Com­mon­wealth suc­cess is only the start – Phillips

Western Mail - - SPORT -

WALES’ most suc­cess­ful Com­mon­wealth Games to date will pro­vide a spring­board for ath­letes to suc­ceed at Olympic and Par­a­lympic level, says the team’s chef de mis­sion, Ni­cola Phillips.

Team Wales won 36 medals – in­clud­ing 10 golds – to match their record medal haul and golds won at pre­vi­ous Games.

Phillips told BBC Wales Sport she be­lieves this achieve­ment is just a be­gin­ning for many younger ath­letes.

“The fu­ture looks very bright,” she said.

“When you look at the num­ber of teenagers we had in the squad, those teenagers were fear­less. They weren’t put off by be­ing in a field of world champions or world record hold­ers.

“If they keep on with the per­sonal bests, the Welsh records we had, there’s no rea­son why they can’t con­tinue to com­pete with the best in the world in the way they have here.”

Wales’ his­toric 10 golds came across seven dif­fer­ent sports.

Lau­ren Price be­came the first Welsh woman to win a box­ing gold – while both Eli­nor Barker and Hol­lie Arnold added Com­mon­wealth golds to their Olympic/Par­a­lympic and world ti­tles.

The youngest medal win­ner was 17-year-old gym­nast Latalia Be­van and the old­est was lawn bowls bronze medal­list Gil­bert Miles – who turns 73 this year.

“Our gen­uine tar­get was to get as many per­sonal bests as pos­si­ble,” Phillips con­tin­ued.

“That’s the only thing the ath­letes can con­trol. That was some­thing we al­ways hoped would trans­late into medals.

“I’ve been to many Com­mon­wealth Games and Wales al­ways has a good team spirit.

“But we’re get­ting com­ments about our ath­letes’ sports­man­ship, the way they en­gage with the pub­lic and vol­un­teers. I’m as proud of that as I am about their per­for­mances.”

At the pre­vi­ous two over­seas Games – Mel­bourne 2006 and Delhi 2010 – Wales won 19 medals and three golds.

They sent a much big­ger team to Glas­gow 2014 and won 36 medals, but only five golds.

Phillips says the huge im­prove­ment in 2018 is thanks to a fo­cus on sports sci­ence and youth de­vel­op­ment by in­di­vid­ual sports back in Wales.

“Over the years - since those per­for­mances of 19 medals - we now know much more about how to pre­pare bet­ter,” she con­tin­ued.

“The sci­ence has helped us. Per­for­mance di­rec­tors and coaches are tak­ing on board the work be­ing done in uni­ver­si­ties and trans­lat­ing that into coach­ing prac­tice.

“What we did is cre­ate the en­vi­ron­ment in which the team could sup­port each other and feel com­fort­able.”

Mean­while UK Sport chief ex­ec­u­tive Liz Ni­choll hopes Eng­land’s net­ball suc­cess at the Com­mon­wealth Games will boost par­tic­i­pa­tion lev­els.

Tracey Neville’s side won a dra­matic gold medal as He­len Housby’s last­gasp goal earned a 52-51 win over favourites Aus­tralia.

Three Com­mon­wealth bronze medals were Eng­land’s pre­vi­ous best per­for­mance in the sport.

Speak­ing on BBC Break­fast, Ni­choll said: “It’s a sport that’s been grow­ing and do­ing in­cred­i­bly well but this is just a huge mo­ment.

“This is a mas­sive show­case to in­spire young women to get in­volved in the sport.”

Net­ball is funded by Sport Eng­land rather than UK Sport, and Ni­choll ex­plained her or­gan­i­sa­tion’s com­mit­ment to Olympic and Par­a­lympic sports.

“UK Sport funds UK GB level ath­letes,” she added.

“Olympic and Par­a­lympic fo­cus net­ball is not an Olympic sport, it’s an Eng­land sport and if we put money into Eng­land net­ball we’d have to fund Scot­tish net­ball and Welsh net­ball and North­ern Ire­land net­ball.

“The Na­tional Lot­tery fund­ing is the fuel that sup­ports the whole of the UK sport­ing sys­tem.

“The home na­tions re­ceived that in­vest­ment and in­vested in in­creas­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion and de­vel­op­ing tal­ent, and our unique role is (to en­sure) that de­liv­ers at Olympic and Par­a­lympic level.”

> Lau­ren Price savours the mo­ment she col­lected Com­mon­wealth gold

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