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Honorary degrees for Welsh sporting couple George North and Becky James

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Swansea University has honoured sporting greats, Wales rugby star George North and his wife double Olympic cycling medallist Becky James.

The couple were both awarded honorary degrees to recognise their achievements in not only their individual disciplines but also in raising the profile of Welsh sport across the globe.

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George North was just 18 years, 214 days when he first represented Wales in their match against South Africa in 2010. He scored two tries and became the youngest Welsh player ever to score a try on his debut.

His 102 Welsh caps saw him taking part in every Six Nations campaign from 2011 to 2021 as well as three Rugby World Cup tournaments, scoring 43 tries for his country. He was also a member of the British & Irish Lions tours in 2013 & 2017.

Currently playing for Ospreys, winger George was the youngest player to win 100 caps for Wales and has holds the record for the most tries in international rugby for an active player. 

George North and Becky James at Swansea University’s ceremony (Image: M Horwood / Swansea University)

His wife’s achievements are equally as remarkable since she was spotted for the Welsh Talent Team and became a member of British Cycling’s Olympic Podium Programme.  

When she was 18 in 2009, she claimed two golds and a silver at both the European Track Championships and the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships, where she set a new world record for the flying 200 metres. 

Representing Wales at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, she won a bronze medal in the 500m TT track race and a silver in the sprint track race.  In 2013 Becky claimed her first world gold medal at the 2013 UCI Championships and went on to win silver medals in both the keirin and the sprint at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

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Becky retired in 2017 and since marrying in 2019, the couple have become parents of two young sons. They are now the owners of Ground Bakery in Pontcanna and Penarth.

Welsh-speaker George, who was brought up in Anglesey, and Becky, from Abergavenny, said they were delighted to been honoured together by the University. 

George and Becky at the ceremony inside Swansea’s new Arena (Image: M Horwood / Swansea University)

He said: “It is a real honour to be presented with this award from Swansea University, especially as it is a Welsh University with such strong connections to rugby, and The Ospreys in particular.  I hope to have the opportunity of working with the University in some capacity in the future.  Diolch yn fawr iawn.”  

Becky added: “I am really honoured to be recognised by Swansea University in this way.  It means a lot to receive an honorary degree from Swansea, as not only is it a Welsh University but one with such a strong sporting tradition.  It has been really special to share today with my husband, and we would both like to thank the University for this opportunity.”

Swansea University Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle said: “I would like to thank George and Becky for joining the Swansea family and becoming the first married couple we have honoured in this way.”

The University’s four days of graduations, held for the first time at the new Swansea Arena, are celebrating the achievements of the Class of 2020 whose original ceremonies had to be postponed due to Covid.

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(Lead image: M Horwood / Swansea University)

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Cycling

Minister announces £50m investment to encourage cycle use

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Getting people out of cars and on to bikes is the aim of a £50m investment announced by Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters.

Speaking on a visit to Cardiff-based cycling charity Pedal Power, the Deputy Minister said the money would fund cycling routes and new facilities right across Wales.

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Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with a responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “This is a substantial investment and part of our commitment to making cycling easier so people cut the amount of journeys they take by car and travel in a way that is better for our planet.

“Getting people out of cars for short journeys and encouraging them to walk or cycle instead is a huge challenge for us, but one that has to be met if we are to reach our net zero carbon emission target by 2050.

“We need to make sure that we have the right infrastructure and routes in place so that people have the choice of cycling for their everyday journeys – we need to make the right thing to do, the easy thing to do.”

One organisation that is benefiting from this investment is Pedal Power in South Wales.

As part of a series of Welsh Government e-bike pilot schemes, the cycling charity received £0.21m for its ‘See Cycling Differently’ project which is aimed at increasing the inclusivity of cycling by offering a range of e-cycles.

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Thanks to the money received the charity has expanded its e-cycle fleet and is encouraging its users to cycle more.  

Jeff Mayle, Pedal Power use and Deputy Minister Lee Waters

Director of Pedal Power, Cardiff, Sian Donovan said: “Cycling is a fantastic way for everyone – all ages and abilities – to have fun, gain more independence and enjoy a sense of freedom which we know has provided a lifeline to many during the pandemic.

