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Disabled Swansea lifeguard just misses out on medal in Welsh surfing championship

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A swimming lifeguard from Swansea just missed out on a medal when the Welsh disabled surfing championships returned to Adventure Parc Snowdonia in the Conwy Valley.

Isaac Heaher finished fourth in the Kneeling Class won by his Wales team-mate Llywelyn Williams, from Abersoch, with Frenchman Laurent Marouf, from Bordeaux, second and Brighton’s Rhea Sarr third, just 0.17 points above the Swansea man.

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Isaac, who only took up surfing three years ago after he visited the Surfability site on the Gower Peninsula, was impressed by the venue at Dolgarrog, on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park.

The keen swimmer was born without a thigh bone but has not let the disability keep him out of the water and he has taken part in the British National Championships and been picked alongside Llywelyn for Wales in the Para Surfing World Championships.

Isaac, who has visited the wave pool at Adventure Parc Snowdonia several times, said: “It’s a great place to compete or just surf. The waves are really good and the facilities are first class. It’s more like the sea than other similar centres.

Isaac Heaher came fourth in the Welsh disabled surfing championships

The teaching assistant at a Swansea secondary school enjoys competition and added: “I’m really grateful to the school authorities for allowing me the time off.

“I began surfing at Caswell Bay three years ago and loved it.”

Isaac was among 20 competitors at the Welsh Adaptive Surfing Championships, including entrants from the USA, France, Israel, Wales and England at the man-made lagoon on the former aluminium smelting site.

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It was the world’s first inland venue to host an adaptive surfing championship event three years ago and organisers Adventure Parc Snowdonia were pleased to have the adaptive surfers back – it’s for those with additional needs or challenges – and its proved a big hit with the boarders.

The event featured nine different categories, surfers without limbs, competitors who are paralysed and who surf in the prone position and those who need to be assisted onto the wave and caught at the other end with two categories for the impaired surfers.

Llywelyn Williams
Llywelyn Williams

The driving force behind the event has been Llywelyn Williams, 27, from Abersoch, whose own dreams of becoming a competitive surfer began on the beaches of Porth Ceiriad and Porth Neigwl in Gwynedd.

Those dreams were dashed by a horrific accident when he was 11 which cost him a leg but continuing with his sport has been just another challenge to be overcome and he was back in the water in less than a year.

He said: “At the US Open championships I wrote on a piece of paper asking if anyone would like to take part in a Welsh championship and more than 40 people said they would love to come.

“I set about organising it and we had a very successful event here at Dolgarrog three years ago but then Covid happened and put a stop to everything and this year we were back again and there were 20 athletes here taking part in the championships.”

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Adventure Parc Snowdonia Head of Marketing Iwan Phillips said: “It was a privilege to welcome the adaptive surfers back to Snowdonia, their incredible spirit and cameraderie highlighted the very best of surfing and how sport truly brings people together for all the right reasons.

“For us hosting this event showcased the benefits the controlled environment we have with our facility alongside our ambition to make surfing and outdoor activities accessible and inclusive to people of all abilities or confidence levels.”

The main sponsor for the event was The Mailing Room, a Bury-based family company with an interest in adaptive surfing. AmpSurf, an organisation set up to inspire and rehabilitate people with disabilities, and Llywelyn’s family company, Hopalong Clothing, also supported the event.

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Cricket

Council leader welcomes news Glamorgan to bring first class cricket back to Neath

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The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Steve Hunt, has congratulated Neath Cricket Club on its success in attracting senior Glamorgan matches to its Gnoll Ground for the first time in more than 20 years.

On a visit the club’s ground, Cllr Hunt heard from Neath Cricket Club officials how first class facilities, pitch management and other factors led to Glamorgan staging two one day matches in Neath in August.

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Glamorgan will play Lancashire at the Gnoll on August 17th and two days later Hampshire will be the visitors to the Neath town centre ground.

Both matches, expected to draw big crowds, will be 50-over games and both are part of the Royal London Cup competition.

Cllr Hunt said: “It means a lot to have first class cricket played once again in the centre of Neath at the Gnoll – it really puts Neath on the map.

“I want to congratulate the team at Neath Cricket Club for achieving this success. It will bring big crowds into the centre of Neath where the building of the new Neath Leisure Centre has just been constructed.”

Glamorgan usually play their matches at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, however a limited number of matches are played at other Welsh grounds.

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Earlier this year the club announced that they would no longer play at Swansea’s St Helens ground due to the condition of the pitch and the poor operational infrastructure.

Announcing their fixtures at the beginning of the season, Glamorgan’s head of operations, Dan Cherry, said: “Regrettably, we are unable to play at St Helen’s this year, with the facilities no longer able to support the hosting of domestic cricket at the venue.”

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Alastair Brownlee wins inaugural Swansea IRONMAN as thousands of spectators line streets to watch

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Olympian, Alastair Brownlee has won the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea, with thousands of spectators lining the Swansea to Gower course to watch the event.

Pro-athlete Kat Matthews won the women’s race.

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Alistair Brownlee said: “It’s been a tough year with some ups and downs, I think I decided to race Swansea about three weeks ago. It’s actually a place I know pretty well as I’ve done some training here throughout the years, so it’s nice to be back. It’s great to take on my first 70.3 in the UK.”

On the podium, Brownlee said: “I had a couple of occasions where I was going up a hill, looking at the view over the coast to my left or right, which was really beautiful. There were some great crowds in random spots throughout the Gower, with people popping up on farm tracks and all sorts. It was lovely. I think the crowd and the weather are what made it today.”

At the pre-event press conference, Kat Matthews said: “I’m most looking forward to the change in dynamic of the course. You’ve got the first half which is really punchy rolling hills, trying not to get distracted by the sea and beach. Then you’ve got the slight technical aspect, and then you’ve got the TT element. I think it just adds the whole package to the race.

