New Olympic hopes for Holyhead

ALBANIA may not be one of the world’s top sporting nations but their seal of approval could be big news for a sports complex in Anglesey.

And if a group of weightlifters chooses Holyhead as their base in the build-up to the London Olympics it will be yet another source of pride for one man in particular.

Former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ray Williams, the current Welsh national coach, has been the driving force behind the establishment of Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting
and Fitness Centre, currently undergoing a £300,000 extension and refurbishment.

Last year Chinese athletes spent a week training at the centre, which is a Centre of Excellence for the sport, but they will be going directly from Bejing to the Games in July.

However Ray, a director of the centre in Millbank, is keeping his fingers crossed that the Albanians will choose Holyhead as their training base, using accommodation at Bangor University.

With the backing of the local community and supporters from across North Wales Ray has campaigned long and hard for large-scale investment in the centre.

Now, with the extended centre about to be opened – some items of equipment are still awaited –
officials are looking to move up to another level thanks to advice and support from WINSENT (Wales Ireland Network for Social Entrepreneurship).

WINSENT is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and through the Ireland Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A), which offers professional help to social enterprises.

Ray, 52, will be a guest speaker at a conference being organised by WINSENT at the Scala Cinema and Conference Centre, in Prestatyn, on March 29.

He said that with the facilities now available his aim was to take the club onto a more professional level and through WINSENT is arranging for volunteers to attend courses on administrative aspects of the venture.

“We learned about WINSENT through Menter Mon, who have supported us, and we’re very grateful. We currently have about 80 members but hope to take it up to 150 and eventually to be able to ensure that we have some virtually full-time weightlifters,” said Ray.

“There is no doubt that good facilities can be inspirational, and as a Centre of Excellence we can
rival places such as Lilleshall and Bath,” he said.

The Holyhead club has already been visited by numerous top-class athletes including some of the
Canadian rugby team who played in the World Cup.

Ray, who was born and raised in Holyhead and returned to the town after 24 years in the Army, is
confident that many others will take advantage of the specialist facilities despite Holyhead’s relative remoteness.

“If the facilities are good enough people will be prepared to travel and that’s a good thing not only for Holyhead, which has gone through a tough time with job losses, but also for North Wales,” he said.

The Holyhead club has been a production line for the sport over the years and the current star member is Gareth Evans, who is a member of the British squad training for the Olympics in Leeds. The welterweight is also from Holyhead.

“I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t selected for London,” said Ray.

Though his enthusiasm and effort has been a key factor in seeing the project reach fruition Ray is keen to stress the contribution made by members, parents and other supporters.

“It is very much a social enterprise and we could not have done it without such a level of support from the community,” he commented.

The club premises have been closed since November while building work was taking place and details have not yet been finalized for the official opening in the next few weeks, but Ray is optimistic that a sporting celebrity will attend.

Sue Haygarth, of Consultancy Coop based in Wales, is assisting the Isle of Anglesey County Council in delivering WINSENT for social enterprises in the county.

She said: “The Holyhead Weightlifting Club has a proud record as a production line of top class weighlifters and Ray Williams is the embodiment of a social entrepreneur.

“Ray is a real inspiration and I we’re delighted that he will be one of our guest speakers at the conference in the Scala cinema and conference centre in Prestatyn on March 29.”

To find out more about WINSENT go to or email Sue Haygarth at

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