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Halford hoping to follow in Frankie’s footsteps after super six

When the dust settles on Frankie Jones’ six medal haul at Glasgow 2014 Welsh Gymnastics will rightly reflect on a job well done.

Four year ago they woke from the final day of competition in the rhythmic gymnastics at Delhi 2010 in similar mood, but it was a mood garnered by far less an achievement.

Francesca Jones’ solitary silver was at the time an unprecedented achievement and one that would prove a watershed moment for the sport in Wales as a generation of young gymnasts found themselves an overnight idol; one they could not only look up to but train alongside.

One of those gymnasts was Laura Halford. Then just 14 years old but already earmarked as a talent of the future she, like many others had ambition, and talent but little in the way of precedents to follow. In Jones’ performance however Halford had a glimpse into a dream that until then simply did not happen to Welsh athletes.

Four years on and while the focus has, quite rightly fallen on Jones’ magnificent achievement, Halford has announced herself on the senior international scene – her first major competition - with an individual bronze in Saturday’s ball rotation, to go alongside the silver she won as part of Wales’ silver medal winning all-round team with Jones and Nikara Jenkins.

It is success she attributes in no small part to her teammate and friend.

“I was really inspired by Frankie, especially since Delhi.

I knew that I wanted to do the same one day when I saw her get her medal and I think I’ve just worked hard and it’s paid off.

My main focus coming into this was the team because I knew we had a good chance and this is my first Commonwealth Games.

In fact it’s my first major competition at this level so I didn’t really think that an individual medal would be realistic for me so I actually proved myself wrong, which is quite nice. I didn’t expect it at all."

– Laura Halford

For Halford and the rest of the Wales squad thoughts now turn to the Olympics in Rio in 2016 and beyond as they look to build on their Glasgow success but for Jones life, as a competitor at least, is now over.

As she reflects on her achievements though she can take some solace from the knowledge that she has kick started a generation of Welsh talent in the sport that began in a corner of India four years ago.

“I think from Delhi, when I won the medal, it made it more possible to go down the road we’ve gone’ Jones says.

The support we’ve been shown has been incredible. I’m just so glad we’ve been able to do the job we have to give back to the sport and the trust that they’ve put in us.

I’m not quite sure where I’m going to end up but hopefully something to do with Rhythmic Gymnastics and promoting it in Wales.

I’m going to go to University in September and will hopefully carry on coaching and keep involved with all the other ones that are coming through because obviously Laura and everyone have got big futures ahead of them so I want to be part of that. It’s an exciting journey now."

– Frankie Jones

For Halford that journey has already begun and the task is now abundantly clear; to fill the void that will be left in the Welsh squad as Jones slips into retirement -a task she feels she is up to.

“I’d like to hope so. I’m just going to keep training hard.

It’s the World Championships in September and I hope to be selected for that so I’ll just keep training hard for that and hopefully in four years time I can do as well as Frankie has done at this Commonwealth Games."

– Laura Halford

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