BBC WALES SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR 2015 VOTING OPENS TODAY

The voting for BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2015 opens today, Monday, November 30.

The eight contenders for the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2015 award are:

Wales and Real Madrid footballer GARETH BALE, whose goals helped take Wales to Euro 2016

Ospreys and Wales Rugby Union international DAN BIGGAR who had a stand-out Rugby World Cup and Six Nations

Discus and Shot Put Double World Champion and Record holder, Paralympian ALED SION DAVIES

European Games gold medallist and World Grand Prix winner, Taekwondo athlete JADE JONES

The new IBF World Featherweight Champion who also defended his title this year, boxer LEE SELBY

Back from injury to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, triathlete NON STANFORD

Classic winner and career-best Tour de France finisher, cyclist GERAINT THOMAS

Wales and Swansea City football captain ASHLEY WILLIAMS who led his country to next year’s European Finals.

Public voting, by phone and text, is open from Monday, November 30 at 8am until closing on Saturday, December 5 at 6pm. Simply visit bbc.co.uk/sportwales for full details on how to vote.

The winner will be announced at the Wales Sport Awards 2015 on Monday, December 7, at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff. Wales Today on BBC One Wales, and BBC Radio Wales will have the result and reaction on the night.

The Awards ceremony will also be live on bbc.co.uk/sportwales and BBC iplayer from 8pm with reports on S4C’s Newyddion 9 and BBC Radio Cymru. The ceremony will then be available on the Red Button the following day.

The Wales Sport Awards 2015 event is a partnership between BBC Wales and Sport Wales bringing together a wide range of awards including the Sport Wales Coach of the Year and Team of the Year – and the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year award.

Full details can be found at www.walessportawards.co.uk

#WSA2015

Wales Sport Awards 2014 08.12.14 ©Steve Pope -SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2014
08.12.14
©Steve Pope -SPORTINGWALES

COACH OF THE YEAR SHORTLIST REVEALED

Football, rowing and rugby union are represented as the 2015 Coach of the Year shortlist is revealed.

Chris Coleman, Robin Williams and Warren Gatland have been picked out for achievements in 2015, with one of the high performance coaches to be named Coach of the Year at Wales Sport Awards 2015.

Under manager Chris Coleman, Wales have become a dominant force in European football and entered the top 10 of the FIFA standings for the first time ever following a win over second world-ranked Belgium in June. Under his stewardship, the squad reached the final of a major championships for the first time since 1958 and will compete against the major nations of European football at France 2016.

2015 saw Robin Williams lead Heather Stanning and Helen Glover to a second World Championship gold medal in the women’s pair event, the culmination of a 4-year unbeaten run for Helen Glover including an Olympic gold and two world titles. Following this, Glover – who rose to the top of the female rowing world rankings – and Stanning were named as Female Crew of the Year by rowing’s governing body, FISA.

With a Rugby World Cup squad decimated by injuries, Warren Gatland masterminded an historic win against hosts England at Twickenham and steered Wales through the toughest group of the tournament. A try in the final minutes of their quarter final versus South Africa denied them a famous semi-final spot.

Professor Laura McAllister, Chair of Sport Wales commented:

“All teams and talented individuals need a high quality coach and support teams to guide them towards their goals, and the importance of coaching in elite sport is something that is always highlighted.”

“These are three very special coaches, championed within their sports, and they rightly deserve their place at the very pinacle of Welsh sporting excellence.”

“Comparing such top level achievements across different sports is always such a difficult task. Even outside of the three finalists we have a raft of coaches whose success in 2015 is a source of great pride for Welsh sport.”

Head of Sport at BBC Wales, Geoff Williams added:

“We’re delighted to have the opportunity of showcasing three outstanding coaches who have achieved so much this year. They can all be proud of their achievements.”

The Coach of the Year shortlist was decided by the Wales Sport Awards judging panel, a panel of sport experts including: Commonwealth Games gold medallist Frankie Jones; Chair Sport Wales, Laura McAllister; Paralympic Athlete Pippa Britton; Head of Sport, BBC Wales, Geoff Williams; Sport Journalist, Carolyn Hitt; Young Ambassador, Nia Weaver and Chair of UK Coaching Committee, Bev Smith.

