There's Inspiration in Higher Education for Sports Stars; This Year's Universities Week, Which Launched on Monday, Takes an In-Depth Look at the Impact and Contribution Higher Education Institutions Are Making on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Olympic Gold Medallist and University Graduate Lynn "The Leap" Davies Explains Why Higher Education Is Crucial to Wales' Success

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IT'S safe to say that winning the Tokyo 1964 long jump gold medal would have been a lot tougher without my three years at what is now Cardiff Metropolitan University.

And 400m hurdles world champion Dai Greene, a big Welsh hope for London 2012 gold, acknowledges that his own time at the former University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (Uwic) has been an enormous influence.

Although separated by almost half a century, our respective training programmes in the run-up to our big moments in the global spotlight owed a lot to our own higher education backgrounds.

In the early 1960s, I studied physical education teacher training while making full use of the college's sports facilities. Those three years made a huge contribution to me winning gold.

In 2008, Dai graduated in leisure and sport management and had benefited from the college's modern hi-tech athletics facilities.

Despite the fact that we're rooted in contrasting eras, our reflections have many similarities.

We both know that key elements of the higher education provision were crucial. They include the excellent facilities; superb coaches; tough competition; important partnerships; dedicated lecturers; and the wonderful career prospects that our courses brought.

In short, our time as students in higher education was time spent in an inspirational environment.

In my case, a huge factor was having the help of Wales national athletics coach Ron Pickering - he rightly saw universities as centres of sporting excellence.

Dai Greene, meanwhile, is quoted as saying: "My four years at Uwic took me from a club-level athlete to one of the best in the world, creating a great platform for my future success."

Great Welsh rugby players regularly come through universities too, of course - just look at Gareth Edwards, JJ Williams, Allan Martin and Brynmor Williams.

During Universities Week 2012, Cardiff Met's Professor William Bell is presenting a study of the results of an investigation done during adolescence between active and sedentary boys. It's the latest landmark in a rich history of important work done at the Met's Cardiff School of Sport.

Throughout its 60-year history, the school has built an international reputation for the quality of its academic, professional, research and extra-curricular work. …