“We were delighted to receive funding from the Welsh Government to help us to continue to remove barriers to cycling so that it can be truly accessible and inclusive for all.”

As part of the investment announced today, all local authorities will receive a minimum of £500k with additional allocations having been awarded based on the outcome of a competitive application process.

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Carmarthenshire

Women’s Tour of Britain returns to Carmarthenshire

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The countdown is on before the world’s top women riders will race through Carmarthenshire as part of the Women’s Tour of Britain.

Some 108 cyclists will race through the County to the finishing line on top of the Black Mountain between Llangadog and Brynamman as part of the stage five event on Friday, June 10.

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The route will be starting from Pembrey Country Park at 10.45am and riders competing for the title will go through Pinged, Carway, Pontyberem, Horeb, Llansawel, and Llangadog.

A rolling road closure will take place along the 65-mile route which will come into action at 10.45am until 1.50pm.

Roads will be re-opened once the cyclists have passed through. A full road closure will be in place over the Black Mountain from 5am-5pm.

The event will be broadcast on ITV4 and across Europe with a helicopter camera crew following the race.

The Women’s Tour departs on Monday, June 6, and coincides with the final day of a four-day Bank Holiday weekend in the UK to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. The race will culminate with a prestigious finale six days later on Saturday, June 11.

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Pembrey Country Park previously hosted the Grand Départ of the men’s Tour of Britain as well as the overall finish of the Women’s Tour in 2019.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Wendy Walters said: “We are thrilled that we have again been chosen to host this top cycling event. Previous years have brought an immediate economic boost to the tourism sector as well as providing a great deal of positive media coverage.”

(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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Sport

West Wales accountancy firm sponsors local triathlete in his bid to become a champion Ironman

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Accountancy firm Ashmole & Co are to sponsor local tri-athlete Andrew Horsfall-Turner this year as he aims to fulfil his dream of becoming the first British professional male to win at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

Andrew, from Swansea, is part of a new generation of up-and-coming Ironman athletes who are ready to challenge the status quo and change the dynamics of the event. He took up Triathlon in 2018 after competing as an elite swimmer for many years. In his first Ironman competition, in 2019 he qualified for Kona as an Age Group athlete.

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Andrew in training

Jim Cornock, Partner with Ashmole & Co and an Ironman himself said, “It is a pleasure to be able to sponsor Andrew in his bid to become a champion Ironman. It is a fantastic achievement to be able to compete at such a high level in such a demanding mixture of events and we wish him all the luck with his forthcoming championships. As a local business we are always happy to support local sports teams and individuals to help them achieve their goals.”

Last year Andrew took on the Outlaw Triathlon events, the first in June at Outlaw Half Nottingham, he qualified for his Professional Racing License. He went on to break the Ironman Distance Welsh Record when winning Outlaw Full in July.

In 2022 Andrew looks to take on the Professional Ironman circuit where the aspiration is to gain qualification to the Ironman World Championships. Within the next five years he aims to contend for the Ironman World Championships title.

Andrew said, “I am so grateful to Ashmole & Co for supporting me. Without sponsorship it is impossible to compete at this level. It would be great to get the backing of other local companies looking to support an athlete as well. Please follow my journey towards an Ironman title on Instagram.”

Andrew will also be competing in the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea triathlon will take place on Sunday, August 7, 2022.

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Athletes participating in IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea will take on a 1.2-mile (1.9km) swim at the Prince of Wales Dock before cycling a one-loop 56-mile (90km) bike course.

Athletes will cycle through the Mumbles along roads that hug the Gower’s coastal clifftops before cycling out through Rural Swansea before heading back along Swansea Bay into the city.

From here they will return to Swansea as they prepare for transition in the Maritime Quarter beside the Rive Tawe.

Lastly, athletes will take on a 13.1-mile (21.1km) two loop run course which takes them from the city centre, out past the new eye-catching gold-coloured Swansea Arena, towards Mumbles before heading back towards the finish line at the Marina.

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