The winner of the Coach of the Year will be announced at the Wales Sport Awards 2015 on Monday, December 7, at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff.

For more information visit www.walessportawards.org.uk

Warren Gatland

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Robin Williams 20.10.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Robin Williams
20.10.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Chris Coleman ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Chris Coleman
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR FINALIST – ADE HOWELL

Strange as it may sound, St Patrick’s Day is an auspicious date in the history of Welsh women’s rugby. Back in 2007, on March 17, Ade Howell invited his sister’s English university team to Neath Port Talbot to play the mothers of the junior boys’ team he was coaching. The mothers didn’t look back and nor did Ade, who has been leading and developing the women’s club game ever since.

Since he was nine years old Ade has played rugby but he was struck by the inequality: “Women’s rugby was seen as an outside concept and I thought it was unfair that women didn’t get the same opportunities. Back then, women’s rugby was very much on the backburner and I was frustrated with the attitude that it was a dying sport, especially knowing how much my sister loved it.”

Ade went on to set up a women’s league group and structure which has allowed clubs across the country to shape and manage the way they want the leagues to run. It has certainly worked, in 2009 there were only 14 clubs, there are now 70 with more coming on board all the time.

Known as the Go To Guy, Ade dedicates over 35 hours a week to supporting the leagues and acting as the main contact point with Women’s Rugby.’Virtually every evening, he works his way through a barrage of emails, doing everything from coordinating the week’s results to offering indispensable advice to new team managers. He also handles all the administration including league rules, complaints, permits and travel expenses.

Ade plays down his efforts as minor and his response to this nomination was very telling: “When the BBC called I was about to go into a meeting so I arranged to speak to them later, I just thought they wanted help with something, probably contact details for a club. I was gob-smacked when they told me I was a finalist in the Wales Sport Awards.”

Yet it is Ade’s determination and hard work which have seen a 313% increase in the number of games played since 2010:

“We’re doing things right now. Women’s rugby is really booming, it is growing week by week. My passion is for giving girls more opportunities to play. Everyone can get involved, from those who just want to enjoy a game through to talented athletes with real potential to shine at international level.

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Ade Howells 18.11.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Ade Howells
18.11.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

His motivation is simple: “Get them playing!”.

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR FINALIST – JAN DAVIES

When Jan Davies talks about running her B&B and smallholding, you begin to wonder whether she has superhuman powers to make more hours in a day. Why? Because for the past 31 years, she has also dedicated herself to developing Men’s Artistic Gymnastics in Wales.

One of her sons, Gareth, showed particular interest in the sport at the age of eight – and so began Jan’s extensive voluntary career. She started coaching, devoting virtually every evening and weekend to cultivating local talent:

“It was hectic but I loved coaching the boys, it gave me such an enormous sense of satisfaction when they did well.”

She was also the driving force behind a successful Big Lottery Fund application, which led to the creation of the Wrexham Olympics Gymnastics Club, providing the community with first-class facilities and equipment.

Whilst Gareth’s early promise translated into an impressive sporting track record, including a hat-trick of appearances at the Commonwealth Games, Jan also took her skills to the next level as she became a qualified judge.

She now spends most weekends judging, with her busy itinerary taking her across the UK, Europe and sometimes even further afield. Over the past year alone she has given up her time to judge at more than 40 events, including the Island Games, Special Olympics, Disability, Regional and Local competitions.

She is the Primary Welsh Men’s Artistic judge for the Commonwealth Games and has been selected for many GB Internationals. She is also one of only two qualified Men’s Artistic Brevet judges within Wales.

Jan has invested her experience as a judge back into the sport. At training camps across the country, she spends hours helping gymnasts hone their routines, ensuring they are technically correct and capable of achieving the best scores. She also plays a vital role in the Judge Development Programme that Welsh Gymnastics launched to encourage and develop new judges within Wales. Through Jan’s dedication and passion the pool of judges has increased by 138%.

“Through judging I have been able to see young talent develop over time, I was watching Louis Smith and Brinn Bevan back when they were only eight years old!”

She offers this advice to anyone thinking of volunteering in sport: “Just go for it! You will get so much out of it. It’s not just the sport but also the friends you make and the chance to meet like-minded people from across the world.”

