderful benefits of running."

Not satisfied by just her own transformation, Hayley wanted to spread the word and motivate others to feel the way she did when she ran.

With the help of her husband, they set-up a local social running club called Edd's Eagles. Three groups head out every week, from Couch to 5k, intermediate and advanced level.

She added: "I'm proud to say we have reached out and helped so many people get fit, healthy and active."

Run Wales Activator Hannah Phillips, who supported Hayley in setting up the club said: "Superheroes come in many different forms these days. And everyone has their own version of a hero. Hayley Edwards is one of mine!"

Victoria Price, Wellbeing Manager at Aneurin Leisure added: "Hayley is an inspiration to anyone who wants to get involved in running. After gaining the benefits from running herself, she has helped others get involved in running too. The group is flourishing with fantastic support from all members driven by Hayley's motivation and enthusiasm."
             
And her next challenge?

"A marathon" she declares. "I would never have thought I'd be able to achieve this but I have to keep thinking back to when I thought simply running was impossible!"


We have every faith in you Hayley #YouSportLegend.

 

September 2017

Jon Morgan

Disability Sport Wales

Jon Morgan

Our #YouSportLegend for September is a big name in Welsh sport.

This Summer, Jon Morgan stepped down as CEO of Disability Sport Wales.

He leaves behind a legacy of 15 successful years driving grassroots and elite disability sport in our country.

He says his own Sport Legend was his dad George, who committed much of his life to local rugby and was an important role model to Jon growing up.

Sport has always played an important part in Jon's life - and it shows! His career began as a Junior Recreation Officer at Heol Ddu Leisure Centre in Bargoed, whilst still at University. He enjoyed many years in local authority and sports development, before joining Disability Sport Wales in January 2002 with some big results.

The numbers speak for themselves … Since his appointment, grassroots participation opportunities have increased across Wales from 1200 to over 1.4 million per year by 2016.  The number of clubs have increased from 31 to over 400, with a workforce of over 7000 coaches and volunteers. Today there are 22,000 disabled members actively participating on a weekly basis. Huge achievements.

Jon has seen first-hand the difference sport makes to people's lives. "I just can't imagine a world without sport - it would certainly be a much poorer place without it," he explains.

Replacing Jon at the helm of Disability Sport Wales is Fiona Reid, who is full of praise for his work. She said: "Jon is fundamental to the strong, credible position that disability sport and sport for disabled people in Wales is in.  His vision, leadership and passion has inspired his colleagues across the sector, to think differently and to genuinely begin to transform lives. He is a genuine asset to sport in Wales; and the sector is better off because of his dedication and ways of thinking."

Married with two children, he is now an independent consultant and lives in Swansea. He is Vice- chair of Commonwealth Games Wales and board member for the Welsh Sports Association, as well as holding board roles within Boccia.

All the best Jon, a very deserving Sport Legend.


 

August 2017

Dave Jessett

Dave Jessett Image 1

In a month where athletics has dominated the global sport scene, our #YouSportLegend for August is volunteering at the top of his field.

Dave Jessett is currently one of two Competition Directors at the IAAF World Championships in London, something he says he feels very fortunate to be able to do.

Back in 1995, Dave saw an advert for those interested in a course on officiating. As a PE teacher at the time, he jumped at the opportunity.

He enjoyed it so much, it became a career path for him.

His advice to others?

"Give it a try. You don't have to an athletic performer yourself to be actively involved in the world of athletics. It is rewarding and has led me to travel to all corners of the world."

As for being termed a Sport Legend, he is as humble as you would expect when meeting him, "I don't see myself as a legend, just a guy doing a job and enjoying it," he explains.

Having worked with many top athletes, a sporting highlight among Dave's impressive list was walking in to the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, where he was a Chief Field Event judge, and being met with the noise and buzz of the 'home Games'.

As well as officiating, he is no stranger to competing himself.

His love for athletics began back in school aged 11. Finishing back of the pack at cross country, he remembers the cheers he got simply for completing the race and was hooked on the atmosphere. He later went on to progress as a middle-distance runner, captaining running clubs including Barry Harriers and later competing with Swansea Harriers.

Dave has been involved in athletics for over fifty years. As well as holding senior roles at many global Championships, he sits on top advisory panels, management teams and tutors for UK Athletics.

