Coleg Llandrillo, Coleg Menai, Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor and Busnes@LlandrilloMenai logosColeg Llandrillo, Coleg Menai, Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor and Busnes@LlandrilloMenai logos

Coleg Menai Student Back Competing as an Elite Shot Putter!

Kieran Jones, who studies Sports Coaching at Coleg Menai, admits he’s thrilled to be back competing as an elite shot putter.

The 19-year-old para athlete has a summer of athletics meetings to look forward to again, after spending much of lockdown training in his back garden.

The athlete was enjoying rapid progress as one the country’s most promising and multi-talented para athletes when lockdown hit in spring of last year.

Kieran had already become a British champion at the Activity Alliance National Junior Athletics Championships in 2019 and was due to attend a warm-weather training camp in Portugal with Disability Sport Wales.

“I was so excited about going, so the lockdown was hard to take. It was a great opportunity for me as a person and an athlete and so it really knocked me back.

“Trying to stay focused was really difficult, but then the whole world came to a stop and it really hit me. To have a year of not doing anything has been really difficult.

“This has probably been the worst time I’ve gone through since I went from walking to being in a wheelchair.

“Not being able to do the things I loved was awful. My closest friends are in sport as well, so not seeing them was also very hard.

“But I’m lucky I’ve got a great family around me. They saw me dip, but they would always bring me up.”

Kieran – who has also represented Wales at wheelchair basketball is also an Active Ambassador for Coleg Menai. His role involves encouraging and engaging his fellow students to try out new sports and exercises, and sharing information regarding the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle.

Hannah Hughes, Grŵp Rugby Engagement Officer, who’s also responsible for the Active Ambassador Scheme, said,

“Kieran has been a fantastic asset to the team of Active Ambassadors, and we are all so proud of his achievements. We can’t wait to see him in action soon, and hopefully winning some medals!”

After his back garden routines gave him at least some kind of outlet, Kieran was eventually able to return to the gym three months ago.

His own journey into disability sport began when Kieran was 13 years old and life began to change.

His condition - hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) – is a rare, inherited neurological disorder that produces progressive weakness in the hip and leg muscles. It runs through certain members of his family, meaning his younger brother Ryan is also in a chair as is their father.

“Around 60 per cent of my family have it on my dad’s side,” says Kieran. “My younger brother was in a chair from birth, but I played football, and rugby when I was small.

“Then, I started getting pains in my legs and I wasn’t as fast as I was before. I was slower than the others and didn’t feel I could really join in.

“I was about 10 when I started wheelchair basketball. I didn’t need the chair all the time then, so I used to walk into the sessions, jump in the chair, and then jump back out afterwards.

“I didn’t like it, though, and so I stopped. I was only doing it because my dad and brother were playing.”

Three years later, though, Kieran’s time in the chair increased and he returned to wheelchair basketball with a renewed focus. Soon, his talent was obvious and within a couple of years he was captain of the Wales U15 side.

He still plays for leading club side North Wales Knights.

Next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will feature wheelchair basketball for the first time, showcasing the 3 v 3 format - and Kieran intends to be there with Wales.