TOP weightlifters past and present helped to open the Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Centre new facility at the Ucheldre Centre on the Welsh island earlier this month.
While the old Mill Bank Club has long been a Mecca for weightlifting, major investment means the newly named Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Centre can now cater for demands from the elite to fitness novices.
The venue now includes 13 lifting stations – complying to international standards for its regional centre of excellence status – and will expand its strength and conditioning programmes for other sports.
From a community perspective, the club’s opening hours have extended to six days a week with additional fitness programmes aimed at juniors and women and girls.
A key aim is to enlist 50 new junior members, 48 new senior members and train up a number of new coaches.
Funding of over £31,000 from Sport Wales, and a range of other partners, has made the project a real team effort.
Head of the centre and Former Royal Welch Guard Fusilier, Ray Williams won gold at the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games. He said: “It’s been about four years since we started to seek funds to put this together. It’s an immense improvement and we’re hugely excited.
“It opens another chapter in the club’s history which is 40 years long and produced a number of champions. This environment is going to be conducive for producing more for years and years and decades after I’ve gone.
“It’s been a collaboration between families, friends and different amateur groups over a long period of time and every one of them we thank. This centre is a huge positive that will help the youngsters but also people in their 50s, 60s and 70s to do something that I’m passionate about; and that’s keep fit.
"If we're going to create a nation of champions here in Wales we need excellent facilities. We've had fantastic weightlifting success on the world stage over the decades,” adds Ray. “But weightlifting is still a minority sport that we need to grow at the grassroots level to increase our talent pool and keep our winning ways going.
“We’re always trying to nurture the next tranche of champions and I’m now working with all five secondary schools on Anglesey.”
As well as keeping the community fit, the centre is geared up to unearth yet more future champions, particularly as the sport gears up for an unprecedented level of exposure at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“Now we’ve got more training space we’re going to be able to make it available to more people to use, and with that increased reach it’s inevitable that we’re going to produce more champions.
“I think it was 1948 the last time we held the Olympic Games and I think there’s going to be a huge excitement and it’s going to build in these months as we get closer to London.
“I’d like to think that there’ll be an increase in the popularity of our sport but I think it comes down to people like me to make people aware that we’re here and then to sell the sport.
“I’d say to anyone, from any sport, do Olympic weightlifting as a by-product of what you do and it’s a phenomenal explosive sport to be involved in. So join a local club or come and see me.”
Text courtesy of Paul Batcup, Sport Wales.