The Chester area is home of many sportsmen and women who have gone on to make their mark on the international stage, from Michael Owen to Beth Tweddle.
And that production line of talent could be set to continue thanks to the creation of a world-class facility on our doorstep, as PAUL WHEELOCK reports.
TUCKED away in the corner of an industrial estate near Sandycroft, the Athlete Performance Centre does not look like the type of place that attracts elite-level athletes from across England and Wales.
Yet once you step inside, it quickly becomes clear why stars such as Martin Gleeson, one of the best rugby league players in the world, and Bev Jones, a Paralympic gold-medallist in the waiting, call this place home.
Decked out with state-of-the-art equipment shipped in from America, the centre - on the Deeside Industrial Estate in Pentre - is divided into four zones: the strength and power zone boasting Hammer Strength facilities; the combat conditioning zone featuring a full range of Lonsdale boxing bags and balls; the speed and plyometric zone which includes a 20m sprint lane; and the functional training zone, a 55m-square soft-floor covered space on which an array of drills can be carried out.
Quite simply, this is no ordinary gym.
It feels like you have landed slap-bang in the middle of an Olympic team's training base, where powerlifters, boxers, and track and field athletes could be put through their paces all within a few metres of each other.
Mark Lewin, the owner and director of coaching at the centre, said: 'If you go to Australia, New Zealand or United States these centres are fairly common, but in this country you have to go to a national institute of sport so this is quite unique.
'The nearest one to us is over in Manchester, at the Velodrome. After that you're looking at the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield and different English institutes that train elite athletes and elite athletes only.
'The key difference with our centre is that we coach cutting-edge strength and conditioning movement-based training and give them to local sports people at affordable prices, at a world-class facility.
'One of our key tag-lines is that we train movement and not muscles. Most sports people go to gyms for traditional strength training routines, whereas we coach the dynamics of speed and power. We replicate these through movement on the specific equipment we've brought in from the States.
'Over there, they are used for power sports like American football, and that's why we get a lot of people coming here from rugby clubs.
'But this training is also absolutely essential to the less physical sports like golf. You look at the consistency of Tiger Woods, whose physical structure is as good as any track or field athlete, as he dedicates a lot of time to movement-based strength and conditioning work.
'A golf club is never going to get any heavier, the ball's weight remains the same, but through training like ours the force at which you can strike the ball determines how consistently you can strike it well during a game.'
Lewin's ethos of 'strength through movement' has won the backing of the likes of rugby league giants Warrington Wolves, whose star man Gleeson uses the centre for individual training, and former West Cheshire AC athlete Bev Jones, who will go for Paralympic glory in Beijing next year.
Lewin also works with the Sports Council for Wales, UK Sport and UK Athletics World Class Performance Programme, and the Welsh Golfing Union among others.
He needs more local clubs to use the centre for it to be sustainable.
'The very minimum we want is to make sure large local clubs, say a football club with a number of junior teams, come and see our facility and realise that we can make them even better athletes,' explains Lewin, 35.
'That's why we're doing a series of open weekends where interested coaches and teams can book in for a free 30-minute session, bringing six players with them.
'We need them to come forward as it's a private business, run and funded by myself without grants or support. It is a genuine, world-class facility and we are trying to generate as much usage for local clubs as possible.'
Lewin began operating as a sole-trader in 2003 under the name Lewin Fitness Solutions.
The core activity of his business was the provision of conditioning coaching to athletes through the programme, Attack Training.
Attack Training is delivered 'live' on-pitch or on-court by Lewin and, with the centre, is the second strand to his business, which became known as Power for Sports Ltd last year.
The reason for the name change was the creation of the centre, which opened in February. But why Deeside as a location?
'If it was a purely fiscal decision an intelligent businessman would have opened the centre in Cardiff, where I think it would be more than successful,' said Lewin, who lives in Buckley with his wife Ellen and two-year-old son Jake.
'On the M4 corridor down in South Wales there is fairly good access into Cardiff, so if it was purely for piling up £50 notes I would have moved my family down there.
'But I'm passionate about sport in this area and I'm determined to make it work, and the more local sports clubs we get involved the more chance it will be a success.' n The centre also runs an academy for athletes between the ages of 13 and 16.
Courses typically last for six weeks and cost £29 per athlete.
* For more information about the Deeside Performance Centre call Mark Lewin on 01244 535053 or 07739826882, or visit www.powerforsportsltd.com
* The centre opens from 9am-noon and 5.30-8.30pm Monday-Friday, and 9am-noon on weekends.
* Membership fee is normally £52 per person, including two one-hour coaching sessions, but the centre is offering a two-for-one offer before August 31, working out as £26 each.
* Member training sessions cost £4.50 and non-member training sessions £7.
* A coaching session for up to three adults costs £29.
* The centre has open weekends, which allow groups of up to six people to enjoy a 30-minute training session for free, on: June 23-24, July 28-29, August 25-26.
* It costs £42 per hour for an Attack Training session for up to 40 athletes, or £63 for 90 minutes.