Owain’s a top race walker and a keen competitor in other sports too!

Owain’s a top race walker and a keen competitor in other sports too!
When Owain Nicholas was born, his entry into the world attracted a great deal of media attention because he was the youngest of quadruplets born to Maria and Barrie Phillips - and now 15 years on he is making different headlines as a very talented race walker who is already a Welsh and British champion, and who has been ranked No 1 in his previous age category.
Not content with that feat, Owain has also been a Welsh champion tumbler with Haverfordwest Gymnastics' Club, been heavily involved in hockey in Fishguard, where he is an ambassador charged with the responsibility of promoting the game at all levels in his home town, and played rugby for Haverfordwest at junior level.

Race walking started by accident

But it is athletics which is now Owain's main sporting interest after starting out as a sprinter at Pembrokeshire Harriers - and is now so highly regarded in the world of race walking.
He had joined the club after showing his paces in junior school in sprinting and cross country, where he did well at the county championships at Oakwood - and went on to represent Dyfed alongside brother Iestyn and their friend Rhys James, after being placed second in the team event.
Rhys's mum suggested that Owain should join the Harriers and since Iestyn was already involved he decided he would like to give athletics a try.
"I was made really welcome there," said Owain, "and soon after that I was involved in competing.  
But things changed dramatically when Jo Salmon, who does so much at the club, asked for volunteers to take part in the 1K walk as a means of picking up precious points - and Owain was quick to say that he would give it a bash.

Hooked from the outset

He took to it like a duck to water as he comfortably won the 'B' race after quickly adapting to the speciality race’s walking techniques like keeping the  head upright and static, walking with straight legs whilst making sure that one foot is planted on the ground at all times.
"I was hooked straight away," admitted Owain, "and I was thrilled that I won every race for the rest of the season!"
Jo Salmon put Owain in touch with Heather Lewis, another Harrier and now a top senior race walker, who put him in contact with her coach Martin Bell, a hugely respected race walking coach.
Martin contacted him and, aware of Owain's undoubted potential, offered to help him, although the distance for travelling between them is an obstacle and much of Martin's help comes from regular phone conversations and texts between the two as Martin regularly sends new targets and hints on improvement.

System working well

The system clearly works because Owain's personal best for 1,000 metres has dropped dramatically from 5 minutes 35 seconds to 4 minutes 49 seconds, a huge reduction of 46 seconds!
After his early successes at club level, Owain entered the Dyfed Championships and won that, as he did when he was successful in Gemau Cymru, plus the three Welsh Championship races held in Cardiff, North Wales and Swansea.
"Then I entered the British Championships in Birmingham and although I was very nervous I managed to beat 20 others of the best race walkers in my age group."

Repeat story – but a terrific improvement on PBs

It was a similar story last season as Owain again won the Dyfed Championships, Gemau Cymru and all three Welsh Championship races but he was then pipped at the post in the UK Championships by a walker from Leicester - but had the consolation that he had sliced 14 seconds off his PB and his time qualified him for the European Championships!
This year has seen Owain move up into the under 17 age category and although it is clearly more challenging to take on older, more experienced and stronger competitors in races over 2K or 5K he has shown he can do it, especially in the latter, as he came fifth in the British Grand Prix event at Hillingdon, London, in a time of exactly 30 minutes.
"I was pleased with my time over such a much longer distance," Owain told us, "and I know that if I can keep focussed and drop my time by another minute it will qualify me for the Grand Final in Bedford, later in the season."

Other sports

Outside of his race walking, Owain also used to play scrum half for Haverfordwest RFC junior section but then had to give it up so that he could concentrate on his athletics.
"I really enjoyed being involved as Arthur Day, Andy Grey and Roland Long looked after us - and they were brilliant to me as we reached the county final for our age group before losing to Narberth after beating favourites Crymych in the semi-final, and I might go back one day because I enjoyed it so much."
He was involved in gymnastics at Haverfordwest whilst in junior school and he loved building up his tumbling routines - and it was a smashing surprise when he won the Welsh title in his age group.

Heavy hockey commitment

Owain also loves hockey, after starting out as a six year old when Alison Sinnott got him involved at Fishguard.
"Angela Miles also gave me every encouragement and I'm proud to be captain of the junior mixed team of boys and girls which is now coached by Chloe Sinnott.
"We usually have matches about once a month and I not only play up front but also help Chloe coach the club's under 11 team - and I also umpire their home matches.
"When an ambassador was needed I was happy to take on the job and had to go to Carmarthen Leisure Centre for a day's training, where I learned a lot.

360 course – and men’s hockey with Pembroke County

I have now started on a 360 course in Swansea which takes place twice a month and provides possible entry into training for the age group squads for national teams - and although that means another evening out training and travelling for my mum, who is a brilliant taxi driver!
"It is very tough training, with lots of running and other fitness training, and we look at basic skills, passing, defence, positioning, diet and nutrition.
Owain had also started out training at St Davids but is now with the Pembroke County squad based in Haverfordwest after an invitation to join them.
"It's gone really well and I've already made my debut as a forward against Cardiff Medicals on the Astroturf at STP School - and we won 5-1!

Great support from family and coaches

To be so involved means that Owain has needed family support and he would be the first to sing the praises of his parents, Maria and Barrie, who used to play rugby for Crymych alongside John Davies and Andrew 'Togo' Phillips,  plus brothers Iestyn, Llyr and Iwan, who are all outdoor types - but it is mum who is the main person because she takes him everywhere to fulfil his sporting ambitions.
"But I have also been lucky to have race walking support from Martin Bell and Heather Lewis, plus great support from all the coaches at Pembrokeshire Harriers, who chose me as 'Athlete of the Year at the end of last season, which made me feel very proud indeed at the presentation evening."
It was fitting reward for a talented all-round sportsman who is not only a talented young athlete and hockey player but is ready to work hard to achieve his sporting aims - and we wish Owain Nicholas every success because he is a great flag flier for himself, his family, clubs and county!