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Jan Davies 21.10.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Jan Davies
21.10.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

SHORTLIST FOR BBC WALES SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR 2015 ANNOUNCED

The eight contenders for the prestigious BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2015 award have been revealed today (Tuesday, November 24).

The contenders are:

Wales and Real Madrid footballer GARETH BALE, whose goals helped take Wales to Euro 2016

Ospreys and Wales Rugby Union international DAN BIGGAR who had a stand-out Rugby World Cup and Six Nations

Discus and Shot Put Double World Champion and Record holder, Paralympian ALED SION DAVIES

European Games gold medallist and World Grand Prix winner, Taekwondo athlete JADE JONES

The new IBF World Featherweight Champion who also defended his title this year, boxer LEE SELBY

Back from injury to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, triathlete NON STANFORD

Classic winner and career-best Tour de France finisher, cyclist GERAINT THOMAS

Wales and Swansea City football captain ASHLEY WILLIAMS who led his country to next year’s European Finals.

The title will be decided by public vote with the winner announced at the Wales Sport Awards 2015 on Monday, December 7, at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff.

The Wales Sport Awards 2015 event is a partnership between BBC Wales and Sport Wales bringing together a wide range of awards – including the Sport Wales Coach of the Year and Team of the Year – and the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year award.

Wales Sport Awards 2014 08.12.14 ©Steve Pope -SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2014
08.12.14
©Steve Pope -SPORTINGWALES

Public voting, by phone and text, opens on Monday, November 30 until Saturday, December 5. Full details on how to vote will be given on Monday, November 30 on our website bbc.co.uk/sportwales

LLANRWST FARMERS JOINTLY WIN BBC WALES GET INSPIRED SPORTS UNSUNG HERO 2015

Two farmers from Llanrwst have jointly won the BBC Wales Get Inspired Sports Unsung Hero 2015 this year for their work with Llanrwst Swimming Club.

Busy working farmers and grandmothers Jane Roberts and Nerys Ellis from Ysbyty Ifan near Betws-y-Coed have been running the Llanrwst Swimming Club for 32 years. Now in their 60s, the hours they spend at the club are all voluntary and their work doesn’t just end at the poolside. Both Jane and Nerys make the 24-mile round trip from their remote farms to the pool every week and are involved with all aspects of organising, promoting and planning swimming classes for children and young people of all abilities as well as arranging gala events at the club.

Known locally as “Aunty Jane”  and “Aunty Nerys”, the pair, who have children and grandchildren of their own, have taught generations of local children to swim and gain their swimming badges, dedicating their time to encouraging youngsters, irrespective of starting ability and including children with special needs to become competent and confident swimmers.

Jane and Nerys’ dedication means that countless children and young people have had the opportunity to learn valuable life-savings skills in a rural area which includes many lakes and rivers. They have also given young swimmers the opportunity to regularly socialise with other children living across rural Conwy.

Their reputation, enthusiasm and passion has been championed by scores of parents including Dawn Claydon, Llanrwst Swimming Club lifeguard, who nominated them:

“They not only teach children to swim but also teach awareness and warn children of the dangers of deep water – these are life-long skills. Their commitment is just outstanding and that’s why I wanted to nominate them. I’m so thrilled they have won.”

Jane and Nerys were surprised to win. Nerys said:

“We had no idea we’d won, it was a complete shock but it’s marvellous.

“It’s vital that there is a local swimming club for the youngsters and that it continues as it doesn’t matter where they are in the world, they need these skills”

Jane added:

“I never dreamt this would happen, I’m lost for words. I love teaching the children, especially my five-year olds, they are just lovely. I just want to thank the parents and Dawn for nominating us.”

Geoff Williams, Head of Sport, BBC Wales commented:

“Jane and Nerys epitomise the whole Unsung Hero ethos having given their valuable time and expertise over many years to help others. They are worthy winners of the Award.”

Jane and Nerys will be recognised at the 2015 Wales Sport Awards on Monday, December 7, at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff. They will then compete against other Unsung Heroes from Northern Ireland, Scotland and English regions for the BBC Get Inspired Sports Unsung Hero at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year event in Belfast on December 20.

