Gareth John MBE: President and friend
It is with great sadness and immense pride that today we pay tribute to our President Gareth John MBE who has passed away.
Gareth was a true pioneer of disability sport, a leader who worked tirelessly to ensure that disabled people across the Nation had access to sport and physical activity. He was a Champion of our movement and a great friend to so many people involved with or having benefited from the work of Disability Sport Wales since its creation in 1985.
He was a man who brought people together, serving with tremendous passion and energy, freely giving his time and knowledge in order to bring about significant and long-lasting change to the landscape of sport. His commitment was instrumental to the formation of Disability Sport Wales forging a Federation between like organisations who shared a vision for the creation of a more inclusive Wales. Over this period Gareth served as Vice Chair and Chair and in 2017 was honoured as our first, and much-loved President; hugely respected, diligent and a true gentleman who cared as much about community opportunities as he did about elite sport.
Gareth was a visionary who guided Disability Sport Wales through one of its most successful periods, becoming world-leading both in terms of how it established grass-roots provision and in supporting Welsh athletes to break through into high performance, many of whom have become Champions and household names.
“Throughout his time with DSW Gareth was an absolute force of nature …” reflected Fiona Reid, CEO for Disability Sport Wales, “… he made a difference because he cared so passionately about people - those who DSW represents, those who could represent Wales, and those who work in and alongside our organisation. He had boundless energy and influence, all wrapped up in a wicked sense of humour and fun. All of us will miss him and are so incredibly proud to have been involved alongside his journey.”
A humble man, who was always keen to attribute success to those around him, he worked tirelessly for other people’s interests. He was a committed Trustee for the Football Association of Wales Trust as well as the Welsh Sports Association and was also immensely proud to be the Chair of Commonwealth Games Wales, serving from 2005-2012. As Chair of Commonwealth Games Wales, he consistently advocated for an inclusive Commonwealth Games team, ultimately seeing Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson as Team Wales captain in Melbourne (2006) and Aled Sion Davies as team captain in Glasgow (2014) with the longer term impact being an inclusive Team Wales who were so successful in Gold Coast during 2018.
He was there at so many critical times, watching the Queen put her message into the Commonwealth Games Baton as it started its journey to Delhi in 2010 and later carrying it from England into Wales; and two years later, bringing the Paralympic and Olympic flame across the border as the first Welsh torch bearer in 2012.
In 2009 Gareth was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, recognition so richly deserved.
Nathan Stephens, Winter and Summer Paralympian as well as Commonwealth Games 2018 athlete remembers Gareth as “…truly one of the hearts and souls of Disability Sport Wales from the very beginning , when I started my journey within disability sport Back in 2000, Gareth was there every step of the way, following my journey and supporting me in every way he could, through all the highs and all the lows, he was there to offer his kind words of encouragement and guidance. If it wasn’t for his integral work in Wales, we would not have the structure we have today, and I would never have been able to achieve all that I have within sport”.
Our heartfelt condolences go to his wife Diane and their wonderful family, who together were always so firmly in his heart and at his side.