Glasgow 2014: Gymnast Laura Halford targets Welsh medals

Laura Halford

British Rhythmic Gymnastics champion Laura Halford believes Wales have a real chance of bringing home a medal from the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Halford, 17, succeeded 2012 UK champion Frankie Jones, who was absent as the Olympian

But the pair are likely to spearhead a strong Wales challenge for rhythmic gymnastics medals at Glasgow 2014.

"I think we have a really good strong chance to win a medal in the team competition," Halford said.

"I don't think I have as big a chance of getting an individual medal because it will be a really big competition, and it will be the biggest I have ever competed in.

"I'll just be competing there for the good experience but... I think it's going to be amazing, because this is going to be the first time that we have the opportunity to send a team, we're all really happy about that.

"Because it is not as popular a sport, we don't have much funding and therefore they can't send us to as many competitions, so we don't get as much experience as other gymnasts in the world."

Halford, who comes from Cricklade but is studying in Swindon, won the British all-round title for the first time in Stoke-on-Trent last week.

She qualifies for Wales because of her father David, who is from Mancot in Flintshire.

In her senior debut in 2012, she had finished runner-up to Jones, who took a silver medal in the rhythmic gymnastics at the 2010 Commonwealth games in Delhi.

But in Jones' injury-enforced absence, Halford swept to the national title at the Fenton Manor Sports Complex with a total score of 55.599 that included a lifetime best in the opening discipline.

"I had a really good competition, I started off on my Hoop routine and I achieved a personal best so that really gave me a boost of confidence for the rest of the competition," Halford said.

"On my Ribbon routine I got two big knots in the end... so I did miss out a few things and I ended up getting a lower score, but I managed to pull the rest of the routine back at the end so I'm happy with that.

"I think because I did really well on my first three pieces it created a big enough gap for me to make a few errors, but at least I know now where I can improve and get my scores even higher."

Archive: Jones claims last day silver for Wales at Delhi 2010

The growing strength in depth in Welsh rhythmic gymnastics was underlined at the British Championships with Llanelli RG Academy gymnasts Abigail Hanford taking first in Ball and second in Rope and Anastasija Baidenko who came third overall, second in Hoop, and third in Free, Rope and Ball.

Although rhythmic gymnastics struggles to attract funding in the UK, Halford praised the infrastructure available to her and her Welsh team-mates.

"Welsh Gymnasticsexternal-link is really supportive of us all, there are great facilities in Cardiff for us to train. We have a perfect place to train, the proper 'carpet' you have to train on and the ceiling's high, and we can there quite often so it is pretty good," Halford said.

"We have everything in Wales, we have a physio, a psychologist, a nutritionist to help us and make us better as well as amazing coaches.

"Definitely the coaches are all really good, really knowledgeable and helpful."

Halford added: "Before the Commonwealths next year it will be the British Championships again, so hopefully I'd like to retain the title even though it has only just happened.

"I think I'm just going to focus on training and making my routines more consistent, and wiping out errors so that I am confident for the Commonwealth Games."

Meanwhile, Welsh Gymnastics' new Workforce Development Manager, Siwan Jones, has been asked to fly the Welsh flag for Ynys Môn at the 2013 Island Games, which will be held in Bermuda on 13-19 July.

The Island Games is a multi-sport event which incorporates 25 islands from the northern and southern hemispheres, including Ynys Môn, Bermuda, Alderney, Rhodes and Isle of Man.

Five gymnasts and two coaches from Ynys Môn Gymnastics Club are expected to compete at the bi-annual games, where they will be competing in Women's Artistic team, individual all-around and individual apparatus events.

"I was proud and honoured to be asked to be flag bearer for Ynys Môn, in what will be my last games," said Jones, who won a vault silver medal at the 2009 Aaland Games.

"The Island Games give kids from Ynys Môn a chance to compete in their sport on a huge scale, a chance that some may never have anywhere else - it has certainly shaped who I am today."

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