Little Molly – and Swansea – gear up for games to remember
ASPIRING Paralympian Molly Hopkins said she hoped Swansea would deliver the biggest and best European athletics championships next summer.
The 10-year-old swimmer and sporting all-rounder helped unveil the logo — or mark — for next August’s International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics European Championships.
“I can’t wait,” she said, addressing the launch event at Swansea University’s indoor running track.
The five-day championships will be televised and are expected to attract up to 2,000 athletes from 40 countries and 5,000-strong crowds.
It is the first time the games have been staged in Britain.
Elite home-grown athletes such as discus and shot put star Aled Sion Davies, of Bridgend, and swimmer Jack Thomas, of Swansea, spoke about their excitement at competing in their own backyard.
Aled, aged 22, claimed gold in the two track events at the recent European championships in Lyon. He told the Post: “Swansea is a beautiful place, all my family are from here — it’s going to be exciting. It is going to do massive things for Wales and Swansea in particular.”
He said London 2012 Paralympics had “catapulted” disability sport.
“It changed perceptions for so many people,” he said. “We just want to be seen as elite athletes. It’s only going to grow bigger.” For performers like Aled, there has arguably never been a better time to compete in disability sport. He has funding and sponsorship and trains full time, pumping weights, working on biometrics — explosive exercises such as jumps and sprints — and doing cardiovascular work. On Saturdays he practises the technical aspects of his throwing.
Backstroke maestro Jack, aged 18, of Morriston, who was just back from the IPC Swimming World Championships in Montreal, said: “I can’t wait to welcome my fellow athletes to my back yard.”
IPC chief executive Xavier Gonzales, who had flown in from Germany yesterday, said it was his first visit to Swansea and “this beautiful part of the world”.
He said the host organising team, Swansea2014, had put in a very strong bid and helped demonstrate strong grassroots participation in disability sport in Wales. “We are confident that Swansea can deliver a highly successful championships in 2014,” he said.
Former Wales international and Swansea2014 chairman Paul Thorburn, told the Post that last year’s Paralympic Games had opened his eyes to just how many different sports, such as equestrianism, disabled people competed and excelled in.
He said: “I think we will see a massive buzz here in 12 months’ time. It is a great opportunity for Swansea.”
The former Swansea University graduate described the sporting facilities on and around the campus, which will host next summer’s games, as outstanding.
“It sends out the message that sport means a lot to people in Swansea,” he said. Referring to Wales’s staging of the Ryder Cup in 2010, the Ashes in 2009 and the Rugby World Cup in 1999, he said the country knew plenty about hosting top class sport. Swansea, meanwhile, was praised for its role in helping Mexican and New Zealand Paralympians prepare ahead of London 2012. Mr Thorburn said: “Swansea is used to success in its own right — the football team has given us a massive sporting presence.”
He added: “Competing on home soil can give our athletes a real boost.”
champ Paralympic superstar Aled Sion Davies in Swansea for the launch yesterday and (inset) a youngster enjoys the games at the launch event.