Carrying the torch
To coach a world champion is the pinnacle of the career of many coaches, but to achieve this twice takes a very special individual
Since 2005, Monmouthshire Freemason Neil Smith has lifted athletes to some of the greatest heights in Paralympic world cycling, well supported with grants from masonic charities in the Province.
Neil cares passionately for his individual riders, and they have shown their gratitude by successfully nominating him as a 2012 Paralympic torchbearer. His first world champion cyclist, Jody Cundy, benefitted from Neil’s coaching, which was paramount in his transition from Paralympic swimmer to cyclist. Now he has a second world champion, Mark Colbourne, who won the Paracycling World Championships in Los Angeles in February.
Welsh award: keep the wheels turning
A Welsh national sporting award has been won by Monmouthshire Mason Neil Smith
Welsh Mason Neil Smith, from Newport, has won a prestigious national award for coaching and encouraging disabled riders to the top of the sport of cycling by spending many hours at the trackside of the Welsh National Velodrome.
He was awarded the Sports Council for Wales Coach of the Year Award for 2006 in the Disabled Sports People: Performance category, and was presented with his award in Cardiff by Alun Pugh AM, Minister for Culture, Welsh Language and Sport in the Welsh Assembly.
Neil, a telecommunications operations director, is a Past Master of Lodge of Concord No. 9010, Province of Monmouthshire, and the Lodge has been giving its backing to his efforts by donating £1,000 towards purchasing a tandem for visually impaired riders.
Among Neil’s achievements is seeing Jody Cundy win two Paralympic gold medals, breaking two UCI world records and become the UCI world champion over one kilometre.
Neil commented: “I think seeing Jody at the World Cup in Manchester was the greatest thing for me.” In addition, he has helped Welsh juniors Nathan Tyrell and James Brookman to the top in their respective disciplines in Great Britain.
Sports minister Alun Pugh said: “Without the valuable contribution of coaches, both professional and community based, we would not be able to fulfil the aspirations of Climbing Higher, our sports and physical activity strategy.”
The official award citation said: “Neil has mentored and encouraged athletes to some of the greatest Paralympic heights in British cycling. His cyclist, Jody Cundy, has benefitted from Neil’s excellent coaching and feels that Neil has been paramount in his transition from Paralympic swimmer to cyclist.
“Neil has provided the skill, encouragement and leadership in the lead up to competitions which has helped Jody to win two IPC Paralympic Gold Medals, two UCI World Records and become IPC World Record holder in the 1km Sprint.
“He spends many hours a week coaching at Newport, where he not only coaches Jody, but lends his experience and knowledge to a squad that includes Nathan Tyrell and James Brookman – two talented Welsh Juniors who are number one in Great Britain. Neil is a fantastic coach and a great motivator who cares passionately for his individual riders.”
It is a tribute to Neil that he should have won such a prestigious national award arising out of his part-time work for disabled people who want to enjoy their sport.