GOLDEN NIGHT FOR JONATHAN DAVIES AT WALES SPORT AWARDS 2017

Rugby Union centre Jonathan Davies was tonight (Monday, 4 December) crowned the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2017 at the Wales Sport Awards. Jonathan finished ahead of runner-up Geraint Thomas, with Natalie Powell finishing in third place.

Jonathan has been one of the stand-out performers of 2017; voted the British and Irish Lions man of the series in New Zealand. The centre played every minute of the three Tests against the All Blacks as the Lions secured an historic series draw.

The 29-year-old began this year’s Six Nations with a try in Wales’ opening 33-7 win over Italy. Jonathan’s regional side, the Scarlets, beat Irish side Munster in Dublin in the Pro12 Final, and he was one of the Scarlets’ six try scorers in their 46-22 victory, which saw them claim the title for the first time since 2004.

Other outstanding achievements in Welsh sport were honoured at the event, as Sport Wales and BBC Wales joined forces once again to hold the country’s biggest annual sporting celebration at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport.

 

The winners were:

  • Team of the Year – Cardiff Devils
  • Coach of the Year – Christian Malcolm (Athletics, Newport)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Alan Curtis (Football, Swansea)
  • Special Recognition Award – David Watkins
  • Carwyn James Young Sportswoman of the Year – Catrin Jones (Weightlifting, Anglesey)
  • Carwyn James Young Sportsman of the Year – Ben Woodburn (Football, Liverpool FC)
  • Volunteer of the Year – Fateha Ahmed (Swimming, Cardiff)
  • Inspiring Young Person of the Year – Hannah Nolan (Multi-sport, Llandudno)
  • Organisation of the Year – Disability Sport Wales
  • Sporting Experience of the Year – Us Girls
  • Unsung Hero – Mike Blake (Fell Running, Caernarfon)
  • Community Coach of the Year – Mark James (Boxing, Newport)

Cardiff Devils took the Team of the Year accolade after finishing top of the Elite League and winning the Challenge Cup and the Earhardt Conference, crowning one of their best years in history.

 Coach of the Year Christian Malcolm has made an immediate impact following his transition from athlete to coach. As a relay coach, Christian’s men won gold at the World Championships setting GB and European records, while the women won silver. Then at the IPC Paralympic World Championships, he coached Jordan Howe to silver and Rhys Jones to a personal best in finishing in fourth place.

 Alan Curtis was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Alan has spent a lifetime in football since making his debut for Swansea City in 1972. And he’s still there today, following sojourns at Leeds United and Southampton, a loan spell at Stoke City, and Cardiff City. Since retiring as a player the former Wales international (6 goals in 35 games for his country) has been an integral part of the Swansea City set up – including a number of spells as First Team Coach and Caretaker Manager – and is currently Loan Player Manager.

There was also a Special Recognition Award for David Watkins, a former dual code Rugby Union and League international who started his playing career for Newport RFC in 1961.

Catrin Jones won the Carwyn James Sportswoman of the Year. Catrin, a former gymnast, switched to weightlifting and has medalled at European junior level, won gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games and been the best in Britain at senior level.

The Carwyn James Sportsman of the Year prize was given to Wales and Liverpool FC’s Ben Woodburn. Ben shot to fame in 2017 – already Liverpool’s youngest-ever goalscorer, he scored a goal on his Wales debut –  the winner against Austria, no less, which made him, at 17 years old, Wales’s second youngest goalscorer.

Fateha Ahmed was named Volunteer of the Year for her work organising and running private swimming sessions for Muslim women in Cardiff, while the Inspiring Young Person of the Year award went to Hannah Nolan of Llandudno. Hannah inspires young people to be active through Conwy’s youth service and benefit from sport in the same way that sport volunteering has lifted her from long periods of depression.

The Organisation of the Year award went to Disability Sport Wales which boasts over a million inclusive community participation opportunities per year and a host of world media winning athletes.

The Sporting Experience of the Year was awarded to the Us Girls project run by the StreetGames charity. The programme achieved staggering results of attracting new ‘hard-to-reach’ female participants, new volunteers, coaches and leaders.

