Colin Jackson backs top north Wales sporting facilities


Tomos Hughes

WELSH athletics legend Colin Jackson believes more top sporting facilities will help bridge the sporting gap between north and south Wales.

The former 110 metre hurdle world record holder visited Maes Glas Leisure Centre in Bangor last week to cast an eye on the new £500,000 state-of-the-art sports dome.

Jackson, who regularly features as an athletics pundit for BBC Sport, was visiting the city in his role as ambassador to sports volunteering recruitment body, Join In UK.

He joined Ethan Ray, of Bangor City in the Community, and Coleg Menai students Dylan Jones, Llyr Evans and Ceri Pritchard, in a football coaching session for local youngsters.

Our reporter, Tomos Hughes, caught up with the former hurdling world champion to get his take on sports in north Wales, his Go Dad Run race which enjoyed a successful pilot on Anglesey last year, and Welsh Commonwealth medal hopes.

What role do fantastic facilities like this play in capturing the interest of children in sports?

CJ: When you want to try and encourage young people to come and do sport and participate, you've got to offer facilities that are nice - somewhere where we'd consider quite luxurious - because that would encourage them to come back. Luckily, when you have a facility like this, which is good, airy, it's fresh, it's clean, it's dry, it's an important place for us to encourage young people to participate in anything - you've just got to have great facilities to do that.

Do you think more facilities up in north Wales would close the perceived between sports in north and south Wales?

CJ: Yes, 100 per cent, there's no doubt about it. And we need more and more satellite facilities like this but you also need the community to want to use them as well. Because once you have that continuous usage then that just inspires more facilities like these to be built locally, so that's what will be important for us too.

What are your tips for Welsh medal success in this year's Commonwealth Games?

CJ: For me, I always think of Dai Greene. Dai had a real wonderful build up to London 2012 but unfortunately had that injury that he had to have an operation on. This year very much is a renaissance year and a chance for him to bounce back at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships. But of course, he's got good Welsh opposition in Rhys Williams, who took his European title in the 400m hurdles, so there will be a great Welsh battle there right at the top, going for those gold and silver medals, which has got to be fantastic for Wales itself.

Do you see any north Wales athletes getting into the team this time?
CJ: I was just talking about how there's no Welsh athletes in the World Indoors this year, so does that give us any sign that Welsh athletics is waning? No, far from it. The Commonwealth games is something that many Welsh athletes have true aspirations of getting into the team because it's an opportunity to shine on may levels in an environment you are familiar with, because your teammates are the ones you've grown up with in the Welsh team. You have the opportunity to take that on a huge global scale. So our trials this year will be interesting, to see how the performances will all pan out. I'll be looking forward to it, I don't get many opportunities to go to Welsh Athletics trials, so this year I have to make sure I win!

The pilot of the Go Dad Run race on Anglesey last year was massively successful. Are there any plans to hold it on Anglesey again this year?
CJ: We're talking about that right now. We've got our sponsors on board luckily, so that again will make an event like that happen. It's about linking things together and making people feel they are part of one big family, so the Go Dad Run, we have it in Cardiff this year, in Birmingham and also in London.

How can people get involved in volunteering with Join In, and what would people gain from it?
CJ: The key thing is our website,, if you go there it clearly demonstrates to you what you can do. But what I always say to people is, do get involved in something you want and that you really have an interest in.
I think one of the most emotional times I had when I retired from the world of athletics was in Birmingham, and the volunteers there who do the kitbags, the people organising you and putting everything in place, had all signed this card for me, saying, "thank you very much for all your hard work in athletics, you were wonderful". And I thought, oh my god, it was just such a special moment, that these guys had taken time out to go and buy a card, and then get everybody who volunteered on that day to sign it for me. I still have that and it really touched me a lot. You instantly get this real respect for the people and an understanding of what they have done for you throughout your career. That one moment was magic for me.

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