BBC Wales Sports Personality Of The Year shortlist for 2016 announced

After one of the greatest years in Welsh sporting history, the eight contenders for the prestigious BBC Wales Sports Personality Of The Year 2016 award have been revealed today.

The contenders are:

  • Paralympic javelin gold medallist Hollie Arnold, who enjoyed an unbeaten season in 2016
  • Wales international and Real Madrid Champions League winning footballer Gareth Bale, who was part of the Euro 2016 team that reached the semi-finals
  • Olympic cycling team pursuit gold medallist Elinor Barker, who also made an immediate impact after turning to individual competition
  • Paralympic shot put gold medallist Aled Sion Davies, who also won gold in the shot put and discus in the European Championships, setting World and Paralympic records along the way
  • Owain Doull, another Olympic cycling team pursuit gold medallist, who has enjoyed his best season to date
  • Taekwondo athlete Jade Jones, who successfully retained her Olympic title and also became European Champion in 2016
  • Olympic sailor Hannah Mills, who upgraded her London 2012 silver medal to gold in the 470 class at the 2016 Games in Rio
  • The reigning IBF World Featherweight Champion Lee Selby, who defended his title this year.

The award will be decided by public vote with the winner announced at the Wales Sport Awards 2016 on Monday 5 December at Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff.

Public voting, by phone and text, opens on Monday 28 November until Saturday, December 3. Full details of how to vote will be given on Monday 28 November at bbc.co.uk/sportwales

The shortlist was chosen by an expert panel made up of Wales’ most successful Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson; former Wales footballer Nathan Blake; Welsh Gymnastics chief executive Rhian Gibson; Olympic finalist sprinter Christian Malcolm and chaired by former Wales rugby international and National Director, English Institute of Sport, Nigel Walker.

Nigel Walker says: “It wasn’t an easy task to come up with this shortlist, with so many brilliant performances from Welsh sportsmen and women in 2016. We had to make some tough choices. But in the end, we agreed to settle on eight competitors who have all won at the highest level this year and made a significant impact on the Welsh sporting public.”

Fans can watch the Wales Sport Awards 2016 live from 7.30pm on Monday 5 December at bbc.co.uk/sportwales, BBC iPlayer and the Red Button. The event will also be live on BBC Radio Wales.

The Wales Sport Awards is a partnership between BBC Wales and Sport Wales, celebrating the best sporting achievement at elite and community level. Award categories include Coach Of The Year, Team Of The Year and the BBC Wales Sports Personality Of The Year.

#WSA2016

Young Coach of the Year Finalist – Jamie Evans

Pencoed Gymnastic Tumbling Club was on the very verge of closing – until, that is, a young coach stepped into the saddle as Head Coach.

Jamie Evans was just 19 and now, five years later, he already has big ambitions for the future.

The effervescent 24-year-old says: “My coach was retiring after 20 years so the club was about to close. My reaction was ‘absolutely not’ and I stepped in. I now have plans to acquire a facility by the time I’m 30.”

He’s spent most of his life at the club. He joined when he was seven and soon knew that his passion lay in tumbling – a form of gymnastics which involves a sequence of twists and somersaults across a 25m track. At 13, he was soon coaching his peers:

“I’d compete and take my go. And then I’d coach the rest of the line-up.” He is now one of the very few tumbling coaches in Wales with high level qualifications.

“Unlike most clubs, our kids stay competing until their late teens,” explains Jamie. “And we also have loads of interest from newcomers. Since the Olympic Games in Rio, we have had so many calls about double mini trampolining. So I’ve put on a third recreational class to cope with the demand. We took on 14 new regulars in just two weeks!”

At last year’s British NDP Championships – that’s the stepping stone event for the British Championships that attracts all the best up and coming tumblers from across Britain – Pencoed returned with the most medals of any club in Wales. A huge achievement for a club with just 25 members at squad level.

So committed to his coaching, Jamie often drives an eight-hour round trip to Milton Keynes for a three hour session:

“Yes, people think I’m nuts! But there we can work with coaches who are responsible for world class athletes. Plus we get to use a full scale tumbling track so it is a priceless experience. From spending time with them, I’ve already made changes within the club and I’m already seeing improvements in the squad.”