Veteran fell-running organiser Mike Blake collected BBC Wales Sport’s Unsung Hero Award. Mike, now in his 70th year, has been a member of north Wales-based Eryri Harriers for nearly 40 years, and in that time has organised over 300 races, all voluntarily, with all proceeds going directly to local schools, community groups and mountain rescue.

He will now go on to represent Wales in the UK final, which will be announced during BBC Sports Personality of the Year on BBC One at 6.45pm on Sunday, 17 December.

To complete the list of winners, Mark James, who devotes his time coaching boxing skills at his local club in Newport, won Community Coach of the Year.

Lawrence Conway, Chair of Sport Wales, said: “We received a record number of inspiring nominations for this year’s awards and tonight’s finalists showcase the passion and hard work going on in the communities here in Wales.

“I am proud of all the volunteers, coaches, leaders and organisations who are helping to build a more active and healthier nation, and it was a real honour to see them recognised as the true heroes of Welsh sport.

“Their achievements will no doubt encourage others across the country to get engaged in the community and help shape their Welsh sport of the future.”

Rhodri Talfan Davies, Director, BBC Wales added: “Tonight has been an opportunity to celebrate the success of inspirational teams and individuals who have made a real contribution to Welsh sport. The Wales Sport Awards have again recognised the talent and dedication of people right across Wales.”

The Wales Sport Awards 2017 will be available on BBC iPlayer for the next 30 days and will also be shown on the BBC Red Button at 5.30pm on Saturday, 9 December.

Ospreys in the Community – Organisation of the Year finalist.

Rugby is at the heart of the community in Swansea, thanks to a registered charity who is helping empower local people through sport.

Ospreys in the Community (OitC) was set up in 2015.

“It uses the power of sport and the Ospreys brand to help people in the region make positive life choices” explains Steve Dalton OBE. Steve is Managing Director of Sony UK Technology Centre one of the supporters of the project.

“They are a forward-thinking organisation and in such a short space of time have grown to be a leading light in Welsh community sports” he adds.

This Summer, between the months of June and August alone, the organisation engaged with 10,000 people!

They aim to make sport accessible for all and work with deprived areas and hard to reach groups to make that happen.

They support the Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby team but also set up the only youth Wheelchair Rugby team in Wales. They work with groups such as teenage girls, the unemployed and disengaged school pupils, as well as in partnership with other organisations such as Disability Sport Wales, the Urdd and BME Sport Cymru.

Last Summer they hosted three beach rugby festivals where over 1,700 pupils from 50 schools took part. For many of the children it was their first introduction to the sport and some have gone on to join local clubs and school teams.

2017 was another big year for the organisation – the first Community Foundation attached to a PRO14 team to be set up. No stranger to being ‘first’, this year they also became the first rugby organisation in Wales to be a Duke of Edinburgh Award’s Licensed Organisation.

80% of the Foundation’s income has come from commercial activity, as Steve explains: “The team work with a large number of sponsors and local companies and their highly successful and collaborative approach, has seen them deliver several ground-breaking initiatives.”

Us Girls – Sporting Experience of the Year finalist.

GlowSports, Dodgeball and Running are the name of the game for girls across Wales, who are moving and loving it, thanks to Us Girls Wales.

With around 36,000 teenage girls living in poverty in Wales, Us Girls set about to reach them through sport.

Run by national sports charity StreetGames, it started in April 2015 thanks to Sport Wales Calls4Action funding.

“Us Girls aimed to make the programme sustainable by helping community sport and youth institutions make female sports participation a routine part of their core work” explains employee Paul Roberts.

In just two years, the programme has offered 26 lead projects totalling 45 hours per week across the country. Over 3,000Us Girls sessions have been delivered in the community – many of which are in Communities First areas of deprivation.

They follow the principles of the StreetGames Doorstep Sport model, making sure that activity is delivered by the right people, in the right style, at the right place and time.

Bringing sport TO the girls has seen a massive impact, with lots of success stories. Over 5,600 new ‘hard to reach’ females participated in the project, which included older girls mentoring younger girls, through the Big Sister scheme. There have also been 48 Us Girls events in its two-year history – including an Us Girls Rocks festival!

Those who take part are at the heart of the decision-making process for Us Girls, with lots of consultation.

