Tour de France

How Cardiff school inspired Thomas, Bale and Warburton

2018-07-29 21:37
Geraint Thomas
Geraint Thomas (AP)

London - Four Champions League trophies, a Six Nations Grand Slam and now Wales' first Tour de France champion - Whitchurch High School, take a bow.

Geraint Thomas' triumphant ride into Paris on Sunday capped a remarkable run for the alumni of the largest state comprehensive school in Wales which also produced 2012 Grand Slam winning skipper and two-time British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton and four-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, Gareth Bale.

"To have three (great sportsmen) like this is just incredible," said Steve Williams, the head of sport at the school based in Cardiff.

"What can you say? Wow! I'm not sure there is anything to compare it with is there?

"I don't think Hollywood could have come up with it. You could not have written it."

Thomas, 32, is three years older than Warburton but rugby was not to be his game.

"In his book he says 'I'd like to thank Mr Williams for not making me play for the senior rugby team'," the teacher told The Observer.

"But I never had any intention of picking him and he never had any intention of playing."

Former pupil Williams, who is the longest-serving member of staff at the school which numbers just under 2 500 students, says sport is part of Whitchurch's culture.

"A lot of private schools use sport as a way of promoting the school as a business," he said.

"We don't have any of that - it's just part of the culture here (they boast two rugby pitches, 10 all-weather football pitches and a swimming pool).

"Whitchurch is a true comprehensive. Our catchment is north Cardiff, but it spreads out into some of the council estates as well."

Williams, though, cannot judge who was the best of the three between Thomas, the now retired Warburton and Bale.

"I don't think you can say which one was the best, they were all tremendous athletes," he said.

"But what is really pleasing is that they are all good guys.

"They are tremendous role models and that's not something which has been consistent with those sports over the years.

"There has always been a sporting legacy here, but these three have taken it to another level with the worldwide attention they've brought to Whitchurch."

All this success has had the knock-on effect of inspiring those presently at the school that they too one day can have their photo adorn the school's hall of fame.

"When you walk down the hall of fame (it is 15 metres long) you see how many people have done well rather than a select one or two on TV - and you think, 'that could me or one of my friends'," 17-year-old Matt Bennett told The Observer.


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