Sport

Olympic success for Welsh athletes

By Rich Jones

It has certainly been a summer of success for Welsh sport – capped off by a record-breaking medal haul at Rio 2016.

Just weeks after the Wales football team captured the hearts of the nation, the country’s top athletes travelled to Brazil and enjoyed their best Olympic Games ever.

Great Britain’s stunning 67-medal haul included ten medals won by Welsh competitors, outdoing the seven medals won at London 2012.

Four of those were gold, with two Cardiff-born cyclists amongst those to achieve the ultimate prize within their sport.

It was the remarkable success of the Great Britain track cycling team which perhaps garnered the most public attention during these games.

Every single member of the squad who competed left with a medal of some kind, with three Welsh cyclists involved in their success.

Elinor Barker was part of the Women’s Team Pursuit team who took gold. She joined Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell, Katie Archibald and Ciara Horne in the side which defeated the United States in a world record time in the final to claim victory.

Owain Doull also won Team Pursuit gold with the men’s team alongside Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Steven Burke and Ed Clancy as they also set a world record to triumph over Australia in a dramatic deciding race.

Individually, Becky James claimed two silver medals to cap off a remarkable journey for the 24-year-old from Abergavenny.

She finished second in the Women’s Sprint and the Women’s Keirin as the Great Britain team enjoyed an unbelievable few days in the velodrome.

Just 18 months ago James was on the verge of quitting the sport after an injury nightmare, but her mighty comeback was completed by a stellar performance.

The other two gold medals from Welsh competitors came in Taekwondo and Sailing, as Jade Jones and Hannah Mills left Brazil triumphant.

Flintshire-based Jones retained the crown she won in London 2012 by beating Spaniard Eva Calvo Gomez 16-7 in their gold medal bout.

Mills, meanwhile, partnered Saskia Clarke to the Women’s 470 dinghy triumph in resounding fashion

.They were always the front-runners and had effectively secured victory with one day remaining, but they still faced an agonising wait to confirm their gold after bad weather delayed proceedings.

Also on the water, Wrexham’s Victoria Thornley won silver in the Women’s Double Sculls alongside Katherine Granger.

One of the major success stories of the Rio 2016 games was the introduction of Rugby Sevens to the event.

The sport seemed to reach a whole new audience with its high-profile inclusion in the Olympics for the first time.

Great Britain stormed into the Grand Final courtesy of a dramatic semi-final success over New Zealand.

They were thrashed by a rampant Fiji side in the final but still earned a well-deserved silver medal.

Welsh players James Davies and Sam Cross were both involved. Davies, the brother of Welsh international centre Jonathan, plays flanker for the Scarlets.

Cross, meanwhile, is a former Sport and Exercise Science student at Cardiff Metropolitan Univeristy and now plays as a flanker for Newport RFC.

In the pool, Swansea-based Jazz Carlin made headlines with two hard-fought silver medals in the Women’s 800m Freestyle and Women’s 400m Freestyle.

Although born in Swindon, the likeable Carlin has Welsh parents and represents Wales whilst training in Swansea.

Unfortunately fellow swimmer Chloe Tutton was unable to claim a medal, falling agonisingly short in the 200m Breaststroke.

The talented 20-year-old, who hails from Rhondda but is now based in Cardifff Bay, was just 0.06 seconds off third place.

Her disappointment was made more frustrating by controversial Russian Yulia Efimova taking second. Efimova has previously served a 16-month ban for doping, and after another positive test earlier this year she was controversially given a late reprieve to allow her participation.

Although it was a summer of overriding success for Welsh athletes, Tutton was not the only competitor to come up just short in their quest for a medal.

Boxer Joe Cordina travelled to Brazil with high hopes of challenging for a medal in the Men’s light 60kg category, yet he was beaten 2-0 by Uzbekistan’s Hurshid Tojibaev in the last 16.

Popular cyclist Geraint Thomas also experienced cruel misfortune. He suffered a heavy crash in the Men’s Road Race as he finished 11th, with his injury hampering him as he finished 9th in the Road Race.

It was nonetheless a tremendous summer for Great Britain at Rio 2016, and the Welsh athletes involved more than played their part in a record-breaking Olympic Games.

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