“It was devised in consultation with the participants at every stage either through chats, at pamper sessions, coffee mornings or using technology” says Paul.

Thanks to partner work, the way in which organisations appeal to girls when it comes to sport is changing for the better.

One example of this is the Boys and Girls Clubs of Wales

“After embracing the Us Girls programme, our traditionally male-dominated demographic has shifted to a 2:1 female:male ratio among participants in North Wales” says Grant Poiner, their National Development Officer.

“We would not be where we are now, in terms of female participation, without the partnership with StreetGames and the learning and support of the Us Girls programme” he adds.

Young Ambassadors Programme – Sporting Experience of the Year finalist.

The Young Ambassador (YA) programme in Wales has gone from strength to strength.

“It offers fab opportunities for a young person and it is great for employability – you get so much experience, it is hard to fit it all on the CV!” says Beth Nesham, who has been involved in the YA programme over the past 7 years.

She has seen the programme grow from its infancy to where it is today, with around 3,000 active YA’s.

She continues: “Being a YA harnesses a sense of security, while also putting you outside of your comfort zone. You face challenges but still feel safe with the YA Family.”

A partnership led by Sport Wales and the Youth Sport Trust and delivered by key partners, the Young Ambassador programme aims to empower and inspire young people to become leaders through sport.

For some, the personal journey is huge.

“When I was starting as a YA, I was in a Unit for people with anxiety and it was pretty bad” says Fintan Edwards. “It came about for me when my confidence was starting to grow again and it gave me that extra boost. It gives me a purpose.”

“Now, I see myself as a normal person doing what I enjoy” he adds.

There are currently Young Ambassadors across primary and secondary schools, colleges, universities and communities in all 22 Local Authorities across Wales championing school and community sport and physical recreation.

For many, they don’t want the journey to end!

Take Bronnie Griffiths, a student at Cardiff Met, who is now involved in the first Higher Education YA programme in the UK.

“I’ve developed personal and professional skills” explains Bronnie. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. It is thanks to the programme that I decided to go to university” she adds.

It has been another busy year for the Young Ambassadors. Many have been recognised for local, regional, national and UK wide awards. They’ve also seen the 7th National Gold YA Conference attended by 100 YA’s and 50 officers – and more importantly, planned and delivered by the YA’s themselves.

The YA programme has seen huge growth since it started in 2010. Since then, around 12,000 Young Ambassadors have been trained across Wales, volunteering thousands of hours to school and community sport and making a real difference to young people’s lives.

The Health Disability Sport Partnership – Sporting Experience of the Year finalist.

A Health Disability Sport Partnership (HDSP) has been a ‘game changer’ for disabled people in North Wales, according to those who have benefitted from it.

“Acceptance through sporting opportunities is so important” says volunteer Deb Bashford, who herself was paralysed at the age of 11. “For that hour, they are not the disabled person, they are just a member having fun in a sports club.”

The joint partnership between Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) and Disability Sport Wales (DSW) is the first of its kind in the UK.

It began in 2013, thanks to a successful three-year Calls 4 Action grant from Sport Wales.

“It was set up to develop a relationship between the health and sport networks across North Wales, with a common aim of improving the health and wellbeing of disabled people through increased participation in physical activity” explains Catherine Chin, Health Disability Sport Officer.

Due to its success, the project will continue and there are ambitious plans to roll it our across the country.

Disabled people are less physically active than non-disabled people. Just 3.4% of this population in North Wales were taking part in physical activity at the start of the partnership in 2013, compared with 41% of non-disabled people.

They wanted to bridge this gap.

“A pathway was designed so that Health Care Professionals could signpost disabled people from health services to physical activity opportunities in their local community, via Disability Sport Wales” explains Catherine.

She adds: “It has made a real difference, both physically and mentally, in transforming the lives of disabled people and their families, through the power of sport.”

During the first 3 years of the project 560 disabled people took up an opportunity to get active, with four talented athletes going on to represent Wales in their sports.

Deb, who is part of Caernarfon Celts Wheelchair Basketball Club, is full of praise for it: “At the age of 11, my world was turned upside down and I would have done anything in the world to have this pathway back then” she recalls.

35 years on, she says that sporting activities have helped her speak out about her own experiences.