He can be found at most major events, and his expertise and experience is well-renowned across the country and further afield.

Chris Moss, Head of Development at Welsh Athletics explains: "Dave is one of the UK's most dedicated officials. It is testament to his commitment as a volunteer that, one week he will officiate locally at a club fixture and the following week will operate as the Competition Director at the IAAF World Championships. He is an inspiration to other Welsh officials and encourages them to reach the highest point of our sport."

And what does Dave get back from volunteering?

"Everything! It is completely rewarding. Without volunteers there would be no sport."

 Congratulations Dave #YouSportLegend!

 

July 2017

Lauren Williams

Lauren Pic 1

School's out for Summer and the future is looking bright for our #YouSportLegend for July.

Lauren Williams, 18, from mid Wales has juggled her A-Levels at Llanidloes High School with volunteering as a Young Ambassador … and she's also an aspiring athletics star!

Lauren has represented her country ten times to date. In 2025, she ranked number 1 in the UK for under 17's 300m hurdles and 10th fastest on the UK all-time list, breaking the Welsh record. Her talent has seen her invited to study on the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence programme by British Athletics. She is now ranked 2nd in the UK in 400m hurdles for her age group (under 20s) and 19th in Europe after running a huge Personal Best of 59.88s at the British Athletics World Championships team trials recently.

After an injury plagued season last year, Lauren threw herself in to her other passion - volunteer coaching.

She said: "Volunteering has helped me to overcome disappointment. Being able to provide other young people with the opportunities I have had is very satisfying."

Those who have worked with Lauren are full of praise for her dedication.

Elin Wozencraft, Active Young People Manager in Powys said: "She is an absolute star - conscientious, caring and committed to the scheme across Powys and nationally. She does all this and competes at a high level in athletics. She was recently selected to captain the Welsh squad, which shows how great her attitude towards life is. She is inspiring and I am so glad she is part of the team."

Emma Roberts, YA Co-ordinator added: "Lauren is a fantastic Young Ambassador (YA) and role-model. Her enthusiasm and energy as a Platinum Young Ambassador has helped motivate others to take up physical activity, and she's helped make a difference in her school and community by inspiring more young people to become Young Ambassadors."

Lauren is also on the National Steering group, and is the YA representative on the Sport Wales Board.

There's no stopping Lauren, who is hoping to study Business Management at university and continue her voluntary work in the world of sport. Her heart is set on wearing the GB Vest in Athletics and wearing her country's colours at the Commonwealth Games in the future - watch this space!

Well done Lauren, our Sport Legend for July.

 

June 2017

Wayne Greenshields, Carl Austin and Andy Calton

Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association (DSA)

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They say three's a crowd … but not when it comes to this group of legends.

Meet Carl Austin, Wayne Greenshields and Andy Calton - the trio that make up our Sport Legends for June.

The North Wales volunteers have helped transform many lives in their local community by using the positive power of sport to boost mental health and wellbeing.

They have worked tirelessly to build up the Disabled Supporters Association (DSA) in Wrexham for the past 5 years.

And their hard work has paid off.

Their biggest challenge now comes from managing the high numbers of around 40 participants every week.

When the Time To Change and Football Association of Wales (FAW) launched the 'We Wear The Same Shirt' program to tackle stigma in mental illness, the lads were given a great opportunity to expand their program, in partnership with Wrexham AFC.

Their team spirit shines through. With their skills and experience, they all add something to the mix. Wayne is the General Manager and oversees all non-football aspects of the club. Carl is the football manager and in charge of all football related activities. Andy is media and marketing manager.

Together, their enthusiasm and dedication has seen the project become a huge success.

2017 has been a big one for the club with a trip to Munich, ranking 4th in Europe.

They now have 60 players on their books ranging from 13 - 56 years old.

Matthew Jones, Business Development Manager at Wrexham AFC / The Racecourse Community Foundation said: "They are able to deal with very challenging situations, such as suicide, with a professional and empathetic manner, whilst ensuring that participants are treated as equals. Without these three, we truly believe that lives would have been lost. They have fostered an incredible team spirit. They are the lifeblood of the community."

Chris Foot, Senior Partnership Manager at the FAW added: "They have developed a family that has grown and grown, and are truly deserving of this accolade."

Well done to the three of you for being June's #YouSportLegend!


