Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Sunday, 28 December 2008

Sporty village boasts famous five

By Carl Yapp
BBC News

Small, but with a big sporting reputation: the village of Caersws

There are not many communities that can boast no fewer than five current and former British sporting champions.

And particularly not when they are villages in a remote part of mid Wales with just 2,172 souls.

But that is the remarkable claim to fame of Caersws, in Powys, whose leading lights like to claim it is the real sporting capital of Wales.

If the spotlight falls on Caersws, it is usually because of its Welsh Premier League football team.

But the Bluebirds, as they are known, have been put in the shade by tae kwon do, quoits, angling, enduro sidecar and enduro motorbike racing.

Some of the champions joke that there is something in the village's water, and others say it has always been home to great sportspeople.

L-R: Brendon Lloyd, Russell Owen, Callum Stephen, Graham Jones (sidecar racing rider), Simon Brown, David Lloyd Jones (picture: Simon Brown)
L-R: Brendon Lloyd, Russell Owen, Callum Stephen, Graham Jones, Simon Brown, David Lloyd Jones

Caersws, near Newtown, can trace its origins back to Roman times when it was home to a large fort. Its name is derived from the word Caer and Swswen - an ancient Roman queen.

The community lies in the heart of the Severn Valley, and local council chair Leslie George believes its geographical location is apt because he thinks Caersws is at the sporting heart of Wales.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Caersws is the sporting capital of Wales. It's said to be the geographical centre of Wales and now it's the centre for sport," he said.

The council has hosted a special evening for the five British champions, which was attended by 150 people from the community, who saw their local heroes presented with silver salvers in recognition of their achievements.

So who are the famous five of Caersws?


Callum Stephen
Callum Stephen

Callum Stephen, 14, says he's quite short for his age, but boasts he is small but fast - the "Shane Williams of Tae Kwon Do".

They are quite big boots to fill with Williams the International Rugby Board's player of the year, but Callum is happy with that and has his sights set on the top too.

"My ambition is to be in the 2012 British Olympic team," he said.

"I attend a training camp in France every year and I've trained with the Russian team."

Callum was encouraged by his father to take up the martial art when he was aged five. He said the sport had taught him discipline and given him confidence, which had helped him with his school work.

"You must have integrity, self-discipline, respect for your instructors and the people you train with," explained Callum.

"It's taught me discipline and given me confidence. I'm dyslexic and I've gained a lot from Tae Kwon Do which has helped me with school work."

What makes Caersws Wales' sporting capital?

"Caersws had a really good football team a few years ago and that inspired a lot of people to take up sport. It's a real sporting village."


Simon Brown and Graham Jones
Simon Brown, with partner Graham Jones

Simon Brown is the Auto Cycle Union champion. He jokes that he is the "mad one" in the sidecar, and his partner Graham Jones, from Talerddig, near Machynlleth, rides the bike.

"We won the British clubman championship in 2003, that's a slightly lower grade than the Auto Cycle championship," said Mr Brown, 30.

"I suppose you need to be fairly courageous to do our sport and I've had a few scrapes, but I've been interested in motorbikes for years.

"There were about 15 or 20 in the British championship and we wanted to nail it, but Graham has now retired although we'll probably do a few events next year.

What makes Caersws Wales' sporting capital?

"I don't know why there are so many champions in Caersws. Maybe there's something in the water?"


Brendon Lloyd
Brendon Lloyd

Quoits can be traced back to ancient Greece, said last year's British champion Brendon Lloyd.

Mr Lloyd, 52, has been playing since the early 1970s and said competitors needed strength, timing and hand-eye coordination.

The clay pitch is 17m long and the idea of the game is to land the quoits, a steel ring, as close to a steel peg as possible.

"I won the 2007 championship and made it to the semi-final in 2008," said Mr Lloyd. "It's a great game and the scoring is similar to that of bowls."

What makes Caersws Wales' sporting capital?

"I'm not sure why the village has so many champions. Caersws has always been home to great sportspeople, but you don't hear about them unless they play football."


David Lloyd Jones (picture: David Lloyd Jones)
David Lloyd Jones

David Lloyd Jones at 21 is one of the youngest British champions, but equally he is full of experience because he has been riding motorbikes since the age of five.

He achieved his ambition of becoming British champion in 2008, but will step up a class next season and challenge again to be the best in the country.

"I suppose you need quite a bit of stamina and fitness to be a good enduro rider," he said.

"Enduro takes riders across a range of surfaces including the likes of woodland tracks. We can cover up to 120 miles (193km) per day over two days of competition."

Mr Lloyd Jones said up to 80 riders competed for the British championship.

What makes Caersws Wales' sporting capital?

"I'm not sure really, but I'm proud to be part of it."


Russell Owen (picture: Russell Owen)
Russell Owen

Russell Owen, 39, could be described as a great of the sport of fly fishing because not only is he a two-time British champion, but in 1992 he was the world champion.

He was world championship runner-up in 1995 and 2000, and was also Wales' team captain in 2008.

"The camaraderie among anglers is fantastic and representing your country at any level is a great honour," said Mr Owen.

He said there were "always different techniques to adopt" when pitting your wits against fish, and the environment was usually quite different wherever champion anglers fished.

"Being able to adapt to these changing conditions, and doing it quicker than your rivals, makes a good angler," he said.

He tries to catch brown and rainbow trout, but despite his experience they sometimes remained "very difficult to catch".

What makes Caersws Wales' sporting capital?

"I think Caersws has a wonderful sporting diversity. It's a sporting village and a lot of people play sport."

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