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Irene Steer (far right) with her 4x100m gold medal-winning squad at the Stockholm Olympics 1912

Personal stories of Wales’ sportspeople shared with online archive

As a summer of sporting excellence comes to a close, the stories of some of Wales’ most successful competitors are being shared with an online archive that celebrates the history of Wales.


Hundreds of items from as far back as the early twentieth century including video interviews and photographs relating to 45 Welsh stars of the Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games have been uploaded to People’s Collection Wales, as part of the Following the Flame project.

 People’s Collection Wales is a contemporary, bilingual website dedicated to sharing the history and experience of Wales and its people with the world. The website has recently been re-launched to improve the user experience – and there are now over 47,000 items to discover on the website. Items range from family photographs to national treasures, and anybody can submit content to the website which makes People’s Collection Wales a constantly growing resource for the people of Wales to learn about their history.

In their own words, sportspeople, coaches and administrators and their families have shared stories that highlight the very personal highs and lows of a career competing in the limelight.

These include household names like Cardiff-born wheelchair racer Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson who over her career won a total of 16 Paralympic medals, including 11 golds, and held over 30 world records; and long jumper Lynne ‘the Leap’ Davies from Nantymoel in Bridgend who won an Olympic gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Family members of early-twentieth century talents have recounted tales about their ancestors, such as swimmer Irene Steer’s grandson William de Lloyd. His Cardiff-born grandmother Irene was the first Welsh woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal, with victory in the 4×100m relay in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. She is one of only three Welsh women to have won Olympic gold medals, the others being Nicole Cooke in cycling in Beijing 2008 and taekwondo player Jade Jones in London 2012.

Paralympic swimmer Liz Johnson of Newport opens up about how she found out that her mother had passed away from cancer as she touched down in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. Liz decided to stay and compete because of all the hard work her mother had put into her training and won gold in the 100m breaststroke.

Richard Palmer from Llangwm in Pembrokeshire who was Chef de Mission for the 1976 Olympic Games in Moscow discusses how he reluctantly had to carry the flag at the opening and closing ceremonies. Western countries had decided not to parade the team at the ceremonies under the national flag because of the tensions regarding the Cold War and Richard was unhappy that he was performing a role reserved for distinguished athletes to whom it is an honour.

Para-equestrian dressage rider Nicola Tustain from Denbighshire talks about how she was bullied at school because of her disability, which is paraplegia and dystonia on her right side. She found refuge in the horse-riding centre near Corwen that she attended once a week because she was treated as an equal, and went on to win golds in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.

Phil Cope, who is the man behind the Following the Flame project, compiled his research and pictures into a book, a free copy of which has been sent to every school in Wales thanks to funding from the Arts Council of Wales. He said: “With Following the Flame we aim to preserve the enthralling history of our sports stars and inspire a new generation of competitors and coaches, whatever their discipline or disability.

“People’s Collection Wales is a wonderful thing because it is very much a living archive. We need to keep recording the stories of our sporting heroes because Wales keeps creating champions.

“I would like to thank all of the people who have been so accommodating in sharing their career and personal highs and lows with us for Following the Flame.”

Rheinallt Ffoster-Jones of People’s Collection Wales said: “Understandably, there’s a huge focus on athletics this year with the UK hosting championships where Welsh sportspeople can thrive. People’s Collection Wales has grown into a fantastic treasure trove of memories and we’d urge others with memories relating to Welsh sporting greats to share their stories, photos and videos with us.”

People’s Collection Wales brings together the national collections of the three partner organisations (National Library of Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Royal Commission of Ancient and Historical Monuments), and also items from local and regional museums, archives and libraries, and community groups and individuals.

To view these items and for more information on People’s Collection Wales, please visit www.peoplescollectionwales.co.uk.