May 2017

Stewart Harris

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When he tells his story, everybody listens.

Our Legend for May, Stewart Harris, is not only a legend in the golfing world, but a role model for mental health - and the positive impact sport can have on it.

War veteran Stewart, from Rhyl, now spends much of his free time travelling the country as an ambassador for Golf Development Wales.

While serving in Afghanistan, with the Welsh Guards, his vehicle was blown up. He woke in a hospital in Birmingham, bearing the physical brunt of the explosion. While his physical health improved in the months to come, he carried the mental scars of the experience with him for much longer.

Today, he uses the story of his personal journey and his battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to inspire and change the lives of others.

He credits his own wellbeing to the sport he now loves - golf.

During his treatment for PTSD, a chance meeting encouraged Stewart to give golf a go.

He hasn't looked back since.

A proud member of Rhyl Golf Club, Stewart is most at home hitting a ball on the range, and spreads the word that golf is open to everybody - regardless of ability or background.

Hannah McCallister of Golf Union Wales said: "Stewart is an inspiring character with a story to tell. His enthusiasm for golf is sincere. When he starts talking about how golf has helped him after some serious injuries and tough times serving in the army in Afghanistan, everyone listens."

"We are delighted he agreed to be ambassador for Golf Development Wales, sharing his story and his enthusiasm and inspiring people to take up this great game. Stewart is an outstanding role model and he is having a great impact. He is certainly a sporting legend as far as we are concerned."

His work in promoting sport, his honesty in sharing his personal traumas and his infectious enthusiasm, make him a true Sport Legend. Well done Stewart, #YouSportLegend

 

April 2017

Anne Ellis OBE

Anne 3

Passionate, dedicated, honest … just a few of the words used to describe our Sport Legend for April, Anne Ellis OBE. A familiar face to many, Anne has made a huge impact on the world of Welsh sport during her lifetime.

Today marks one year to go until the Commonwealth Games 2018 in the Gold Coast and our April legend is the respected Team Wales President who is looking forward to emulating the record-breaking successes she saw in the last Games in Glasgow.

With sport at the heart of everything she does, Anne's contribution to sport started with Hockey.

She was capped 138 times for Wales, 14 times for Great Britain and captained both Wales and Team GB Women's Hockey team. When her playing career finished, Anne switched to coaching Wales and Great Britain and served as President of Hockey Wales for an impressive twenty year stint.

During her retirement announcement at the Hockey Wales AGM last Summer, her fellow Wales and GB teammate Sheila Morrow put it perfectly when she said: "I am yet to find anyone who has a bad word to say about Anne, which goes to show the high regard in which she is held."

Not one to put her feet up, Anne now spends her time as Chair of the Swansea City 'Spartans Hockey Team' and volunteering in the cafe at the ground most weekends.

She was recognised for her services to Welsh and British Hockey with an MBE and awarded an OBE in 2005 for her services to Welsh sport. Anne is known worldwide for her sporting passion and achievements. She has a string of impressive accolades, including being inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame. Her list of past sporting appointments is extensive and include Chair of Welsh Sports Association, Vice Chair of Sport Wales, Chef de Mission for Team Wales in Melbourne 2006 and President of the WWHA (Welsh Women's Hockey Association).

Her inspiration and influence in hockey and Welsh sport, means Anne is truly deserving of being called a Sport Legend! #YouSportLegend

 

   

March 2017

Karen Gibbins

Action Bikes Cycling Club

Karen

Community sport thrives thanks to the passion of its volunteers.

Our March Legend, Karen Gibbins, is one such volunteer.

Her outstanding dedication in developing women's cycling in her community saw her awarded Volunteer of the Year at the Swansea Sport Awards this month.

Karen, a librarian from Birchgrove in Swansea, started cycling 2 years ago. In 2016 she decided to start a Ladies Club as part of Action Bikes Cycling Club and has been instrumental in securing Lottery funding to help grow the club.

With over 100 ladies encouraged to get off the couch and cycle 40 miles over 10 weeks, it has been a huge success, thanks to her hard work and motivation.

She also started the Swansea Ladies Cycle Challenge 2016 to encourage women in Swansea to take up the sport and takes out 30+ riders weekly through the Winter as a Breeze Champion.

