International athletes and former Cardiff Metropolitan University alumni have launched the University's new outdoor athletics facility, recently built to complement its existing National Indoor Athletics Centre.
The University has secured a first-class reputation for its top sport courses and a catalogue of sporting stars who train at the University's facilities, including elite Welsh athletes Colin Jackson, Christian Malcolm, Darren Campbell, Jamie Baulch and alumnus Aled Sion Davies were among those offering their support at the launch.
Many of Wales' sporting bodies and authorities were also represented at the event, where a showcase of track and field events involved athletes of all levels – from T20 classified athlete Steve Morris who trained at Cardiff Met for last year's Rio Paralympics with his personal coach and Cardiff Met's Performance Director of Athletics James Thie – to the 'Community Mile', a combined children's and parents' mile-long race.
Many grassroots teams and community clubs benefit from Cardiff Met Sport and were invited to participate in the evening's various events alongside Sport Cardiff and Cardiff Met's Rugby 15, who made use of the University's new Tigeturf 3G pitch adjacent to the 3G football pitch.
The new state of the art facilities, which have received a £218,000 Sport Wales grant, also include a six-lane Polytan track, built by McArdle and designated throw areas for javelin, discus and shotput.
Athletics champions including Olympic gold medalist Lynn Davies and World Record Holder Peter Radford as well as more recent Olympian Charlotte Wingfield and 2011 World Champion Dai Greene are just a handful of the world-famous athletics names to have studied at Cardiff Met.
Olympic silver medalist and two-time World Champion Colin Jackson said: "This new track is fantastic – the facilities here already are. People who work here will know that a couple of weeks ago, I bought a group from Australia here to have a look around for possible Summer training camps when they come over for the European Athletics season. They know the value of having everything they want under one roof from an indoor and outdoor track to gym and accommodation – they thought it was phenomenal here.
"Them being blown away by everything on offer here gave me a real sense of pride.
"I've been training here since I was 15 and living just over the way in Llanedeyrn – Cardiff Met has been a big part of my life, since the last century really!"
A highlight of the evening, which was sponsored by McArdle Sport Tec was double Paralympian UK record holder Steve Morris' last mile race of the season, which the UK T20 800m, 1500m and 5000m record holder ran alongside past and current Cardiff Met athletes, beating 10 seconds off the British T20 mile best with an incredible time of 4.23.07.
Owen Rodgers, Acting Director of Sport, said: "We are excited for all of our stakeholders and users that we are now able to provide a state-of-the-art outdoor athletics facility to match our prestigious National Indoor Athletics Centre. The combined indoor and outdoor facilities will become a pivotal training centre for high performance athletes, University athletes, the local community and our successful junior athletics academy, the Cardiff Archers, which has won numerous trophies this year."
Jamie Baulch who, like Colin, is an Olympic silver medalist and two-time World Champion, added: "The track is amazing. I train in the gym here but didn't really want to see the track until tonight and it is fantastic to see. Cardiff Met has the best athletics facilities in the UK in terms of infrastructure and for the young Archers training here, that provides endless possibilities. We're lucky enough to have the medals, but their journey is just starting here at Cardiff Met."
Professor Cara Aitchison, the University's President and Vice-Chancellor, said: "One of our main ambitions at Cardiff Met is to support the community and provide community support. Cardiff Met makes a huge contribution to sport and we try to use that as a catalyst for children who train here.
"We have 150,000 users of our sport facilities every year and at least 3,000 children using our facilities here at Cyncoed, which is a tremendous contribution.
"Our School of Health Sciences will be based here at Cyncoed in a couple of years – the intention is to relocate most of Health Sciences here, which is really important to our Public Policy Agenda, to combine our Physical Activity, Health and Wellbeing offering.
"The University has supported many athletes over the years, many of whom have been our own students like Lynn Davies, Peter Radford and more recently, Charlotte Wingfield, Dai Green and Aled Siôn Davies, who are just a handful of names from the world stage. We also open our doors to athletes in training.
"It was a delight that some of the first users of the track were the teams from Botswana, New Zealand and Zambia. Our Performance Director of Athletics, James Thie was in Beirut last year for the first half marathon. We were delighted to have him as one of our ambassadors within a country where we have a university partner and where a third of the people are Syrian refugees. This university, James and his colleagues are instrumental in using sport in the development of peace, not just in Cardiff or in Wales – this is something that has a global reach."