“We’ve been in and out of the cafes, actually experiencing the local area. It’s been amazing – all the locals have already been really nice. I think we’ve seen a mix of the normal Swansea, having arrived so early, and then the triathlon community wafting through. It’s been a really good mix.”

Kat Matthews celebrates winning the women’s race at IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Swansea’s own Shane Williams also toed the start line at the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea, finishing the race 16th in his age group with a time of 05:17:46. His first IRONMAN 70.3 event ahead of his upcoming full-distance triathlon at IRONMAN Wales in Tenby on 11 September, Williams credited the spectator support as his key driver to participate in IRONMAN events.

Ahead of the race, Shane told organisers: “I’m most looking forward to the support. It’s the reason I did my first IRONMAN down in Pembrokeshire. The support at IRONMAN Wales is unbelievable, and I’m expecting the same in Swansea. If any of the other IRONMAN events are anything to go by, we’ll have a stack of people showing up to cheer us on.”

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A proud 63% of the athlete field raced for Wales, with over 700 athletes from the Swansea area taking to the middle-distance course. Topping the Tri Club podium were local clubs Celtic Tri, Swansea Vale Tri, and the Port Talbot Harriers, who collectively brought 160 of their affiliated athletes to compete in the event.

IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea sold out over 2,000 places in less than four days and brought an estimated economic boost upward of £2.5m to the region. Returning to Swansea until at least 2024, the event will look to continue growing its popularity and visibility over the coming years.

Swansea Council say that the event brought an estimated £2.5m to the economy, with many accommodation providers doing excellent business along with many other businesses in the hospitality sector.

Ahead of the event, Declan Byrne, VP of Operations, EMEA at The IRONMAN Group said: “It takes a while to get to this point in an event’s evolution. It was November 2019 when we came down here first, to get this event up and running on a windswept day. We met our good partners in Swansea Council and Welsh Government who wanted to support this event.”

“We wanted to put a 70.3 in Wales. That was the vision. We know how strong the Welsh triathlon community is, especially in South Wales, and we felt that Swansea was the perfect location when we met with the teams here. It was also the fact that it was a community and a host venue that really wanted us to be here.

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“We have a fantastic field of professional athletes as well, which delivers a brilliant image for this event that puts Swansea and the triathlon community on the global map.”

Athletes compete during the swim section of IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Athletes entering the water (Image: Huw Fairclough for IRONMAN)
The cycle portion of the route headed along Mumbles Road and around the Gower (Image: Huw Fairclough for IRONMAN
Maurice Clavel of Germany competes in the bike section of IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Kat Matthews of Britain celebrates winning the women’s race at IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Antonio Lopez of Spain finishes second at IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Council cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “It was an amazing week, topped off brilliantly by the weekend’s two world-class events.

“I thank all those who took part, arranged and supported the events – and thank all residents and businesses across Swansea and Gower for their patience and understanding as they made changes to their day-to-day lives.

“We do appreciate that road closures cause some disruption to normal daily routines – but they’re important to make such events as safe as possible for all involved and local residents.

“Bringing top class sport and other events to any location has its challenges but we’re determined to give the people of this area their biggest ever programme of major events.

“They give local people great things to see and do – and they boost the local economy in a substantial way.

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“This truly was a big weekend of international sport and it shone a global spotlight on Swansea as a destination.”

(Lead image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

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It’s in the game: First ever Welsh Esports team head to Commonwealth Esports Championships

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The first ever Welsh e-sports team are heading to the 2022 Commonwealth Games’ Esports Championships in Birmingham to compete in the prestigious inaugural main event, thanks to support from the Welsh Government’s Creative Wales agency.

Esports is a form of competition using video games played competitively for spectators, typically by professionals.

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Esports Wales Team (Image: Esports Wales)

Esports is a growing industry. It provides people of all-abilities the opportunity to participate a wide range of competitions, providing them with the opportunity to develop new and existing skills.

Esports Wales, the not-for-profit Welsh body for competitive and grassroots gaming, is heading towards an action-packed summer at the Commonwealth Esports Championships, amidst a growing awareness of the scale and potential of this new industry.

The contest at the Commonwealth Games, being held from the 6th-7th August, will feature topflight esports athletes from across the nations of the Commonwealth, with Esports Wales fielding teams in six categories:

  • Rocket League Open
  • Rocket League Womens
  • Dota 2 Open
  • Dota 2 Womens
  • Efootball
  • Efootball Womens.
Esports is a growing industry attracting huge crowds at tournaments worldwide

Creative Wales recently confirmed £25,000 in funding to Esports Wales to help with their next stage of growth. The funding will support the establishment of a Welsh league, which will then lead to representation at tournaments in the UK and beyond.

The funding will help secure coaching and training for staff and teams, enable the hosting of new in-person and awareness-raising events, and support membership growth and marketing.

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden said: “Esports is an exciting and inclusive new development for sport and for Wales. I’m delighted we have been able to support the establishment of Wales’ first ever Esports team, which will further support the growth of the games industry in Wales.

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“I very much look forward to cheering on the Welsh team in Birmingham. Pob lwc i chi gyd!”

Chief Operating Officer of Esports Wales Jack “Anders” Lawrence said: “The practice the teams put in showed through the qualification process with the mixed Rocket League and mixed Dota 2 teams advancing through the qualifiers without dropping a series.

“I’m thoroughly looking forward to watching all of our six brilliant teams compete at the Commonwealth Esports Championships. It will be a fantastic step for Welsh Esports and its community to be part of an event of this magnitude.”

(Lead image: Esports Wales)

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