“I considered suicide aged 13” she admits. “But I now embrace my disability as a tool to help others going through a similar journey.”

She adds: “Sporting opportunities like this make a massive difference.”

The Outdoor Partnership – Organisation of the Year finalist.

Sport and the outdoors go hand in hand.

One organisation in North West Wales is taking full advantage of what our great outdoors has to offer.

“We use the outdoors and natural resources to improve people’s lives and inspire them into participation” explains Chief Executive Officer, Tracey Evans.

As well as the success of their core programmes, the Outdoor Partnership has gone above and beyond to drive forward inclusivity in the outdoor sector.

“We have a number of programmes working with specific target groups” explains Tracey.

Since it was set up over ten years ago, the charity has been responsible for establishing around 80 activity clubs and groups, boasting a membership of 7000+.

Tracey adds: “Ten years ago, there was no volunteer culture in the outdoor sector but today we have a large volunteer workforce – a huge achievement.”

This year, over 400 volunteers took part in a mentoring scheme and for the first time in the organisation’s history – more women than men took part.

Working with under-represented groups is an important part of what the Partnership does and they’ve inspired hundreds in the past year.

Bethan Davies, Inclusion Development Officer explains: “Over the past 18 months, we’ve been striving to become a more inclusive organisation and supporting this development across other clubs and partners in Anglesey, Gwynedd and Conwy.”

Nearly 700 people with impairments have taken part in sport taster sessions and the charity were the first organisation in Wales to be awarded the Disability Sport Wales insport 3rd Sector Ribbon standard, back in May.

Meanwhile, their This Girl’s Adventure programme has inspired over 260 women and girls to try activities, ranging from sub aqua to surfing. Many of these felt empowered to go on to take their coaching qualifications, opening up many opportunities in the outdoor activity sector.

Fiona Reid, CEO of Disability Sport Wales adds: “They’ve worked hard in establishing a strong foundation to create inclusive cultural changes and offer quality opportunities for everyone.”

Disability Sport Wales – Organisation of the Year finalist.

Disability Sport Wales (DSW) has a vision – to transform lives through the power of sport.

As a world leading disability sport organisation they are putting our small, but mighty, country on the map.

“It is an exciting time for disability sport in Wales” announces Anthony Hughes, National Performance Manager at DSW.

Developing opportunities for disabled people to participate in active recreation is at the heart of what Disability Sport Wales do. Their philosophy is to work towards an inclusive sport sector in Wales. And their progress is clear to see.

“Our community programmes are not only feeding through to our talent programme but they are keeping people active and healthy in a fun way” Anthony says. “They feel part of something and have a sense of belonging that is helping them to grow week by week and that’s the most important part for us” he adds.

DSW believe that sport can create positive life chances for disabled people, whether taking part in community sport, achieving in a competitive arena or contributing to sport through coaching, volunteering or leadership. It is this common goal and determination that sees their staff and volunteers work so hard.

Many of these chances start with the community programmes, that Anthony calls the “lifeline” of the organisation. With nearly 23,000 club members and over a million participation opportunities per year it is widely regarded as being one of the world leading programmes for the delivery of disability sport.

The past few years have been particularly successful for DSW, with their work in schools, clubs, events and partnership opportunities.

At the 2016 Paralympic Games, Welsh athletes made up 10% of the Paralympics’ Team GB and brought home Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. This success continued in 2017, where seasoned athletes and young, new talent were all flying the flag for our proud nation. 2018 promises more excitement, as Anthony adds:

“The feeling is ‘watch this space and watch Wales. We put the great in Great Britain!”

Chris Rogers – Community Coach of the Year finalist.

Chris Rogers not only has a love for horses, but for coaching people to perform acrobatics on them!

“It’s basically gymnastics and dance on horseback” explains Chris, head coach at Talygarn Vaulters.

The Equestrian club has been running for six years, and working with disabled riders for the last three.

“Watching the children make huge personal improvements is why I do it” says Chris. “When they first arrive, many of them can’t get on the horses, but then you see their confidence grow.”

Thanks to Chris’ patience, dedication and hard work, able-bodied and disabled children are keeping active, and even competing in the sport.

