We can sing, we can dance, we can act… if you were thinking North Walians can do just about anything, you’d be right! In this, the last instalment of our ‘Legends’ mini-series, we meet some of the North Walian sports men and women who’ve taken the world by storm…
I just wanted to play as long as I could. When you stop playing, you’re not going to get it back. When you don’t enjoy it, that’s the time to pack it in.
- Ian Rush
Long regarded as one of Liverpool FC’s greatest ever players, Ian Rush was born in St Asaph in 1961.
He remains the club’s all-time leading goal scorer, and also holds the record for the most goals scored in the Merseyside Derby.
Rush made over 70 appearances for Wales until retiring in 1996, and his international goal record was only beaten in 2018.
To be the first British athlete to win a gold is amazing, but to win it in the UK is something else. Also, having my family here with me has made it extra special, and I know all my friends back home have been cheering me on and putting posters in their windows.
Just one Olympic medal wasn’t enough for Flint native Jade Jones. After winning Britain’s first taekwondo gold in her category at the 2012 games in London, Jones went on to repeat her success at Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 games.
She was named BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year in 2012, and was awarded an MBE the following year.
I had a lot of times with Wales as well when we were getting beat – and beaten well – and you learn to deal with it. You learn that next time it happens, you roll your sleeves up and give everything for the team.
One of Wales’s most beloved sons, Gary Speed was born in Mancot.
He launched his footballing career with Leeds United in 1988, and went on to play Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United. At one point, he held the record for Premier League appearances.
Following a hugely successful club and international career Speed turned to management, taking charge of Sheffield United and later the Welsh national side – a job he held until his death in 2011.
Almost seven years ago, an 18-year-old man mountain stepped onto an international field for the first time – and five minutes later he was celebrating his first international try. George North scored twice on that day in November to properly announce himself as a Wales player and change the way wingers would be viewed in world rugby.
One of Wales’s top rugby stars, George North was born in King’s Lynn in Norfolk; his family moved back to Anglesey two years later.
North made his debut for the Scarlets in 2010, and was made a full Welsh international just six matches later. North’s club career has since taken him to Northampton Saints and the Ospreys, and he toured with the British & Irish Lions in 2013 and 2017.
Rachel has great tenacity with everything she does. She’s always looking to achieve something. She puts her mind, body and soul into everything she does, and is very driven.
Wales Online, 2018
Born in Bangor, rugby player Rachel Taylor made her Wales international debut against Canada in 2007 and was named captain ahead of the 2012 Six Nations Championship.
Winning more than 50 caps for her country, Taylor has continued working with rugby even after retiring from playing; she works with grassroots rugby in North Wales, coaches RGC Women and made history as the first ever female coach of a men’s rugby team when she took the reins at Colwyn Bay RFC in 2018.
His talent behind the wheel though was known by anyone who saw the Welshman drive, and had his career not been tragically cut short, he could have had many more successes.
Bleacher Report, 2012
The only Welshman to have won a Formula One race, Tom Pryce was born in Ruthin in 1949.
He started out in F1 with the Token team in 1974, later switching allegiance to Shadow. Pryce raced around the world for several years, alongside such famous names as Ayrton Senna and Niki Lauda.
Before his tragic and shocking death in 1977, Pryce was the fastest driver at the practice session for the South African Grand Prix.
I used to worry about who was ahead of me, who was behind me but now I just focus on ranking points and winning the money that gets you back into the tournaments. I’ve just got to take it steadily because obviously I suffered with dartitis for a while.
Born in St Asaph and still residing in nearby Denbigh, Mark Webster first came to the attention of darts fans with a series of notable victories in 2006, including at the WDF Europe Cup.
Previously a qualified plumber, Webster – also known as The Spider – turned professional in 2009, following his sensational BDO World Championship in 2008.
You should never pass up the opportunity to walk up a few steps and raise a trophy over your head. As a player, that is something you should aspire to and something you can be proud of.
Fondly remembered by Manchester United fans as Sparky, Mark Hughes hails from Ruabon. As well as the Red Devils, Hughes also played for Barcelona, Southampton, Blackburn, Bayern Munich and Everton during his career.
He later went into management, with recent posts including Stoke City and Southampton in the Premier League.
If you don’t believe you can win, there is no point in getting out of bed at the end of the day.
Best-known lately for taking the Twitterverse by storm, Big Nev was born in Llandudno and went on to become a cult hero goalkeeper for both Everton and Wales – earning 92 caps for his country and making the most appearances by any player for the Merseyside club.
Just keep training, keep racing, keep enjoying it…
Velo Veritas, 2018
An Olympian – and a silver medalist, no less – rower Chris Bartley was born in Wrexham.
Bartley, who was World Champion at U23 and senior level, won silver with the lightweight men’s four at the London 2012 games, and also competed at Rio de Janeiro 2016.
Images courtesy: Ian Rush by Jarvin. Jade Jones by Nizam Uddin. Gary Speed by Jon Candy. George North by Liamwarrender at English Wikipedia. Tom Pryce by email@example.com. Mark Webster by Modusdarts. Mark Hughes by Chensiyuan. Chris Bartley by Steve Elliott.