Karen, a Level 1 and 2 Breeze Cycling instructor, knows the physical and mental benefits of cycling and sport in general. She has volunteered her time to help others learn more about road cycling and enter events. Her passion for cycling is contagious!

She's taken part in events herself, including the Paris to Amsterdam bike ride for the Paul Popham fund which helps renal patients across Wales to receive a better quality of life. She also took part in the Ride to Somme and featured on BBC Countryfile on Remembrance Sunday last year.

Georgina Harper, National Development Manager at Welsh Cycling said: "Women's cycling is continuing to grow as part of our SheCycles Wales project, reaching out to women across Wales and getting them on their bikes. Karen is a fantastic ambassador for women's cycling, leading rides as a Breeze Champion and encouraging women to take their cycling further with her local club Action Bikes CC in Swansea. Karen is one of many women who are inspiring more women to cycle in Wales."

Volunteers like Karen are helping other women get fit and find a sport they love. Well done Karen #YouSportLegend

 

 

February 2017

Vicki Randall

Netball and Football Coach

Vicki Netball

In a legendary month for netball in Wales, it seems fitting that volunteer netball coach Vicki Randall is awarded our Legend for February.

PE teacher Vicki, from Cwmbran, spends much of her free time coaching netball in Torfaen as well as running a women's football club - another of her sporting passions. 

It is her hard work and dedication within community sport that saw her awarded the BBC Wales Sport's Unsung Hero for 2016.

When Vicki set up Cwmbran Youth Netball Club in 2009, there were just five girls. It has now grown to 230 members across 14 teams, as well as a 'tots' session for girls as young as one.  Vicki also runs Risca Netball Club, managing all five of their teams in the South East Wales League.

After a knee injury and nine operations, she was forced to give up playing netball and football. This is when she turned to coaching and has even been known to turn up to sessions on crutches or in a wheelchair rather than miss it.


Vicki set up Cwmbran Celtic Ladies football team in 2012, guiding them to promotion to the Welsh Premier league just two years later. She also started a reserve team to encourage more women to take up the sport.


Vicki typically devotes four evenings a week to coaching sport after work, as well as her weekends with netball fixtures on a Saturday and football Sundays. 


It is fair to say that sport plays a major role in her life! Ann Daley from Pontypool, whose daughter plays netball with Cwmbran Youth agrees: "Vicki has given so much to so many, volunteering all her free time. She has had a massive impact in raising levels of participation in sport for girls and women in South East Wales."


Instrumental in the growth of both grassroots netball and women's football, Vicki is truly deserving of being called #YouSportLegend.

 

January 2017

Ali Abdi

Cricket Beyond Boundaries

Ali Abdi

Ali Abdi is an enthusiastic and charismatic figure within the Grangetown community in Cardiff, and this enthusiasm is one of the key reasons the Cricket Beyond Boundaries programme has been so successful. His knowledge of the BME community has been instrumental in engaging with the project's target group; ages 13 to 25 and he has enabled the delivery of pop up cricket clubs across Cardiff, targeting areas not usually associated with mainstream cricket.

Funded by the Calls4Action programme launched by Sport Wales - and funded by the National Lottery - to help tackle inequality by using sport to breakdown cultural and economic barriers between communities, the programme has been the catalyst for two more BME projects in Newport and Swansea. Its success has been recognised through winning prestigious ECB awards, namely the ECB diversity award.

Mark Frost, Glamorgan Cricket's Community & Development Manager speaks extremely highly of Ali and the project: "We have been delighted with our BME cricket project, especially because it has unearthed both boys and girls into playing cricket regularly. Ali has been an excellent asset in how he has networked and connected with different community groups, showing his understanding of different ethnicities and how to put activity on using local volunteers."

Ali is truly a Welsh sporting community legend. Through the result of his hard work many young people have had the opportunity to participate in cricket who would not have done so before, and he's created a sustainable network of volunteers to ensure the project sees continued growth and success.

Sport Wales Senior Officer Susie Osbourne said: "The Cricket Beyond Boundaries project has gone from strength to strength with increasing participation through indoor sessions over the winter and more girls getting involved.  Ali's boundless enthusiasm in leading this project has been a huge part of its success, as has his support to new volunteers within the BME community.  He thoroughly deserves this recognition."

We'd like to say huge thank you to Ali for his commitment and dedication, and congratulations on being our January legend. #YouSportLegend #GwladGwlad