A series that pushed me to the limit

A series that pushed me to the limit

HEAD ABOVE WATER: Taking advice from Gary Meopham during my session with the Haverfordwest Seals. PICTURES: Bill Carne.

HOW HIGH?: Liz Rowland taught me the Fosbury Flop during training with the Pembrokeshire Harriers.

NET GAIN: Looking for team mates at Ysgol Dewi Sant.

CRAWLING TO SAFETY: Struggling through a session with Neyland Judo Club.

WEIGHT OF EXPECTATION: Simon Roach tested my power, and technique, at the Strength Academy Wales centre.

OVER THE SHOULDER: Welsh wrestler Oli Cole threw me around like a rag doll!

First published in Sport
Last updated
by , Reporter

THEY think it’s all over, it is now.

From swimming with the Seals to wrestling with the Welsh squad, the past 17 weeks have been as educational as they have enjoyable as I’ve tried my hand at every sport that will feature in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

And in all honesty, the idea, pitched me to back in March by Sport Pembrokeshire’s Ben Field, seemed a lot easier on paper.

To highlight a particular session or experience would be unfair, as each sport, even those I believed I was familiar with, taught me something new.

Frequently, my naivety and dare I say it, ignorance, to certain activities was exposed as I struggled to get to grips with the technical aspects of new sports.

But the 17 weeks have benefitted me enormously.

I now have a new found admiration for the unseen work that goes on in so many sports around the county. And I now appreciate more than ever, that unless you are an exceptionally gifted individual, it is impossible to simply rock up at a new session and excel.

I would like to think that never again will I watch an untried sport on television and arrogantly muuter: "That looks easy."

Indeed, any complacency I had about the series was soon blown away by my opening challenge, a one hour session with the Haverfordwest Seals swimming group.

I had previously considered myself a competent swimmer, but the sheer exhaustion I experienced when I tried in vain to keep up with the youngsters still haunts me.

An athletics session with the Pembrokeshire Harriers gave me an insight into how far the sport had moved on since my younger days as a long distance runner, while a badminton contest against Welsh international Jordan Hart ruthlessly exposed my incompetence with a racket in my hand.

Predictably, Graham Brockway put me through the mill with a gruelling boxing session, while I was left grateful to Geoff Arnold and the Milford Tritons for helping me through a 17-mile cycling trek.

Andy Grey and his gymnastics prodigies made me look pedestrian as I battled to regain the flexibility of my youth, and Julie McAdam and her Fishguard hockey side showed great patience as I slowly got to grips with the old ‘penalty corner’ routine.

Damon McGarvie and his Neyland Judo Club gave me a crash course in the ‘gentle way’, while Ceris Hewlings and co broke the hearts of myself and Bill Carne, denying our team victory with the final wood of my debut lawn bowls match.

I went back to my roots for netball, as Rachael Thomas’ promising Ysgol Dewi Sant youngsters darted around me, and a session with the Welsh Sevens squad in the Vale of Glamorgan left me slightly star struck.

Ron Hovell and Peter Crook gave me an eye opening insight into the technical intricacies involved in shooting and squash respectively, while Bernie Armstrong proved there was no substitute for experience as he took me to the cleaners in a game of table tennis.

Fintan Godkin and Carwyn Richards were thankfully on hand as I struggled to keep my head above water in the early stages of my triathlon challenge around Solva, while Simon Roach and Owain Evans left my legs in bits following a weightlifting session with Strength Academy Wales.

And arguably, the most demoralising experience was left until last, as the Welsh Amateur Wrestling Squad threw me around like a rag doll at the Sport Wales National Centre.

But I would not have changed a moment - and will now sit down to watch the Games, thankfully from the safety of my armchair, with renewed interest and intrigue.

I do plan to again try my hand at many of the sports I have now been introduced to, but which ones exactly, I’ll keep under my hat for now.

And for those cynical about the sporting opportunities available in Pembrokeshire, I can only advise you find the time to research the terrific work that goes on at clubs throughout the county.

Indeed, the past 17 weeks have taught me that, irrespective of resources, it is possible to produce a thriving scene and beneficial coaching in any sport, providing the right people are behind the scenes.

And luckily in Pembrokeshire, we seem blessed with unsung heroes in abundance.

Of course, my sincere thanks to Bill for accompanying me throughout, sorting out the photographs, and subsequently promoting each challenge through www.pembrokeshiresport.co.uk and the Radio Pembrokeshire Friday Night Sports Show.