Last year’s overall winner was Jill Stidever from Leicestershire, who was awarded for her work helping children with special needs to swim.

photo 2The BBC Get Inspired Sports Unsung Hero Award recognises and rewards outstanding contribution by individuals at the grassroots level of local sport, who give up their time on a voluntary basis so that sport can be played and enjoyed by people throughout the UK. Over 150 Unsung Heroes have been honoured over the last decade.

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR FINALIST – WENDY PRESSDEE

Her sport has taken her as far afield as Singapore and the Cook Islands but it isn’t the travel which keeps Wendy enthused about netball, it is the sheer delight of watching people play the game she loves.

Wendy started playing netball in school and later set up a village team which competed at county level. A new nursing career brought with it night shifts, making it difficult for her to always play, so she moved into the administrative side of the game.

She tells her story with a laugh: “I was voted in as secretary of the Swansea League whilst I was away on holiday.” Nevertheless, it was an astute decision as Wendy has stayed in post ever since, working hard to ensure netball thrives locally and nationally.

Every night of the week is given over to netball and there’s often refereeing duties at the weekend too. Wendy’s enormous commitment includes her role as Team Manager of the Afan Nedd Tawe Performance HUB and running Swansea’s Summer and Winter Senior Leagues. She also manages Swansea’s junior teams and their summer league. On top of all that, she works with the local authority and primary schools in the area to grow the game. She was Wales and Celtic Dragons Team Manager for 19 years, but retired last Christmas.

One of the high points of Wendy’s volunteering career was managing the Wales team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: “There is a brilliant atmosphere as you are all there for one thing and you get to see top people playing.”

Wendy has combined volunteering with her work as a carer and there have been sacrifices along the way, including a “normal” social life. She brushes off compliments about the time she puts in:”It keeps me out of mischief! I love being involved and seeing others enjoy the sport, especially the youngsters. It has also been fantastic to travel and meet others of the same mindset.”

Her reaction to being nominated as a finalist: “Absolutely amazed! Very honoured.” And she offers some advice to those thinking of volunteering: “Be prepared for the commitment, it has to be everything, it can’t be half-hearted.”

It is this attitude which has made the game what it is today. As Kyra Jones, Wales Player, explains: “Wendy is an incredibly dedicated volunteer. She puts her heart and soul into netball and will do absolutely anything she can to make it better and easier for us as players to be the best we can.”

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Wendy Pressdee 20.11.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Wendy Pressdee
20.11.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

YOUNG VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR FINALIST – ELAN MON GILFORD

“I’m always at a club somewhere!” says Elan Mon Gilford as she starts listing her volunteering commitments which take in lunchtime and after school sessions as well as weekends. Best described as a bundle of energy, it is no surprise that Elan has already given up over 400 hours of her time to coach pupils in schools and communities across Anglesey, in everything from netball and athletics to rugby.

Explaining how she caught the volunteering bug three years ago, Elan says:

“I’ve always loved sport but it was a huge step for me to start volunteering. I attended some courses and found that it was a real boost for my self-confidence. Now it never even feels like volunteering, I’m just doing something I enjoy.”

Deaf since the age of three, Elan is fully dependent on lip reading and the use of two hearing aids. Yet despite the challenges she faces in daily life, she doesn’t let anything stand in her way and delivers sessions for people of all ages and abilities:

“I can demonstrate that disability is not a problem and that there is always a way round it. It is really powerful to be able to show that to others.”

Through her ambassadorial roles for Youth Sports Trust and Sport Wales’ Young Ambassador National Steering Group, Elan is able to inspire young people across the country. She has gained numerous coaching qualifications and also works with Disability Sport Wales to help people to get fit, healthy and happy, regardless of their disability.

Fizzing with enthusiasm, Elan talks about what volunteering means to her:

“It is very rewarding to watch children’s health and skills improve on a weekly basis. And you can’t beat seeing the smiles on their faces when they achieve something new. I’ve had lots of valuable experiences over the past three years, it has been amazing! Anyone thinking about volunteering should find a local club, get on a course and grab every opportunity with both hands.”

Elan has a real zest for life and learning. In the future she hopes to take a degree in Physical Education at Cardiff Metropolitan University and sums up her what keeps her ambitions fired:

“Children in Wales need greater opportunities to get involved with sport. I want to help children enjoy positive sporting experiences.”

