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Where Olympic Dreams Begin

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All Olympic dreams start with a more local idea and for Jake Heyward it was wanting to be the fastest kid at Llanishen Fach Primary School.

Twelve years on and Jake still wants to cross the line first.

But the child who raced across the tarmac as a 10-year-old Cardiff schoolboy, now aims to reach an Olympic final in arguably the Games’ most prestigious athletics event – the 1500 metres.

Hayward is the only Welsh track and field athlete guaranteed an appearance in Tokyo, although Team GB also includes compatriot Joe Brier who is among the small group of travelling reserves.

But for all 26 Welsh competitors across the sports – 13 men and 13 women – their stories began with grassroots sport at club and school level, which ignited their love for sport and also their ambition.

Jake Heyward with a trophy at the Wales Sport Awards.
Jake Heyward with a trophy at the Wales Sport Awards.

 

Jake Heyward: Athletics, 1500m –  Llanishen Fach Primary School, Llanishen High School and Cardiff Athletics 

"I always knew I was pretty fast, like being fastest kid in school on the playground.

“Our primary school entered us into a local competition with the Urdd. They used to organise mini cross country meets for girls and boys in year five and six. I won that and it just spring-boarded from there.

"So, it was at primary school I started, but it was when I got to high school, my PE teacher, Dai Griffin, - he was the person that really, really encouraged me and made sure that I went down to the track.

“It was something that I was going to do anyway and go down to Cardiff Athletics, but he definitely took a keen interest in athletics.

"I first joined the Cardiff Athletics  group - Track Rats, I think it was called.

“But at that point, you're kind of just dabbling in high jump, sprints and a bit of everything. 

“Then I got entered into a competition and I got moved up to a group with a guy called Tim Fry. There were some older athletes in that group, so I started training with them for a little bit.

"And then the group above that, Paul Darney was looking after, and that had Mike Ward, Jacob Preece, Matthew Edwards, people like that, who were three or four years older than me.

“I knew that I wanted to train with them, because I knew I could keep up with them. And so that was the first time I started taking it seriously when I moved to train with Paul."

Lauren Williams with a trophy at the Wales Sport Awards
Lauren Williams with a trophy at the Wales Sport Awards

 

Lauren Williams: Taekwondo, -67kg – Devils Kickboxing Club, Caerphilly

“My coach was Rob Taylor and I was there with Lauren Price before she went into boxing and I moved into taekwondo.

““Lauren and I grew up together and she was essentially my role model. We trained together a lot and she took care of me at competitions.

“The Devils club was like a family to us and we won world titles together in Cyprus. But it was the Olympics that appealed and that’s why I went on to make the transition to taekwondo.

“It’s amazing think we have both ended up at the Olympics in Tokyo together. It is an amazing way to carry on the journey and hopefully show other girls what it’s possible to achieve.

“When I went on holiday with my parents in a caravan, we sat and watched the London Olympics in 2012 on TV. Jade Jones was winning in the final at the time with about ten seconds left – the points were getting higher and higher and it was getting really exciting.

“My dad turned to me and said: ‘is this something you’d want to do?’ I’d never seen the sport before – I was a kickboxer and didn’t really know what taekwondo was.

“I actually said no at the time, but taekwondo did a Fighting Chance scheme back in 2013 that encouraged athletes for different sports and backgrounds to come and try taekwondo.

“I tried it, gave it a go, my dad let me do my thing and I managed to beat the girls in front of me. My performance director saw talent and here I am today – I got selected and never looked back.”

 

Welsh athletes in Tokyo and their first clubs

Athletics

Jake Heyward - Track Rats section at Cardiff Athletics Club 

Taekwondo

Lauren Williams - Devils Martial Arts

Jade Jones - Flint TAGB

Boxing

Lauren Price - Pontypool ABC 

Cycling

Geraint Thomas - Maindy Flyers

Elinor Barker - Maindy Flyers

Ethan Vernon - Corley Cycles 

Football

Sophie Ingle - Vale Wanderers 

Hockey

Leah Wilkinson - Belper Hockey Club 

Sarah Jones - Howells School in Cardiff 

Rupert Shipperley - Whitchurch

Jacob Draper - Gwent Hockey Club 

Judo

Natalie Powell - Irfon Judo Club 

Rowing

Victoria Thornley - Sporting Giants

Oliver Wynne-Griffith - Radley College 

Joshua Bugajski - Cardiff University

Tom Barras - Burway Rowing Club

Rugby Sevens

Jasmine Joyce - St.Davids RFC 

Sailing

Hannah Mills - Llanishen Sailing Centre 

Chris Grube - Bala Sailing Club 

Swimming

Alys Thomas - Kingston Royals Swimming Club 

Daniel Jervis - Plymouth Leander Swimming Club

Harriet Jones - City of Cardiff Swimming Club

Matt Richards - Droitwich Dolphins 

Kieran Bird - Blue Fins

Calum Jarvis - Plymouth Leander Swimming Club

Travelling Reserves

James Jones (BMX freestyle)

Matthew Tarrant (Rowing)

Joe Brier (Athletics)

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