Heather Lewis will be walking tall for Wales at the Commonwealth Games – and proving it’s never too late to try a new sport.
Lewis has been juggling her priorities between her family’s dairy farm and race walking throughout her elite athletics career, but is determined that now is her time after seeing what the Games is all about on the Gold Coast four years ago.
The 28-year-old secured gold at the recent UK Athletics Championships in the 5K race walk and is looking to continue her excellent form into Birmingham.
Heather, from Haverfordwest, came to race walking quite late at the age of 15, but her family’s love of sport provided the platform for her to become one of the premier race walkers in the world.
The Pembrokeshire Harrier fell into the event after being asked to participate in the race walk to help gain points for her team in the local Louise Arthur meeting for young athletes.
Local coaches saw her potential and Heather’s determination to win, coupled with her sibling rivalries, drove her forward.
“My parents always encouraged me and my sisters to play different sports and we just get involved from a young age,” she says.
“Our family is really active and we enjoyed doing sports together, so we’d all go running and swimming. It’s what we all enjoyed, so it was great to spend time with them. We tried everything, enjoying being out and about together.
“Early on, we did a lot of gymnastics. Me and my three sisters really enjoyed the same sports, so we enjoyed competing against each other - whether that was running or swimming.
“We were allowed to start at Harriers at the age of eight and once we started that we all realised we loved long distance running.
“I always wonder why to be honest. I just had a switch in my head that happened.
“But I really loved the race-walking community. Even when you travel the world and they can’t speak your language, they are so supportive of you.
“I’ve also got to be honest, my two younger sisters, Josie and Poppy, started to get good at running, and I wanted something myself and so I took the race walking to another level, and I just enjoyed it so much.”
Heather divides her time between training and her family’s dairy farm and tourism business.
She tends to train before and after work but has had to learn how to balance her time the hard way over the years.
“It has been difficult and there has been ups and downs. I’ve had to realise what I can handle because I want to be helping out all the time, but it’s important to balance it with training.
“In the summer holidays, it can be really busy. But I always get my training done early and then after when the farm is closed. It means I can do all my training and I can help out around the park.
“There was a race at the end of last season which coincided with the summer holidays and the race went okay, but I could tell I was shattered.
“Now, I have learned to be a bit more selfish but I have also been able to balance the two better now.”