Elan Mon Gilford Action

YOUNG VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR FINALIST – ROBERT CUNNAH

“When I started I was just a shy Year 7 lad. Volunteering has completely changed my life, I have gained confidence and qualifications, and met some great people along the way.”

This is the way Robert Cunnah neatly describes the difference volunteering has made to him. He volunteers more than 20 hours a week, acting as a referee at the local youth service football league through to coaching six to 16-year-olds in a variety of games, from quick cricket to the lesser known boccia, a form of bowls played at the Paralympics.

All of this is a far cry from Robert’s primary school years when a lung condition meant he had to sit on the sidelines: “It was so annoying that I couldn’t do much in PE lessons, I really felt that I missed out.”

Fortunately, his health improved at the age of 11 and he was able to really start enjoying sport for the first time. His enthusiasm was soon spotted and he was selected to join Sport Wales’ Young Ambassadors programme.  Through the scheme he started coaching alongside mentors at the local authority and gained Sports Leader qualifications.

Robert’s confidence grew alongside his zeal for getting others more physically active: “So many children just go home after school and sit playing on their consoles. I want to get them involved in sport and having fun.

“Volunteering is really rewarding, it is great to watch other young people grow and develop.”

One example illustrates Robert’s absolute commitment: last year there was no 5×60 officer in his secondary school for a month so Robert single-handedly took over the lunchtime and after school sessions to ensure his peers didn’t miss out.

Denbighshire Leisure says that “Robert is more than just a volunteer, he has been a truly dedicated and reliable member of our sport development team.”

And this summer, his exceptional services to volunteering were recognised when he was awarded the Sports Leaders UK President’s Cup, meeting former Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and former NBA Basketball player John Amaechi at the ceremony.

Robert’s future ambitions are firmly rooted in sport. He has 600 hours of volunteering under his belt and is currently studying for his BTEC Level 3 Sport Diploma. His end goal is professional football coaching or management.

This is a young man who will no doubt succeed. “The way I live my life is if I go for something, I intend to get it. I will work extra hard to get what I want.”

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Robert Cunnah 12.11.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Robert Cunnah
12.11.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

COMMUNITY COACH OF THE YEAR FINALIST – NIKKI UPTON

Come rain or shine, you’ll find Nikki Upton at Risca Hockey Club coaching around 30 juniors. And when the session’s finished, it’s time for the seniors:

“Yes, sometimes the weather is horrendous,” she laughs. “Once it was hailing, so we all hid in the dugouts until it passed and then it was, Right, back to it!”

But even if it is ‘hammering down’ as it so often does in South Wales, Nikki says she could ‘never not turn up’:

“Sometimes, you get home from work and you feel exhausted – all you want to do is sit down. But once you get to training, you find the energy. Anyway, you can’t let them down can you?”

Nikki started playing for the club after her daughter was born six years ago. Having previously coached other hockey clubs it of course wasn’t long before she was nurturing the talent at Risca.

Back then the club was called Risca Ladies Senior Hockey Team. A lot’s changed since Nikki’s jumped on board. Just over 12 months ago, she created a brand new pathway from junior to senior hockey:

“To recruit junior members, we put on six week blocks of taster sessions at a local primary school. Pupils were all then given a free session voucher to come along to the club. We live in a pretty deprived area so we have kept sessions at just £1.

“That’s partly why we’ve been successful. We haven’t complicated things. There’s no commitment, it is pay as you play. We’ve offered incentives of free sessions if you bring a friend along. And we are giving players ownership of the team too, they’ve been fundraising for new kit so now they are picking which they like best.”

And her efforts are paying off:

“There’s one child in particular. He’s had a tough upbringing and he wasn’t very strong socially or academically. He was argumentative and would swear. But he has excelled on the pitch and is learning to be part of the team. He’s always the one that will be there ten minutes early and the one who helps out ten minutes after everyone has left. His concentration levels have soared and he just seems to have grown up.”

Now she has set her sights on starting a youth section so she can separate out some of the older age groups. And she is working with other local clubs of a similar standard to set up a mini league.

Rest assured that hockey in Risca, whatever the weather, will continue to prosper.

NIkki Upton Action