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International Women’s Day: My 10 finest North Wales sportswomen

To celebrate International Women’s Day I’ve picked the 10 sportswomen I’ve most enjoyed working with or writing about during my long journalism career.

Each has impressed me massively in many different ways, but they are all winners and dedicated to their sports.

Katie Bowe (red) in action for Llandudno in 2015-16. Picture: Chris Howells

1 Katie Bowe (football)

I started covering women’s football in earnest in 2012-13 and was soon highly impressed by the standard of play in North Wales.

My main focus in the early days were Welsh Premier League clubs Wrexham, Northop Hall, Caernarfon Town and Llandudno Junction, who had a stylish attacking midfielder named Katie Louise Bowe.

This player soon stood out because of her sublime passing and ability to score countless long range goals, especially from dead-ball situations.

Llandudno had dropped Junction from their title by the time 2015/16 came around and Katie was at her peak, scoring 21 goals and inspiring the Seasiders to their first-ever Welsh Cup final.

Although Tudno lost that final, the opening goal was supplied by Bowe’s magic left boot and made her the first-ever woman to be nominated for the Sgorio Goal of the Month award.

Katie, 29, is now using her experience to help Mountain Rangers develop in the North Wales Women’s League. She scored seven goals in a single game at the start of the campaign.

2 Heather Williams (netball)

Heather Williams

Current secretary of the Gwynedd and Anglesey Netball League, Heather Williams has a long and distinguished history in the sport.

She represented Arfon Ladies in the Llandudno League for many years before forming the Penygroes and District League with friend Ffion Jones in 2007.

Heather was recognised for her work in the game in 2012 when she won the Unsung Hero prize at the Welsh Netball awards in Cardiff.

Since the Penygroes and District changed its name to the Gwynedd and Anglesey League a few years ago, Heather has remained at the forefront of promoting the competition.

I’ve had two spells of working with Heather, the second of which began with the inception of the Grassroots North Wales website, where netball has become a major player, in June 2019.

She is an inspiration to anyone interested in playing or becoming involved in the administration side of netball.

3 Eve Goddard-Smith (swimming)

Eve Goddard-Smith

Eve is only 18, but has already made quite a mark internationally in the sport of swimming.

In the 2019 Island Games in Gibraltar, the Ynys Môn swimmer powered her way to a gold medal with a personal best time of 2:23.19 in the 200m Butterfly event, finishing well clear of the chasing pack.

Two years earlier, at the Island Games in Gotland, she won one silver medal and a bronze.

It’s been a privilege to report on her successes and there are surely many more to come.

4 Ffion Ankers (weightlifting)

Ffion Ankers achieved a stunning success back in 2015

What a story back in 2015 when a young lady from Anglesey became a new world record holder in the sport of weightlifting.

Ffion Ankers, from Four Mile Bridge in Anglesey and then aged 20, set a global best in her class at the World Powerlifting Championships in Telford.

Competing in the deadlift, she smashed the European and World record with her fourth lift of 145.5 kg.

She had only taken up powerlifting 18 months earlier after joining the Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Centre (HAWFC).

Participating in the junior (20 to 23 years) 55.5 kg bodyweight class, in her first regional competition in Bangor, she set a Welsh deadlift record of 122.5 kg.

As a result she qualified for the British Championships in Stafford where she finished first, also recording a British deadlift record of 130 kg in the process.

This enabled her to move onto the World Championships in Telford, where she remarkably took the European and World record with that career best 145.5 kg.

That achievement also meant she was crowned 2015 Junior World Champion.

Ffion currently lives in Canada with her partner Dalton Thorne, the best name for a special agent since James Bond, and in fact better than James Bond. We are still friends on Facebook.

5 Cheryl Foster (football)

Cheryl Foster

To reach the top of your sport as both a player and referee is quite an astonishing achievement.

So it is no surprise that Cheryl Foster is so hugely admired in the football world.

As a player, she won 63 Wales caps (at one time a record) and represented Bangor City, where she was the club’s Northern Division top-scorer in every season from 1999–00 to 2002–03, then spent nine years with Liverpool, latterly in the FA Women’s Super League.

