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Wales wants its athletes to Bolt

New drive to foster natural talent at early age

New drive to foster natural talent at early age

The Jamaican tradition of competitive track and field in schools is set to be emulated in Wales.

The sprint success that the Caribbean country enjoyed at the Beijing Olympics - including the world record run by Usain Bolt in the 100 metres - is said to be partly a product of children's early introduction to the sport at school.

Welsh Athletics, which governs the sport in Wales, is about to unveil a "masterplan" that the body says will bring new life into track and field. Insiders say it will be the most co-ordinated drive between schools and clubs in the UK, and should revive flagging athletic achievement at club level in Wales.

The intervention and training of PE teachers is seen as central to the scheme, which has led to the creation of three indoor athletic development centres in Deeside, Cardiff and Swansea.

Schools will be asked to refer not only the most promising young athletes, but to cherry-pick those children who show real potential and enthusiasm. Teachers who would like to specialise in the sport will also be offered coaching sessions at the academy of their choice.

The lack of competitive school sport in the UK was recently lamented by the Prime Minister. Speaking in August, Gordon Brown attacked the "politically correct" policy of discouraging children from being competitive.

But Welsh athlete Lynn "the Leap" Davies, who won the long jump Olympic gold in Tokyo in 1964, believes such a scheme will "keep one eye on the talented young athletes aspiring to be the best".

"It will also be fun, enjoyable and increase participation," he said.

Jamie Baulch, an Olympic silver medallist in the 4 X 400 metres relay in Atlanta (1996) is also excited by the plan.

He said: "This will cater for all levels of participation and provide a foundation for athletes to develop at their own speed. This is imperative if athletes, regardless of age, are to stay in the sport for longer."

The coach and teacher education programme will be run by a new national coaching team. The aim is for participating teachers to share their skills with local schools. They will also be able to request coaching workshops - led by the national team - at their schools and clubs.

The athletic development centres start next week at the following places: Cardiff, Tuesdays, at the National Indoor Athletics Centre; Swansea, Wednesdays, at the West Wales Indoor Athletics Centre; Deeside, Tuesdays, at The North Wales Indoor Athletics Centre. All sessions take place 6pm-8pm. For further information contact Emily Brown on 02920 201520.

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