Jamie spends most evenings at the club. And he certainly doesn’t get to enjoy a lie-in on Saturdays as he leaves his home in Cardiff at 7am to get to the gym. On top of all of this, he works a 40 hour week in the early years sector.

Yet he still strives to grow the club further, with a steely determination to offer more sessions for the local community. He is currently mentoring a teenage group of coaches to help cope with the demand.

“The main reason I do it?,” says Jamie. “It’s the impact on the children. You have to understand that Bridgend has a very traditional rugby culture. We have one boy who is 14 and he’s a super tumbler and an incredible rugby player. After his rugby matches, he’s back in the changing room and pulls on his leotard in front of the rest of the team. To be that OK with yourself at that age and to be respected for it – that’s amazing confidence.

“I really believe tumbling helps these kids be well-rounded young people with bags of confidence and that’s pretty amazing.”

 

 

Young Coach of the Year Finalist – Ieuan Davies

“I want to make sure that young people have the chances that I never had as a child.”

That’s Ieuan Davies who coaches the Wales under 18 boys hockey squad, the South Central 360 programme for developing players and Cardiff & Met Hockey Club’s second team and junior programme.

A tough ask for anyone, never mind a young man who is also completing his Postgraduate Studies in Sports Coaching.

But his determination and drive stems from the fact that he never had the chance of any real sports coaching as a child:

“I came to hockey quite late. I actually grew up playing a lot of cricket. But I never had the opportunity of structured, coaching sessions, even though I lived just 200 yards away from a cricket pitch, so I guess I feel I missed out.”

Despite a lack of coaching role models, Ieuan’s natural abilities soon shone through:

“Me and my friends used to coach each other. Then when I was about 14, I discovered hockey through Ysgol Bryntawe. While I came to hockey quite late, I knew how to make improvements in my own game. I’d always go away and work hard at the skills I’d been learning that others would have picked up when they started playing at around eight-years-old.”

Now, of course that passion for coaching is directed at others. In his role for Wales, Ieuan has been part of the coaching team at several events, including July’s Under 16 EuroHockey in Lithuania where Wales won gold.

Other notable accolades include the establishment of a junior section at Cardiff & Met Hockey Club.

At the 2016 UK School Games, he was the youngest hockey coach, having been given the reins to oversee Wales’ Under 18 boys squad:

“It was the first time I’d been given a team on my own. It was great to be given the responsibility of riding solo.”

And his drive: “It’s the satisfaction of dedicating time to people and seeing it pay off. You see someone struggling with a skill and then the beaming smile on their face when they get it. Despite the pressures of exams, our players put so much time in week in, week out so it’s only fair we match their effort.”

With such passion and sheer determination to succeed, it is clear Ieuan is a name to note for the future.

 

Young Volunteer of the Year Finalist – Joseph Jones

“It feels weird to pick up awards for doing something I love,” says the very humble Joseph Jones in response to the news he has been shortlisted for the Wales Sports Awards 2016.

Yet the recognition is well deserved. Already this year, Joe has picked up the Millennium 50 award which rewards 50 hours of sports based volunteering.

The Llandudno 19-year-old joined the Healthy Image programme with the Conwy Youth Service two years ago and has since helped out at countless sessions and events.

The programme aims to inspire young people in Conwy to become more active and have a positive experience in different sports. It promotes healthy lifestyles and helps to reduce risk taking behaviours.

He coaches a multitude of sports including football, tennis and badminton.

It’s certainly no mean feat when you consider he is in his final year at college and he also cares for his Mum who had a stroke six years ago:

“My Mum wants to be as independent as she can but if she needs help, I’m there for her.”

And she is certainly proud of her son:

“She says I’ve matured a lot since volunteering and she’s proud that I’m a role model for younger kids.

“I just love seeing the enjoyment on their faces. We don’t see them drinking as many fizzy drinks or eating as much fast food now. Their fitness levels have improved too. I guess I enjoy giving back to the community – in fact, it makes you feel great!”

Joe has grown up with a speech impediment but he says coaching has given him a new found confidence:

“I wasn’t comfortable in speaking situations. But volunteering has given me a huge amount of self belief because it’s really pushed me out of my comfort zone.”

