World-acclaimed Rugby Union referee Nigel Owens MBE is the 2019 Nos Galan Road Races Mystery Runner, following in the footsteps of many of the Welsh rugby legends he has kept in line on the pitch.
The word record-holder has swapped his whistle and red card for the iconic Nos Galan torch, which he will carry from St Gwynno’s Church, Llanwonno, into Mountain Ash this evening, officially starting the New Year’s Eve extravaganza.
Tonight is the 61st year since the Nos Galan Road Races started and Nigel Owens MBE is the latest sporting star to join the Mystery Runner Hall ofFame, alongside Welsh international players including Sam Warburton, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Shane Williams, James Hook and Jamie Roberts.
Each of them have no doubt shared a pitch with Nigel Owens MBE over the years, as he is one of four Welsh Rugby Union referees and currently holds the world record for the most number of test matches refereed.
As well as being one of the most respected personalities in rugby union, Nigel Owens MBE is also a formidable advocate of the LGBTQ community and was named Stonewall’s Gay Sports Personality of the Decade in 2015 and placed on the Pinc List.
The historic streets of Mountain Ash are a long way from his most recent sporting appearance at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, and most definitely far removed from the first match he refereed in Carmarthen in 1987, when he was just 15.
Councillor Ann Crimmings, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, and Chair of the Nos Galan Committee, said: “Nigel Owens MBE is one of the most celebrated personalities in the world of Rugby Union and sport in general.
“He commands significant respect and admiration both on and off the pitch for his sporting knowledge, his fair approach and the stance he takes against prejudice – especially within the LGBT community.
“We are proud to welcome him as Mystery Runner to the 2019 Nos Galan Road Races and we know spectators young and old will be thrilled to join such an icon at this event.
“We thank him for joining us in Mountain Ash this New Year’s Eve to bring some sporting celebrity magic to the Nos Galan Road Races.”