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19 May 2021

WW Reflect on 2020/21 so far

2020 was not the year anyone had expected, least of all, had planned for!

In March 2020: WW had just wrapped up our first Welsh International Open event held in Bangor University, not long after the successful north and south Academy Open events had taken place. Some of our lifters were preparing for the European Championships in April 2020, others starting to turn their focus towards other events throughout the year, such as the Junior Battle, British Championships, Welsh Age Groups, Welsh Masters, Celtic Nations, and our Academy Open competitions.

WW had been collaborating with the Urdd, USA Weightlifting and Coleg Cymru to create new events, such as the Power Pentathlon, International Weightlifting Day and competitive activities for Welsh Colleges.

The new strategy was being prepared for implementation, and a general meeting had been called, with three elected board positions available for members to vote on.

Who would have known that within a matter of weeks, our national hub Bangor University would become a field hospital? Clubs and Academies would be forced to close their doors? Projects, meetings, competitions, events and recruitment, would all be put on hold, as we stayed indoors to wait the lockdown out?

Weightlifting Wales had to adapt, as did our clubs and our members. As grants were rapidly being made available thanks to Welsh Government, Sport Wales and various other authorities, Strategy and Development Manager, Simon Roach supported licensed clubs and academies in applying for funding that would essentially help some of them to survive the lockdown.

We had to evaluate the risk that the pandemic presented to us as an organisation as well as the risk it presented to our clubs and our lifters; it was necessary to start to look at ways to continue to operate in these unusual circumstances.

Clubs & Lifters

Our clubs and academies began lending out their equipment to their members, setting up online group training sessions and arranging virtual social events to continue to serve their members in the best way they could.

In the midst of the chaos, it was even possible for a new academy to be opened at Coleg Sir Gar; this facility has become the new home of Llanelli Weightlifting. More on this story can be found in the news section of the WW website.

We have seen many of our members, and our club’s members’, adapt and find inventive ways to stay fit and strong during the lockdown; from home-weightlifting set ups in garages and gardens and even living rooms! Online team training sessions, home-workouts with minimal to no equipment, and through the autumn, a number of lifters participated in our virtual Welsh Open. We simply could not be prouder of how our clubs responded and supported their members, and we cannot underestimate just how much impact this support and communication within the club communities will have had on people’s well-being throughout this pandemic.

By the end of December 2020, 40 lifters in Wales had submitted declarations of interest in qualifying for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022. It is a difficult year to navigate as athletes, coaches and organizers, but with the British Championships set to go ahead under restrictions in June, this will be the first opportunity lifters will have had to compete in a traditional competition for a very long time. We wish every lifter the best of luck in their journey.

Ray Williams, Head Coach, worked with Sport Wales to enable the elite lifters to gain dispensation to continue training through the pandemic, and ensured that these athletes were supported where possible.

Weightlifting Wales have selected its team to be entered into the Virtual International Women’s Grand Prix event which will be taking place virtually on 22nd May 2021. Selecting a team for this event provides an opportunity to developing Welsh athletes to gain experience and to aid future progress. The squad consists of 9 athletes:
- Grace Morris U17- Charlotte Whalley, Mena Williams, Seren Mitchell, Nicole Roberts, U20-Molly Greenwood, Chloe Hood, Macy John & Bethan Jones.

WW wish the team well!

Our Volunteers and Events

In 2020, we supported 30 members to gain their Technical Official qualification with BWL, in order to grow our volunteer network and to support future local and national events. A number of our volunteers took part in refereeing for our virtual open events, a huge task that Event Manager Justin Head has co-ordinated. We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all of our volunteers who are making running the virtual events possible, and we cannot wait to eventually see you all in person again!

WW made the decision to donate all of its profit from the March and April Virtual Open events to Mind Charity. We hope that by doing this we can raise awareness and support the charity to continue its good work.

WW are now in the process of developing a national event with Coleg Cymru which will start in May 2021, providing students who take part in strength and conditioning a route to compete in an inter-college strength-based event. Colleges from across Wales may enter individuals and teams. Events Manager, Justin Head, has created a competition scoring system, which allows male and female entrants to be scored equally, making it possible for mixed gender teams to enter and compete on a level playing field with each other.

WW staff have been busy planning the development pathway, using insight from a Bangor University PhD project which focused on Weightlifting talent development in Wales and also insight from Sport Wales, lifters, parents and coaches. Once restrictions permit activities to resume, development training days will be taking place in the North and South of Wales as part of the development pathway.

Partnerships and Projects

WW is currently working on a number of partnerships with other organisations to help improve our reach and impact on the wider community and improve pathways and development in performance. Some of our connections include BWL, Help for Heroes Wales Recovery Centre, Disability Sports Wales and Cardiff Metropolitan University.

WW also has a number of projects in the pipeline, including an Age Well programme designed to support centres to provide strength-based training sessions for adults. A Raise the Bar programme in collaboration with BWL to help develop grassroot level athletes, as well as a development pathway in Para Powerlifting. A Future Coaches Wales coaching programme is also in creation, to support and develop young coaches in Weightlifting.

Governance and Operations

We have had some significant changes in leadership in WW. Since the General Meeting in September 2020, six new board members have joined our board of directors, and well-known volunteer and Technical Official, Darren Rogers, became the new Chair.

Our board has now filled all its positions, with the 8thposition having been recently filled by Commonwealth Games 2018 athlete and Paralympian, Nathan Stephens, whose role within Disability Sport Wales and personal experience in high level Paralympic sport adds invaluable knowledge to this highly skilled board of directors. To find out more about our board of directors, click here.

WW employed two full-time Regional Development Officers in September 2020, to be based in the North and South of Wales. The RDO’s joined the Strategy and Development Manager, the Head Coach, the Events Manager and the Business Support Officer to make a staff team of six. The RDO’s will work closely with our clubs, helping to develop links with local authorities, develop pathways into performance, aid with projects, and support the implementation of the strategy.

Thank you to all of our members, clubs, coaches, lifters, staff, volunteers and directors who have contributed to the successful year that WW has had, despite the difficulties. We very much hope to see physical events resume soon, so that we can continue to provide opportunities for our members to come together and enjoy our sports and activities.