It’s true. He recently helped to deliver a health awareness session to more than 200 pupils at a local school – something he thought he would never accomplish due to his stammer.

For Conwy Youth Service, he is one of their most reliable, committed and motivated volunteers. So humble or not, it seems Joe might have to start getting used to the limelight.

Young Volunteer of the Year Finalist – Gwenan Williams

For Gwenan Williams, helping to inspire more children to take part in sport is something that runs in the blood:

“My Mum is a PE teacher in Anglesey. I used to see her having so much fun. She has really inspired me.”

Gwenan, 18, has clearly got the same genes. She is now in her first year of university at Cardiff Met, but her final year in school saw her take on the role of Platinum Young Ambassador – that’s the highest rung of the ladder in the movement that is proving to have a huge impact on physical activity levels within schools across Wales.

She led three extra-curricular sport sessions a week at her school. She also trained up other ambassadors so they too could inspire fellow pupils.

And because children are less likely to feel comfortable doing sport once they get to secondary school, Gwenan – who is a javelin and shot putt thrower – helped primary school children settle in more easily by putting on sports sessions at the high school before they moved up.

Her hard work has certainly paid off:

“More children were inspired to take part because they knew I’d make it fun. And because I trained up other pupils to come silver ambassadors, they got a lot more involved in running sessions at lunchtime.”

She has also helped develop the Young Ambassador programme within the new special needs school, Canolfan Addysg y Bont.

The plucky, go-getting teenager not only helped to develop a training package suitable for the school, but she also trained and mentored Young Ambassadors within the school. She even developed and led the school’s first ever extra-curricular programme of sessions:

“I want to be a PE teacher but I thought why wait until I graduate to do what I want to do? It’s all been fantastic experience,” she explains. “It broadens my experience of working with different ages and different abilities.”

She has also been a familiar face at events across Anglesey. She helped organise the Anglesey and Gwynedd Girls Football Tournament and has volunteered at the Sandman Triathlon, Ras Yr Ynys, local primary school competitions and for the Urdd.

If that wasn’t enough, she even manages to find time to volunteer at Llangefni Netball Club.

“I have a passion for sport and I think it shows. I have never felt that any of the responsibilities have been a chore. I’ve always really enjoyed it.

“The rewards for me are seeing kids enjoying the session, socialising and having fun. I don’t do it for the recognition or glitzy awards. Sport is a place where you can have fun and not be stressed.”

Community Coach of the Year Finalist – Paul Crapper

“I don’t just like cycling. I have an obsession.”

Paul Crapper is a father of five and runs a window cleaning business. Yet he still manages to coach cycling for Abergavenny Road Club eight hours a week.

“To the detriment of my wife,” he laughs. “She is amazing. I wouldn’t be able to do half the coaching without her support.”

The 47-year-old is a Head Coach at Abergavenny Road Club, and he specialises in cyclo-cross and mountain biking.

Every Saturday morning, he runs women only mountain bike sessions from 9am – 10:30am (which, through the winter, turn into adult intermediate cyclo cross sessions). And as soon as that’s finished, he turns his attention to Go-Ride until midday which sees up to 80 children taking part.

His women’s cyclo-cross sessions even earned the club a spot as a finalist in the Women’s Sports Trust Be a Game Changer Awards for the most inspiring local initiative.

It’s certainly an impressive coaching CV, given he only started biking five years ago:

“My son joined the club and then I got involved. Within a year, I asked if they needed any help and it went from there.

“It’s really rewarding to see the progression that a cyclist makes – whether they’re older, younger, male or female. It’s the confidence you see starting to build. It’s really all about getting bums on bikes for life!”

“We have some ladies who had never dreamt of getting on a cyclo-cross bike. Now they’re competing!”

Such is the popularity of his sessions that riders travel from far afield each week:

“Me being me, I always try to be the best I can be so I can pass it on to the riders so I always push myself and am learning something new.”

He also mentors the newer coaches to ensure they are comfortable in their roles and can deliver sessions that both challenge and improve riders. Meanwhile, other clubs want to learn the secret of his success:

“Other coaches want to come and see what we’re doing. People look up to me which feels very strange and overwhelming. It’s only little old me,” he laughs.