In fact, she has helped train three international vaulters and a number of Welsh Champions within the group.

“No matter whether the achievements are big or small, it’s about progress – and for each child that is really important” says the South Walian coach.

Chris runs three groups, including a session with the local Special Education Needs (SEN) school.

She is pro-active in promoting club membership. She takes her role seriously and is always striving to improve her knowledge and training in disability issues and more generally.

And her efforts are not confined to coaching, she is often busy with club administration, kit washing and general maintenance of the grounds.

“I love the whole thing” she says. “I’ve always been involved with horses and especially love the creative side, from costumes and music to themes and routines.”

Chris dedicates her days, evenings and weekends to the club – and gets a huge amount of enjoyment from it.

She says that horse vaulting can make you fitter, stronger and improve core strength and balance.

“It is great to see the children starting to think of their own ideas of what they’d like to perform – my job is to encourage them” she adds.

She recommends coaching in sport to everyone.

“If you’ve got a love for something, do it. It is so worthwhile.”

Fateha Ahmed – Volunteer of the Year finalist.

“I feel so much more energised”
“Exercise makes me feel uplifted”
“I feel part of a group and have made lots of new friends”

Just some of the feedback from Muslim women in Cardiff who are now swimming – thanks to Fateha Ahmed.

As a volunteer Advocacy Worker within the BME community, Fateha recognised that there was a lack of swimming activities available for local Muslim women.

Her desire to change this saw a local Swimming Project, set up by BME Sport Cymru, begin over 12 months ago.

Since then, over 250 women and girls have attended the Friday evening swim.

Mum of three, Fateha Ahmed, was empowered to create these sessions so that Muslim women could exercise in privacy.

The scheme has been a huge success, with the women seeing improved mental and physical health. Some of these women were previously inactive and thanks to Fateha, swimming has got them out and active.

Project Co-ordinator Simon Lu is full of praise for Fateha’s work and explains: “She recognised a need for physical activity within a very hard to reach demographic. She sourced a venue and funding, recruited participants and empowered them to become volunteers and she made her project fully self-sustainable. Her dedication and hard work is appreciated.”

Coming from the Bengali community, Fateha combines her volunteering with lots of family commitments and a full-time job.

Fateha now mentors the project volunteers and helps them along their coaching pathways, offering them support and a friendly face.

Hannah Nolan – Inspiring Young Person finalist

Sport can have the power to change people’s life.

For Hannah Nolan, volunteering for the Healthy Image Project with Conwy Youth Service gave her a lifeline during a desperate time.

“I was not in the right state of mind and I needed anything to get out the house” remembers Hannah, 16. “I was at an all-time low, dragging myself everywhere, not eating or sleeping much.”

In 2015, she helped out at an Us Girls session in Kinmel Bay, at a time when her personal life was in turmoil.

She explains: “I’ve suffered from severe depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts since the age of 11. The thoughts in my head were getting so bad, but volunteering changed my life majorly.”

Hannah says she went from being a shy girl who didn’t like to go out to someone who now confidently runs sport sessions and helps at large-scale events.

“My self-confidence has sky rocketed” she admits. “I was the sort of person who didn’t like social interaction. I suffered with social anxiety and couldn’t talk to people – now I can run a group of 30 teens!”

As well as the Healthy Image Project, Hannah currently volunteers at a local Youth Club in her community – an area of deprivation, as well as helping at Fit Conwy, US Girls and extracurricular school sport clubs such as Trampolining.

In June this year, as part of Volunteering Week, the teenager was Highly Commended by WCVA (Wales Council for Voluntary Action) and CVSC (Conwy Voluntary Services Council) for her volunteering in the community and received her Millennium Volunteer Award.

She’s now volunteered over 150 hours in her local community, but says that the benefits work both ways: “Seeing everyone happy with the work I do, makes me happy too” she says. “I don’t need to fake a smile every day anymore, because seeing the smiles on their faces fills me with joy” she adds.

Hannah does all this while juggling her school work and exams.

Volunteering offers her a way to manage her mental illness and a distraction for Hannah, who also helps care for her Nan, who is recovering from Lung Cancer. She says volunteering has helped her drastically:

“It is what I do on a daily basis. Volunteering is my life.”