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Welsh sport punching above its weight

BBC WALES SPORT PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR 2008
Venue: The Swalec Stadium Date: 7 December Transmission: 2100 GMT
Coverage: BBC Two Wales and Radio Wales

Captain Ryan Jones leads Wales' Grand Slam victory celebrations

By Peter Shuttleworth

With the sublime Joe Calzaghe leading the assault, 2008 is the year Welsh sport punched above its weight.

WELSH SPORT'S ROLL OF HONOUR
Joe Calzaghe celebrates beating Bernard Hopkins on points in Vegas
Mark Webster, BDO world darts champion
Welsh rugby, Grand Slam
Joe Calzaghe, beats Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr
Sam Thomas, Cheltenham Gold Cup champion
Swansea City, League One champions
The Ospreys, EDF Trophy champions
Cardiff City, FA Cup finalists
Ryan Giggs, tenth league title and second Champions League winners medal
Nicole Cooke, Olympic and world road race champion
Geraint Thomas, Olympic and world track champion
Tom James, Olympic coxless four rowing champion
David Davies, Olympic 10k open water swimming silver medal
David Roberts, four-time Paralympic champion
Celtic Crusaders, awarded Super League franchise
Shane Williams, IRB International Player of the Year

Wales has basked in a glorious 12 months as this year has proved to be a Welsh sporting vintage sparked by Welsh rugby's Grand Slam heroics.

Sporting success in Wales is normally the exception, yet once-in-a-generation feats have all transpired in 2008.

A year when a Welsh fighter beat two big-name Americans in their own backyard and Welsh football legend Ryan Giggs won a record 10th championship crown and a second European title.

It is a year when the sporting landscape has been painted red, Swansea City white and Cardiff City blue.

"There's no higher power at work," Wales rugby coach Warren Gatland has said.

"Is it a coincidence that we have all achieved these things at the same time?

"Probably, but, as well as a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck in the right places has probably helped us all along the way too."

The Bluebirds followed in the giant footsteps of the all-conquering Welsh rugby team to reach the FA Cup final, losing narrowly to Portsmouth at Wembley.

Sam Thomas' Cheltenham Gold Cup glory and Calzaghe's battling points win over Bernard Hopkins on his American debut in Las Vegas continued the momentum towards all the way to Beijing.

Wales' own Nicole Cooke inspired the greatest British Olympic gold rush for 100 years and her road race victory was the first GB gold of the Games and the first Welsh gold for 36 years.

Rower Tom James and cycling prodigy record-breaking Geraint Thomas also struck gold while David Davies produced a truly inspirational two-hour open water swim to finish runner-up in the 10k in his first major championships.

And Tom Lucy's silver in the eight-man rowing boat ensured the Beijing Games was Wales' best Olympics since 1920.

Another gargantuan effort from another Welsh swimmer earned David Roberts four golds at the Paralympics in Beijing.

And Roberts' 11th title equalled the record-breaking gold medal haul of Dame Tanni Grey Thompson.

Waaren Gatland with the Six Nations trophy and Triple Crown
Wales' sporting success is probably a coincidence...there's no higher power at work

Wales rugby coach Warren Gatland

Calzaghe proved his American adventure was no one-off when he destroyed the legendary Roy Jones Jr in stunning style in what could be a fitting fighting finale at the iconic Madison Square Garden.

Wales' two-weight world champ now looks to imitate Rocky Marciano and hang up his gloves with an unblemished record in tact.

As boxing champion Calzaghe so eloquently put it: "We just keep whipping everyone's ass, it's getting a bit boring now!"

What a year for Wales as Sports Council for Wales chairman Phil Carling acknowledged: "We have certainly witnessed a purple patch in Welsh sport recently.

"While there may be an element of chance in the timing of this, there is definitely more to it than that."

Welsh sport has much to celebrate at this year's BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year award ceremony on 7 December.

You can find out who has made the main BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year shortlist when it is announced on Monday, 1 December online at bbc.co.uk/sportwales.

see also
Williams wins top rugby accolade
23 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
Crusaders & Salford win licences
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
Golden swimmer with a will to win
14 Sep 08 |  South east
Davies completes Welsh medal haul
21 Aug 08 |  Beijing 2008
Thomas extends Welsh medal haul
18 Aug 08 |  Cycling
British four win thrilling gold
16 Aug 08 |  Rowing
Olympic road race glory for Cooke
10 Aug 08 |  Beijing 2008
Portsmouth 1-0 Cardiff
17 May 08 |  FA Cup
Martinez hails 'fantastic' Swans
03 May 08 |  Swansea
Ospreys 23-6 Leicester
12 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Wales 29-12 France
15 Mar 08 |  Welsh
Denman storms to Gold Cup victory
14 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
BBC Sport Wales coverage
28 Oct 08 |  Wales


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