World Para Athletics Championships: Rising Welsh stars ready to shine

Sabrina Fortune
Sabrina Fortune won a bronze medal in the F20 shot put at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio

Wales has been blessed with a plethora of superstars in Parasport.

Athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, swimmer David Roberts and field athlete Aled Sion Davies have all had success on the European and World stage.

Between them they have 24 Paralympic and 17 World Championship gold medals.

Now there is a new generation of young, up-and-coming competitors aiming to emulate that success.

Nine Welsh athletes have been selected as part of Team GB for the World Para Athletics Championships in London on 14-23 July.

Paralympic champions Hollie Arnold and Davies are part of that Welsh contingent, but alongside them are a group of young athletes who are starting to make an impact in the sport.

Fortune shines

Sabrina Fortune is only 20 years old and she is already a Paralympic medallist. She won bronze in Rio in the F20 shot put and finished fourth in the European and World Championships.

The athlete from Mold has ambitions to win another medal at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo and wants to put down a marker at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park next week.

"I want gold but I want a PB so I'm chasing after the personal best first," said Fortune.

"Training has been going really well. I have had a couple of niggles, but nothing to stop me.

"I think all the Welsh athletes will do well because we are on home ground.

"Welsh athletics is really strong and there is so much more potential out there."

'Time for young generation'

Jordan Howe has made the finals of two Paralympic games and won four bronze medals in European competitions.

The Cardiff athlete is already somewhat of a veteran on the disability sport circuit, having been involved in so many competitions.

Rhys Jones Paralympic
T37 sprinter Rhys Jones says the pressure got to him at the 2016 Paralympic Games

Howe, 21, runs in the T35 100m category and is the fastest in the world in his class - and his focus is topping the podium in London.

"I'm currently the fastest in the world so, for me, it's the gold medal," said Howe.

"Us young athletes have been given great chances over the past and I think it's time for us to take it to another level.

"But I think it's time for the young generation to come through and start to progress.

"I made my first appearance at an Olympics in London, so to go back there is a big, massive bonus."

Nerves 'can make you or break you'

Runner Rhys Jones made it all the way to the T37 100m final at the Rio Paralympics and finished sixth.

The 23-year-old from Church Village, near Pontypridd, made his Paralympic debut in London and has won bronze medals in European and Commonwealth competitions.

Jones will once again return to London for the World Para-athletics Championships and even though he wants to win a medal, he now understands how to cope with the pressure.

Kyron Duke
Kyron Duke has competed in shot put, javelin and powerlifting

In 2013 the Welshman had his first experience of competing in a World Championships, but the then-teenager was badly affected by nerves.

After a tough 2017 that saw Jones spending the last few months recovering from a metatarsal injury, he is back to full fitness and ready for London.

"My aim is to just do the best that I can. It's just going out there, embracing the crowd and I have a trust in what I have been doing in my training," said Jones.

"Two Paralympic games has given me that realisation of pressure, how to cope with it, how not to cope with it.

"The World Championships in 2013, I didn't cope with the pressure and it got to me.

"Since then I have matured more as an athlete, a person and basically it's the nerves, they can either make you or break you."

Home games 'extra special'

There is one young athlete from Wales who has won silver and bronze medals in World Championships, but gold has eluded him so far.

Kyron Duke competes in the F41 shot put and first came to prominence at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, where he also competed in the F40 javelin.

The 24-year-old from Cwmbran has been training hard in order to beat the rest of the world in his class.

Now he is relishing the opportunity to try for gold on British soil.

"I have plenty of bronzes and silvers, it's just that one extra shiny one that needs to be added to the collection," said Duke.

"A home games is always extra special. You get to go here, there, everywhere, around the world, but when it's a big competition and it's at home it makes it 100 per cent better."

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