LLANELLI teenage twins Ruth and Tyler Charleston have returned from the World Winter Special Olympic Games in Schladming, Austria with an astonishing two golds, one bronze and a fifth place. The girls who have spent years training at the Pembrey Ski Centre aided by the then centre manager Eirian Morris have surpassed all expectations and done, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales and Great Britain proud, so much so that they received a huge welcome at Heathrow airport on their return. They have also been invited to Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and The National Assembly.
The twins competed in the giant slalom and slalom events which gained coverage on BT Sports.
Tyler (GB squad No 8) was selected for the games in January 2016 with Ruth (GB squad No 11) just missing out and being named first reserve in the Great Britain alpine skiing squad of eight.
In February this year, one of the English competitors damaged cruciate ligaments in Schladming training with the squad and Ruth was called up. Fortunately, Ruth had been accompanying her sister to training events all over the country including snowdomes at Milton Keynes and Hull. But they have been undertaking the majority of their training on the dry ski slope at Ski Pembrey which they have attended as many as three times a week. Their training has including endurance cycling rides of 30-miles a week, regular gym sessions and skiing with the Heol Goffa Special School and West Wales Ski Club. Becoming joint Olympians is a fantastic achievement both personally and for their foster parents Ron and Jacqueline Cant and Heol Goffa Special School. They are the only Welsh competitors from 3,500 representing 110 countries from around the world. There were 398 skiers in the competition.
Proud foster Dad Ron said: “For the girls to return with such a cache of medals is just superb. We are obviously very proud of them as I am sure the rest of the country will be. While out there they met a number of celebrities who were supporting the games including Arnold Schwarzenegger , Torvill and Dean and Nicole Scherzinger. All our neighbours gathered at the house on their return and we decorated the home with bunting and balloons. It was a very special moment today when the girls went to the Town Council offices and saw that the Mayor of Llanelli Bill Thomas had arranged to have flags flown on the building. It was avery kind and considerate gesture, which filled us all with pride.”
Speaking about the coverage the girls have received on an international level Ron said: “The twins have become celebrities in recent weeks with TV news and press breaking worldwide of their joint selection and their achievements. It is wonderful that people realise how empowering sport can be not only for the physically able but for people with disabilities and those intellectually challenged too. The girls were determined to bring a medal of some kind home but the fact they have three is incredible.”
Ron explained some of the background as to how he became their foster father. He said: “Tyler and Ruth came to us nearly seven years ago as shy, frightened and retiring Merthyr children who tragically have since lost both parents. “Since arriving in our care the twins have shown a great passion for sport of all kinds including cycling, swimming, netball and, of course skiing, which their have taken to with great panache.”
Not only has Tyler won two golds but she has been named as the Carmarthenshire Disability Sports Woman of the Year. The girl’s handicap of speech dyspraxia and global delay has not hindered their ability for skiing in any way helping them to grow in confidence and fitness, building their self-esteem and social development.
The girls are now embarking on a quick tour of Llanelli to thank all the people who supported them over the years of training including the staff at Jenkins Bakery and the staff at Manhattan Marketing. Llanelli Online is making a short film documenting their success and it will be available exclusively here online.
Llanelli Mayor Bill Thomas said: “This is a fantastic achievement and the least we can do is fly the flags for these girls who let’s face it were amongst a tiny selection of athletes from Wales, but to have two from Llanelli is astounding. They paint post boxes gold for other olympians. Maybe we should paint the Town Hall gold. In all seriousness, the last time I saw the girls was outside Tesco when they were just about to set off. Back then they said they would be returning with more bling than I had round my neck. They made good on their promise and the whole of Wales should be proud of them.”