His latest challenge is providing sessions for disabled riders:

“I’m big on being inclusive and I’m really pleased to say we now offer sessions for the disabled.”

“We’re like one big family,” he smiles.

And thanks to Paul’s coaching skills and commitment, that family is getting a whole lot bigger.

Community Coach of the Year Finalist – Mathew Lamb

Mathew Lamb – or Minty as he’s known on the pitch – has a fond memory of a sporty childhood:

“I look back and I remember lots of people who invested so much time and effort to put things on for the kids. They were enjoyable times. I guess that’s where my passion for volunteering stems from. I want to help provide that childhood and those opportunities for the kids today.”

And he’s doing a great job. It’s now his 17th junior season coaching football. He has overseen the development of the Junior Boys and Girls team for the last ten years – and, in that time, there has been a huge increase on the numbers of children stepping onto the pitch every week.

He juggles a gazillion responsibilities at the club. He is Vice Chair and Treasurer and manages to oversee the girls’ teams and the junior disability side, as well as countless other duties.

His work with the girls’ teams has seen dramatic results. “It took off about three years ago. I actually can’t believe it. We had 8-10 girls initially and last year we had up to 73 girls registered.” An incredible achievement for any club – let alone one located in a small, rural area.

The secret to success: “We make things fun and we make sure the girls feel comfortable. And, that way, they’ll keep coming back week after week.

“I also look after the disability side and that’s just like a bottle of medicine. These kids have been through a lot and they’re overcoming adversity every day. They are absolute stars, every one of them.”

Mathew has played a major role in the development of the new football pitch and facilities at Tregoes. But even with a new home ground, such is Mathew’s and the club’s commitment to provide sporting opportunities locally – they still don’t have enough room:

“Our next venture is junior cricket so there’s something we can offer in the summer months. We ran a pilot and it went really well.”

As well as some 20 hours of volunteering, he also holds down a full time position for the local authority:

“My partner and I do joke about it. I get home and I’m off out to the club straight away. But if you love, you’ll do it,” he shrugs. “At the end of training, all the kids say “Thanks Minty”. You can’t ask for anymore can you?,” he smiles.

And his reaction to being nominated for the Wales Sports Awards:

“I was totally speechless when I was told. I have grown up watching Sports Personality and I never thought I’d get to anything like this. To be there – in such a bumper year for sport – will be an unbeatable experience.”

 

Volunteer of the Year Finalist – Debra Cavill

She is famous for secret washing powder and often gets tearful when compering gymnastics events.

Debra Cavill, a bundle of endless energy, lives and breathes Llanelli Gymnastics Club:

“If I was a stick of rock, it would have Llanelli Gymnastics Club running right through it!” laughs the 51-year-old.

“I just love to see the children enjoying it, the camaraderie – everything!”

No Welsh Gymnastics Women’s Artistic event is the same without the voice of Debra Cavill. She comperes events for the club, the West area and at national level:

“I see them coming through the ranks from just three or four years old to competing,” she says, becoming rather emotional. “Every child has just worked so hard to get there. I get really overwhelmed as I think back to a few years ago when they couldn’t do a cartwheel.

“You hear so much about kids getting involved in drugs and alcohol. But if they get involved in a sport, that doesn’t happen. It’s such a pleasure to see them doing something constructive.”

Debra’s love affair with Llanelli Gymnastics Club began when daughter Sophie was three years old:

“I took her along to a recreational class. I’m quite a bubbly and outgoing person so they soon had me collecting fees which was brilliant because I got to know everybody.”

It wasn’t long before she was helping out with warm-ups and singing nursery rhymes at the class. And soon after, she was coordinating the recreational classes, devising session plans for the coaches and making sure everything was going smoothly.

“As Sophie became more involved, so did I. I qualified as a level two artistic coach and six years ago I set up a parent and toddler group.”

Her daughter quit gymnastics at the age of 15, but eight years later Debra is still a firm fixture at the club:

“I’m not just for Christmas, I’m for life,” she jokes. “I wouldn’t quit in a million years. I love it too much. We’re like one big family. We do everything as a team. We even go on holidays together! I have made lifelong friends from across Wales and the UK.”

