By Steve Howell
Wales punched well above its weight in delivering the extraordinary success of the 2012 Olympics – both in the battle for medals and in the provision of outstanding facilities.
Before the Olympics even started, more than 1,000 athletes from 21 countries were in Wales using facilities ranging from international-standard pools in Cardiff and Swansea to the Newport National Velodrome.
By the closing ceremony, Welsh athletes had made a seven-medal contribution to Team GB’s record total of 65 and third place in the medals table.
“We’ve come out of London 2012 having exceeded the unprecedented success achieved at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games,” said Laura McAllister, chair of Sport Wales.
“We’ve been clear about our need to be unashamedly ambitious in our quest for success and, together with governing bodies of sport, have set a target of between six and 10 medals across both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games. With the seven medals already won by Welsh athletes, we are well on track to achieving that target.”
The Welsh successes included a gold for 19-year-old Jade Jones in Taekwondo, making her only the third Welsh woman to achieve gold in an individual Olympic event, and a silver for 21-year-old Fred Evans in the boxing, Wales’s first silver in that sport.
The other medal winners were: Hannah Mills (silver – sailing), Geraint Thomas (gold -cycling), Sarah Thomas (bronze – hockey), Tom James (gold – rowing) and Chris Bartley (silver – rowing).
The total of seven medals, including three golds, puts the Welsh contribution to Team GB on a par with much bigger countries such as Brazil, Spain and South Africa and ahead of the likes of Kenya, Canada and Ireland.
Looking to the future, McAllister said: “Not only are we achieving in the here and now, but it gave us a glimpse of what’s to come. Just look at the statistics: 18 of the 30 Welsh athletes made their Olympic debut, and 12 were under the age of 23.
“Essentially, these Games have shown that there is a plethora of young talent emerging that can and will be nurtured to ensure that we continue to see Welsh athletes standing proud on podiums at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and beyond.
“But it’s vital that we don’t see a dip in performance and success. We’ve been working with our partners to ensure that interest has been – and continues to be – harnessed here in Wales; to ensure that any child who has been inspired by what they have seen over the last few weeks is able to get involved in their chosen sport and, ultimately, stay hooked for life.”
“Through our Community Sport Strategy we have already committed an additional investment of £9million from the National Lottery to help develop much wider opportunities, for not just children and young people but adults, to access both formal and recreational sport.
“In just a few weeks’ time we’ll see our Paralympic stars take the stage, and with our strong history of success in disability sport, we’re confident that we’ll see another record- breaking medal haul.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming our 68 Welsh athletes home at an event in Cardiff on Friday 14th September. We’d encourage as many of the Welsh public as possible to show your support for these sporting heroes that have done us so proud.”