If last year was a busy 12 months for sport in Wales, then 2020 promises to be even more crowded with opportunity, motivation and access for everyone to scale more of those sporting peaks.
Sport in Wales: 2020 focus
In terms of participation, the goal of Sport Wales remains to get more people active, to open more doors towards health and well-being, and for people to be able to connect with others through physical activities.
At the same time, this year offers a huge chance for Wales to underline its status as a nation blessed with sporting champions – role models to inspire and make us feel proud.
On that front, not only is 2020 an Olympic year, but there will be a Paralympics, too. Both global events are likely to feature some of our world class athletes such as Jade Jones and Aled Davies.
Then, there is the prospect of more Welsh glory at football’s European Championship finals this year after Ryan Giggs guided his team to the knockout stages. If it’s half the adventure of 2016, then grab your bucket hat and red shirt, because we’re in for a treat.
To get Giggs’ guys Euro-ready, there are home friendlies against Austria in Swansea on March 27 and in Cardiff three days later against the USA.
Wales women also have their own crucial campaign to try and qualify for Euro 2021, with crunch home ties to come against the Faroe Islands and Norway in April. In readiness, Jayne Ludlow’s side have a warm-up fixture against Estonia at Wrexham on March 6.
Welsh rugby have three teams at full throttle in their respective Six Nations tournaments in the men’s, women’s and U21 tournaments – with the men defending a Grand Slam title - while the breadth of the Olympics and Paralympics means that Welsh cycling, hockey, swimming, boxing, judo, rowing, sailing, taekwondo, triathlon, table tennis and weightlifting are all geared for busy months ahead.
One highlight is certain to be the Olympic qualifying tournament for the Great Britain boxing team, which takes place in London in March.
Leading the Welsh contingent will be Lauren Price who was crowned world champion back in November and says: “Going to the Olympic Games has been a dream since I was eight-years-old.
“It’s why I got into sport in the first place and I am determined to take this opportunity to book my place for Tokyo at the first time of asking.”
All those elite sportsmen and sportswomen began at grass roots level, while their endeavours in 2020 should inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to try and make sport part of a healthy and active life.
Last year, Sport Wales’ strategic approach was to try and improve sporting facilities throughout the country via the £5m, A Place For Sport Fund. At the same time, a further £5m was directed to help people though the Healthy and Active Fund in a three-year programme which is now heading into year two.
The funds addressed two key concerns. People need better pitches, courts, indoor areas, gyms and general facilities – places to do sport – and they need more of them through 2020 and beyond.
Secondly, groups that have often found it difficult to be involved in sport – children, older people, people with disabilities or illnesses and those in deprived locations – need a helping hand from an organisation with the funds to do so.
One area that will continue to benefit throughout 2020 is the help given to those living with dementia. The Sporting Memories charity will continue to set up groups throughout Wales, who use the power of shared sporting experiences to combat loneliness and isolation.
The cash for upgrading facilities – which has been used already to benefit netball, cycling, athletics, gymnastic, bowls and cricket – had to be committed for spending by the end of March.
Skiers and snowboarders have also benefitted from improved facilities in both north and south Wales.
The fund may have gone a long way to improving those various sports, but the fact that £15m worth of applications came in within a few weeks, shows there is more investment needed.
Brian Davies, acting chief executive of Sport Wales, says: “We have been discussing with Welsh government for a long time the fact that a lot of our infrastructure is ageing. There needed to be some sort of capital investment if we are going to achieve everyone’s ambitions for sport.
“Welsh government understands that, but there are obviously limits to what they can do. The fund has been very welcome and we have achieved a lot, but if we want to be strategic, we need a longer term commitment to capital investment.”
It all means there’s lots to do – on and off the field – in 2020.