A FORMER rugby player plans to open an Olympic weightlifting gym after his nine-year-old daughter took up the sport. 

Matthew Williams has formed the Torfaen Strength Academy, with lifters Megan Dixon and Charlie McCloy, and the trio have put forward plans to use a former car garage unit in Pontypool as a gym where other lifters can train and which will be available for community groups, including senior citizens. 

The club is registered with the sport’s UK governing body British Weight Lifting but doesn’t currently have a base. 

“We are registered as a club but we would like to get a base that we can run the club from,” said Mr Williams of the plans to open in a unit, that has been vacant for some three years, at the Auto Service building on Rockhill Road. 

The former semi-professional rugby player, who played as a flanker for clubs including Pontypool, Blackwood and Pontypool United, said his interest in weight training was formed during his rugby career, but that he has his nine-year-old daughter Macey to thank for introducing him to lifting. 

South Wales Argus: Matthew Williams and Megan Dixon of the Torfaen Strength Academy. Picture: Supplied

Matthew Williams and Megan Dixon of the Torfaen Strength Academy

“My daughter took up Olympic weightlifting about a year ago, she started to compliment her other sport of gymnastics,” he said.

“I had an interest in weight training but have come to weightlifting through her. Through my sport, and my injuries, I wanted to provide a place where juniors sportspersons could weightlift safely with qualified coaches giving them a sound base technique to prevent bad techniques that could lead to later to injuries, and to increase their performance ability within their chosen sport, hopefully creating better weightlifters in Wales and better output of sportspersons from our region.” 

Mr Williams said lifters currently have to travel to Cardiff or Gloucester to train for the Olympic discipline of lifting a barbell loaded with weight plates. 

“Weightlifters are having to travel to Cardiff to be able to train, or Gloucester, as there isn’t any affiliated club with a gym in Torfaen so that with the cost of living, and the environmental side of things, that can potentially cost quite a lot and is a lot of travelling,” he said. 

The gym will be based in a former vehicle paint shop, at the building that is split into various units. An application for approval for the change of use has been made to Torfaen Borough Council, which is currently being considered by the planning department. No building work is proposed. 

It has requested opening hours of 7am to 10pm on Mondays to Fridays and 9am to 5pm on weekends and bank holidays. 

Megan Dixon, who is part of the trio behind the academy, also works as a sports development officer, and Mr Williams said it is intended to use her links with clubs and schools to offer the non-profit gym as a facility. 

It is anticipated the gym will have some 45 members, and the planning application states it is likely to be used by athletes training for the Olympics, Paralympics and Commonwealth Games, while two days will be set aside for use by community groups. 

Information submitted with the planning application states the club will “engage with the elderly of Torfaen” and it will work with the Torfaen Voluntary Alliance as well as various other community groups and offer work experience to pupils with additional learning needs. 

The application states there is a car park with at least 25 spaces adjoining the Auto Services Building and Mr Williams said as the gym will be used mostly by members, and personal trainers and clients, it won’t generate the sort of traffic associated with a public, high street gym.