WREXHAM is now home to an Olympic champion after Tom James stepped out of the shadows of Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent with dramatic victory in Beijing on Saturday.
The 24-year-old, of Coedpoeth, followed the legendary duo on to the podium by helping Great Britain win a third successive men’s coxless four Games gold medal.
Five-time gold medallist Redgrave and four-time gold medallist Pinsent were cheering the awesome foursome on at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park, as were James’ parents Mike and Julia.
After watching their son proudly belt out the national anthem, James took his father’s Welsh flag and draped it around his shoulders as he basked in the glory of becoming Wales’ second Olympic winner in China following the success of cyclist Nicole Cooke.
"It’s great to put Wales on the map at the Olympics," said James, happily flouting a ban by organisers outlawing flags of non-competing countries.
"We didn’t win any golds in Athens and thanks to Nicole and this, we’ve got two in these Games with maybe more to come.
"I’m a patriotic Welshman – born in Cardiff and living near Wrexham.
"It’s great to be flying the Welsh flag on the world stage. My dad’s born and bred in Wrexham and is Welsh through and through and so am I."
The flagship boat went into battle against their old foes from Australia but left it late to sink the boys from Down Under. Andy Hodge, Peter Reed, Steve Williams and James were trailing badly in the closing stages but roared to the line.
"It would have been nice to have led the field and to have cruised home but it is one of the toughest events and we really had to push hard," said Athens Games competitor James, who took up rowing when he was at The King’s School in Chester.
"It is an absolute relief to come out on top although I didn’t have any energy to celebrate at the end of it all."
Williams is the only remaining member of the Pinsent-led coxless four that triumphed in Athens four years ago.
He and Reed have been ever-presents but Hodge and ex-Cambridge University student James have suffered with injuries, meaning the first-choice line-up only raced together for the first time at the start of the Olympic regatta.
"It has not been the best preparation," said James, who won the Boat Race at his fourth attempt with Cambridge last year. "We have certainly had our ups and downs. But in many ways all the problems have just made us more determined."