Hot on the heels of Cardiff Met’s student, staff and alumni success at the Olympics, our Paralympians are also gearing up to make their mark on the Paralympics, which begin today.
T20 classified athlete Steve Morris has been training at Cardiff Met with his personal coach James Thie in preparation for the Rio Paralympics, which begin today (Wednesday.) His selection to compete in the games was made in July after his European T20 1500M record of 3:56.24, which places him 2nd in the World rankings and a real medal contender at the games.
James Thie, Performance Director of Athletics and lecturer at Cardiff Met, recently coached Steve at Cardiff Met’s state of the art sports facilities, before they flew out to Rio ready for the final preparations for the games. Since joining James’ training group, Steve has set three British Records, one European record and recorded personal bests over 800m, 1500m, one mile, 3000m and 5km events.
On Steve’s performance and preparations for the games, coach James, who has been staff at Cardiff Met for five years, said: “Steve has had a great team around him at Sport Wales, alongside the very best support from Cardiff Met. We have world class people and facilities in our corner, which will make all the difference to Steve’s success.
“For example, as part of his preparations we have used heat chambers for recovery runs. Since he has got out to the holding camp in Belo his acclimatization has been super quick.
“We also have a very supportive training group who have helped with training and racing and this friendly but competitive environment is key to his progression.
After a consistent year so far, with very good training and personal bests, Steve will hopefully give a performance that mirrors his success in his preparations.”
Steve will race on the September 13, alongside Mike Branningan (USA) who recently ran a 3.57 mile, while Steve’s best is 4.13. However Steve is ranked number two in the world, meaning this provides him with a clear goal of what he needs to beat.
The straight final is on September 13th which just happens to be his birthday, so securing a medal would certainly make an extra special winning gift.
James is currently in Rio to support him further in training and will be there to watch the race live, providing extra support, thanks to financial support from Cardiff Met and Disability Sport Wales.
Many of GB’s Paralympians have been training at The National Indoor Athletics Centre (NIAC) on Cyncoed including former Cardiff Met student Aled Davies who will represent Great Britain in the Shotput and Discus. Alumni Jon Pett is Team Leader for Para-Cycling and previous student Stephen Thomas will sail for GB in his fifth and final Paralympic Games.
Further Cardiff Met support will see, Rachel Spanner as Physio for GB Wheelchair Basketball. Tim Pitt is psychologist to the Paralympic Table Tennis team.
Weight lifter and Tae Kwondo champion Michaela Breeze will be commentating on the Paralympic Powerlifting and Sitting Volleyball events. Simon Watkins is Coach to Paralympic swimmer Sean Russo and Sarah McGoven has coached the Skud team.
Throughout the Olympic Games, Cardiff Met students, past and present have been representing Team GB in a variety of events, alongside staff and alumni supporting these sports stars from the backroom benches.
Dan Bibby, who won a silver medal alongside fellow Cardiff Met student Sam Cross at last month’s games as members of GB’s Rugby Sevens team, encapsulated his excitement, saying:
“Obviously going to an Olympic game is something special and seeing sporting heroes such as Usain Bolt and Andy Murray strolling around the Olympic village day-to-day was pretty surreal. Winning a silver medal made it even more amazing, making all the hard work worth it.
“Looking back to four years ago when I left Cardiff Metropolitan University, I never even dreamt of going to an Olympics and also being able to share it with an old team mate, Sam Cross, is a pretty incredible thing to say. I believe my time at Cardiff Met certainly helped me get to this point in my career as I’d never been to the gym before starting there.
“I was pointed in the right direction by Dai Watts, who was an outstanding conditioning coach, and made me able to prepare my body for ‘men’s’ rugby and start my career playing for Cardiff Met. This was also the first professional type of rugby programme I had been involved in – with the amount of training and gym work we were basically a full time professional team doing our degrees at the same time.
“The director of rugby, Chris Davey, and senior rugby coach, Danny Milton, helped me by putting structure into my game and honing my skills in order to make me the best player I could be - they also moved me from fly half to full back which is probably a more suited position to rugby sevens, so again they helped me there.
“I didn’t have an easy ride at Cardiff Met as I was in and out of the 1st team in my Freshers’ year and got dropped in my 2nd year after a poor performance. Things like this shape you as a person, and I've definitely taken those experiences into my professional career as being dropped is something every player has to deal with. If I hadn't been in those situations at Cardiff Met, I don’t think I would be so mentally strong now or lasted very long in professional rugby.”