Mind you, I say that despite his often merciless laughter, none more so than in my final challenge of wrestling, when he watched on with great amusement from the safety of the sidelines as I was bundled about by international competitors with nonchalant ease.

I would also like to thank the following organisations: Sport Pembrokeshire,  Haverfordwest Seals, Pembrokeshire Harriers, Pembrokeshire Badminton Association, Merlins Bridge Amateur Boxing Club, Milford Tritons, Milford Haven Gymnastics Club, Fishguard Hockey Club, Neyland Judo Club, Saundersfoot Bowls Club, Ysgol Dewi Sant, the WRU, Modern Print Target Shooting Club, Milford Haven Squash Club, Haverfordwest Table Tennis Club, Man-Up UK, Strength Academy Wales, the Welsh Amateur Wrestling Squad, and Sport Wales.

To all involved, it has been a blast.

Bill Carne's verdict:

Having attended all 17 challenges with Fraser (and 'smashed' him at shooting and table tennis), I know how much he has enjoyed taking on such a varied range of sports, all with the total commitment that is part of his sporting DNA.

My memories are slightly different from Mr Watson’s because I was able to watch from close range, not only from his perspective but from those who helped him take part.

The young sports participants stood out for me, their commitment, skill and enjoyment linked to the dedication of their coaches. This was never more evident than when we started with the Haverfordwest Seals– and boy do they train relentlessly!

It was the same in most other clubs, especially the Pembrokeshire Harriers, the Merlins Bridge Amateur Boxing Club, and the Milford Haven Gymnastics Club.

Neyland Judo Club had both youngsters and adults testing Fraser in their dojo, and he was smashed by Jordan Hart and her little sister Lowrie at a Pembrokeshire Badminton Club session.

He also encountered sessions at Fishguard Hockey Club and St Davids School netball where the participants were predominantly female but he found them challenging, with Julie McAdam and Rachel Thomas at the respective helms.

Others, like Haverfordwest Table Tennis Club and the Modern Print Target Shooting Club, tended to have mainly adult sessions but Fraser met characters like Bernie Armstrong and Steve Jones in the former, plus Ron Hovell and Laurie Brown in the shooting.

A cycle with the Milford Tritons, organised by Jeff Arnold, saw Fraser quickly adapt to a road bike.

Every club gave us a warm welcome (we even had tea and cake with Ceris Hewlings and co at Saundersfoot Bowling Club), with Peter Crook (Pembrokeshire Squash) providing the most carefully-planned session and one that tested Fraser to the full.

His Saturday morning meet-up with Fintan Godkin and Caz Richards (Man-Up UK) was memorable for its 8am start in Solva Harbour for a 750 metre swim before he cycled and ran in a speed triathlon.

Other demanding sports included weightlifting at SAW and a Welsh Amateur Wrestling session in Cardiff.

These sessions not only tested him physically – but taught him new techniques that he put into practice with the assistance of Simon Roach and Owain Rowlands at SAW, plus Oli Cole and Alan Jones in the wrestling.

The trip to the WRU’s Vale Centre of Excellence was something that Fraser was looking forward to - a session with Gareth Williams and his seven a side team.

Fraser fitted in well and I thought there might be a moment when Gareth thought he might need a winger from St Davids, but it soon passed!

So what of the future? Fraser says he might consider a new sport after rugby and if there was wrestling in the area he might well give it a go because he had such a great day at the National Sporting Centre of Excellence in Cardiff.

My bet would be triathlon because he would be a natural, as he loves pushing himself to the limits, is a good runner, and no mean cyclist – and has a willingness to polish his swimming skills.

But all that’s in the future and I can only congratulate him on trying them all. It was good fun and we met some genuine characters – and like him it reinforced my view that we are lucky to live in a sports-orientated county with so much on offer if, like Mr Watson, you are prepared to go out there and give it a try!

Tune into this week’s Radio Pembrokeshire Friday Night Sport Show, between 7-9pm, to listen to Bill Carne and Fraser round up the past 17 weeks of Commonwealth Games challenges.

For more information on any of the sports in the Commonwealth Games, that get underway with the opening ceremony this Wednesday, July 23, visit the Sport Pembrokeshire Facebook Page or www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/sport.

If you would like your club to be featured by Fraser in Telegraph Sport, contact 01437 761 751 or fraser.watson@westerntelegraph.co.uk.

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