Pembrokeshire passes two massive tests
TWO weekends that captivated a county.
That best describes the stunning sporting success of the past fortnight in Pembrokeshire, which saw Tenby host the IronMan Wales and the Blue Lagoon, Abereiddy, accommodate the latest round of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World series.
Of course, the fact that both venues passed their tests with distinction should come of little surprise, as both also hosted these respective events in 2012.
But the fact that organisers and hoards of spectators were willing to return to both second time around speaks volumes of a county which, in all honestly, has never been renowned for hosting global sporting occasions.
At Tenby, thousands lined the streets to watch athletes take on the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile marathon run.
And the crowds made for a fervent atmosphere, with many competitors acknowledging the lift they were given by the extra encouragement. Indeed, noise levels remained high until late in the night, with some runners coming in just minutes before the 12pm deadline.
Clearly, the opportunity to see the athletes undertaking the ultimate challenge has inspired many, with organisers confirming entries for the 2014 event have flooded in at a much quicker rate than in previous years.
In Abereiddy, a sell out crowd packed into the Blue Lagoon on both Friday and Saturday, with many without tickets choosing to watch from the water via a boat or kayak.
And the crowds were rewarded with a thrilling competition which went down to the very last dive, with winner Gary Hunt labelling the venue the best in the World Series.
At both events, not even inclement weather detracted spectators, with many ignoring wet conditions to watch the swimming and cycling leg of the IronMan, while persistent rain on the opening day failed to deter the crowd at the cliff diving.
But the real beauty of both events is that both were able to showcase the natural landscape of our county without inhibiting participants or crowds.
IronMan competitors cycled amidst a stunning backdrop of scenery, while the steep inclines that frequented both the cycling and the running legs led many experienced finishers to label the course the most challenging in the World.
Colombian diver Orlando Duque echoed the sentiments of others when he said the Blue Lagoon was a “perfect” venue, combining superb views with an ideal competitive arena.
Indeed, both events have capped off a terrific period of exposure for Pembrokeshire sport. In May, Johnston FC were crowned winners of the West Wales Intermediate Cup competition at the Liberty Stadium, while in the same month Fishguard RFC competed in the final of the Swalec Bowl at the Millennium Stadium, a game shown live on S4C.
In August, the Conygar Bridge Meadow Stadium was in the spotlight, as the stadium’s immaculate surface hosted two games in the Women’s Under 19 European Championships.
Furthermore, highlights of the Harrison Allen Bowl cricket final between Llangwm and Neyland were shown on Sky Sports during the interval of one of the Ashes tests between England and Australia.
So while Pembrokeshire may not be able to boast the sporting arenas of the big British cities, or be an area synonymous with media coverage, 2013 has proved the county is more than capable of hosting and participating in top class events.
And the public have proved they are more than capable of producing an atmosphere to enhance them.