Coach and compere, Debra is also committee member, cleaner, kit manager and fundraiser. She is also a member of the Welsh Women’s Technical Committee. Her extraordinary commitment, which sees her putting in 25 hours a week to the sport, has recently earned her the coveted title of British Gymnastics Volunteer of the Year.

And lets not forget that secret washing powder:

“I take all 100 leotards home and wash them by hand. I am known for my secret washing powder which makes them sparkle. I love to see my house lit up in pink! You should see them all when they’re all on my washing line. My neighbours think I’m mad!”

 

Coach to Disabled People of the Year Finalists – Bob Perry and Richard Plenty

It was a lightbulb moment for Richard Plenty. His daughter, Laura, has cerebral palsy and, four years ago, she asked to come along to Rhiwbina squash club where her father coached:

“Yes, it suddenly struck me – why on earth don’t we provide for people with disabilities?”

The journey since then for Richard and his partner-in-crime Bob Perry has been nothing short of pioneering:

“We haven’t heard of wheelchair squash happening at any other club in the world,” says Richard.

Disability Sport Wales has awarded the club insport gold for its commitment to inclusion – a badge of honour held by just two sports clubs in Wales.

The dynamic duo formed an alliance with Weston House – which Laura attends – which provides residential accommodation for young people who have disabilities and impairments.

“Monday night is my favourite night of the week,” beams Bob. “All the gripes and groans and aches and pains just disappear. It is like a shot in the arm. They carry their disabilities 24 seven but they never moan.

“It really stretches us as coaches. When you’re dealing with different disabilities, you have to put your thinking cap on.”

They use a ball on a string to provide a fixed target for those less mobile. A squash cannon – which fires out balls – also proves handy when programmed to target the racket.

They coach two disability specific squash sessions and also have a disabled member now attending mainstream sessions, playing matches against non-disabled members:

“Our aim is to get at least four wheelchair users as members of the club who play alongside non wheelchair users,” explains Richard.

While the “R” word (retirement) is a dirty word for Bob – “you’ll have to drag me out kicking and screaming” – the other half of the double act is keen to expand their offer:

“It’s never ever a chore. We’d really like to get something going on Saturday morning and would love to set something else up.”

Asked about the recognition of their contribution to disability sport and their community, Bob adds:

“Although its Richard and I up for the award, we have a great team of people who help make this happen every week.

“And we don’t do it for the certificates, trophies or accolades.

It’s not really what we’re about. We just love the sport and want to be able to give back.”

Volunteer of the Year Finalist – Chris Landon

Welsh Cycling has certainly seen a boom in recent years with the likes of Geraint Thomas, Nicole Cooke, Becky James and Luke Rowe all rising through the ranks to become household names.

And there’s one man who has been there at the very start of their careers. Chris Landon – Mr Race Organiser extraordinaire – who has staged and organised around 60 races over 18 years:

“Nicole, Geraint, Luke…yes, they all competed in the circuit races at Llandow,” says Chris.

“A big part of what drives me is that I can help give opportunities to those that go on to greater things. I really enjoy organising junior rider races and to be just a small part of the success of some of our more well known riders is really pleasing.”

In fact, a young Geraint Thomas was the victor in one of the very early editions of the Cadence Road Race – another annual Landon mastermind – which serves as the opening round of the British Cycling National Junior Road Race Series which sees 100 junior riders aged 16-18 compete on open roads.

In 2016 alone, Chris has yet again been at the helm of a number of prestigious races including the Cadence Road Race and the Ras de Cymru (which is aimed at club level cyclists and is the longest stage race in the UK with the exception of Tour of Britain and the British Cycling Junior Road Race Championships).

His reputation is now such that he is often called upon by British Cycling to organise events. He also serves on the board of Welsh Cycling as Vice Chair and enjoys a part-time position with British Cycling in which he undertakes risk assessments of courses and venues.

Humble and modest, it’s pretty obvious Chris is uncomfortable in the limelight – a position he would swap without hesitation to be in the background of the sport he loves:

“The best part of organising a race is when it’s all finished and you hear the riders talking about it – what they found difficult, what they enjoyed. After all, that’s what cycling is all about – the facing up to a physical and mental challenge.”

It’s clearly this love for his sport and the cycling community that continues to drive him year after year.