After deciding not to extend her career as a player in 2013, North Walian Cheryl instead started training as a referee.

She was an assistant at the 2013–14 Welsh Women’s Cup final. In December 2015, during her third season as a referee, she was named on the FIFA international list.

On 18 August 2018, she became the first female referee to take charge of a Welsh Premier League game. An inspiration in every sense of the word.

6 Jenny Broughall (FootGolf)

Jenny Broughall

No-one can accuse me of sticking to just one sport!

The remarkable Jenny Broughall made quite an impact as a footballer and tennis player/coach before reaching new heights in FootGolf.

Last year the multi-talented sportswoman, who lives in the Vale of Clwyd area, became UK champion in the sport where using golf skills with your feet is key.

In 2019 she was appointed Welsh captain and represented the UK Team in the Jansen Cup, beating USA.

She also became Welsh No 1, UK No 3 and World No 13 (as at 29th October 2019).

On the UK Tour she won the winter series, Irish Open and UK Open and produced some great world tour finishes.

Jenny has her own Facebook page called JB Footgolf and her chief aim is to reach this year’s World Cup in Japan.

7 Meinir Thomas (football/hockey)

Meinir Thomas (left – all blue) in action for Amlwch against Holywell

Life may begin at 40 for some, but Meinir Thomas has achieved some amazing new things well beyond that age,

For instance, she did not start playing football until she was 48. Now 54, she still plays in the North Wales Women’s League for Amlwch Town, where she was a member of the squad which lifted the Supplementary Cup last season.

Meinir has also represented Ynys Mon in three Island Games.

In the sport of hockey, she turns out for Bangor Ladies and has played for Wales Over-50s in the Masters’ World Cup, European Championship and Home Nations.

In her younger days she was also a very keen and accomplished sportswoman before family life took over. Now she is thriving all over again and passing on her experience to others.

One of my true sporting heroes.

8 Lowri Morgan (endurance runner)

Lowri Morgan

Although Lowri is not actually from North Wales, she has many links with the area and I’ve always enjoyed working with her in the past.

She is best known currently as a television presenter and marathon runner, S4C’s coverage of the World Rally Championship one of the best notches on her CV.

Lowri is one of six people to have completed the Amazon Ultra Marathon and also finished the 350-mile 6633 Ultra in the Arctic.

In the latter marathon, she was affected by stress fractures on her feet and was required to use crutches. She was the sole finisher of the marathon as several of her competitors withdrew three days before it ended.

I’ve heard her called the Welsh Wonder Woman – sounds about right!

9 Sara Hilton (football)

Sara Hilton

Currently head coach of the Connah’s Quay Nomads women’s football team which has against all odds reached the Welsh Cup semi-finals, Sara Hilton has many other strings to her bow.

She has coached football at all levels, from grassroots to Wales Girls teams, and has previously been director of North East Wales and North Wales Coast Girls Performance Centres.

Sara enjoyed a season as manager of Crewe Alexandra Ladies, as well as coaching within the Cymru Alliance League.

She continues to work as a level 1, level 2 and level 3 coach educator for the FAW Trust and is a current UEFA A Licence candidate.

Following a successful playing career which ended because of injury, Sara began coaching in 2011. She is a past Performance Coach of the Year at the FA Wales (FAW) Community Awards.

Sara is also programme leader and lecturer of football and coaching science at Glyndwr University. A true pioneer for women in football, she’s impressed me greatly with her views, aims and professionalism.

10 Rachel Taylor (rugby union)

Rachel Taylor

Capped 67 times for the Wales Women’s rugby team, Penrhynside girl Rachel is a fantastic ambassador for the game in the North.

Now aged 36, during her top-level career she played either lock or back row for the Bristol Ladies/Newport Gwent Dragons, as well as her country.

Colwyn Bay RFC made history in 2018 by appointing Rachel as the first female head coach in their existence. She is also believed to be the first female head coach appointed by a WRU National League side.

Rachel is also highly respected for her work as a full-time rugby co-ordinator for both the WRU and RGC. Legend of North Wales sport.

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