I began my International duty at a stadium in Warrington in 1998, without much sleep the night before. I was a bag of nerves. Competitions took place in a big cage. Once you enter the cage you would then be tied to the ground with some very strong straps for safety reasons. Around the cage there would always be three or four officials. The rules were very strict. Your coach wasn’t allowed anywhere near you. You weren’t allowed to use your own equipment. You were allowed five attempts in total. Two practice throws followed by three competition throws.
The officials would always sound a horn to let you know when to throw, and to warn the spectators. To be honest the horn sounded like a sick duck, and it often put me off.That day I threw the club just over six metres. I just about qualified. I was thrilled. I left the field with a tear in my eye. I stayed in a five star hotel with the rest of the squad that night. We had a meal together. I travelled home to Anglesey the next morning. I felt washed out. When I got home I fell asleep on the sofa.
My next stop was Brecon in South Wales. It was cold and windy. I was feeling sick with nerves. The wind is the club thrower’s worst nightmare. It was my turn. I gave it all that I had, but the wind threw my club down at five metres. That was just not good enough. That was below standard, and way below my own standards. I put my head in my hands and began sobbing. I was glad to see the back of Brecon. Well, until next time anyway. I left without a medal that day.
The most bitter sweet moment of my career occurred at the CP World Championships in 2001. The Chinese coach Quang Jaung tried to get me disqualified for lifting my bum off the seat whilst throwing the club. It was a false allegation and they didn’t succeed to strip of my bronze medal. I left Nottingham with a mile long smile on my face that day.
I had some success that year. I only took home bronze medals, so I was left feeling disappointed. Well at least I had something to work on for the next season. I was highly thought of in the squad. I was a good hard working athlete, but I often let my nerves get the better of me. It was only because I cared so much.
By 1999 things were really looking up. Wales was sponsored by British Telecom. I was awarded the Mark Lynes Cup for Achievement in Athletics. I was deeply touched that my effort had been recognised by the coaching staff and my team mates. It was a much needed confidence boost. My medal count was growing. I picked up two silver medals. One in the Welsh Games in Wrexham, the other at the Colwyn Bay Games in Colwyn Bay. It was simply an amazing feeling. All of my hard work was beginning to pay off. I had a sense of belonging by this point. I also felt as if I’d discovered my purpose in life.
In March that year I was selected to go warm weather training in Portugal. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. Not only was I going to fly for the first time. I was representing my country, and I was going to spend my twenty first birthday in Portugal too.
The day we flew is a day I will never forget. There was a dress code. Black trousers, white shirt or blouse, black shoes, and our black white and yellow Wales Centre of Excellence jackets. Before we took off from Manchester. The captain welcomed us on board. All of the passengers clapped and cheered. We joined in too. Well we were on our way to Portugal after all. The plane took off at five hundred miles an hour down the runway. I felt excited and scared at the same time.
The highlight of my career happened in the summer of 2000. It was the moment I’d been dreaming of for the whole of my athletic career. One minute I was just an average person, the next I was twice Welsh National Champion. My senses were overwhelmed. There were people clapping and cheering as I proudly took the podium. The medals were placed around my neck. I threw my fist up in the air in celebration. It was simply the best day of my life, and of all the places I could have been that day I was in Cardiff.
Being in Cardiff that day meant everything to me, being presented with the gold medal, and gaining the title Welsh National Champion was simply the icing on the cake.
I knew I was in real trouble now. But only in a good way. It was when the BBC and S4C came knocking on my door that I truly realised what I’d done. There were people congratulating me and wishing me luck everywhere I turned. It was very humbling. It was very difficult to even find the time to do normal things. And then surviving that Grand Prix in London…