Graduation tales: Alumni couple have a year to remember

Vicki and Stephen Jenkins, and baby Mia, have had quite a year

Vicki and Stephen Jenkins, and baby Mia, have had quite a year

IT’S been quite a year for Stephen and Victoria Jenkins – with the Commonwealth Games, a crime thriller, and a little cherub, all taking centre stage in their lives.

And the Caerphilly couple - both 36 and who both graduated from the University of Glamorgan, now the University of South Wales (USW) – are taking a breath after what has been a hectic 12 months.

For psychology graduate Stephen, the trip to the Commonwealth Games in Australia’s Gold Coast in April was yet another success in the world of table tennis.

He represented Wales in four Games between 2002 and 2014, scooping two bronze medals along the way. Having retired, he decided to go into coaching, and has taken his success to even greater levels.

Stephen was the man behind prodigy Anne Hursey - the 11-year-old who made all the headlines as the youngest athlete at the Games  – and her Wales team-mates, as they battled through to fifth place in the competition.

“We never expected them to win the tournament, but the experience of being in the Gold Coast will stand them in good stead,” Stephen said. “In four years’ time, I honestly believe we can finish in the top three and get a medal. It’s a very young team, but they’re moving forward fast.”

Stephen also coached Joshua Stacey, who competed in the standing disability category. He was again in bronze position as the young athlete came in third in the competition.

Stephen efforts on the other side of the world weren’t the only things to come from the Jenkins household that were in the full glare of the public, Victoria’s endeavours have also been in the spotlight.

A graduate in English, she initially became a secondary school teacher, but didn’t find the fulfilment she wanted.

“I’ve always been into telling stories,” said Victoria, “So I decided to write a crime novel and see where it went.”

And the decision to put pen to paper – or fingertips to keyboard – has certainly paid off.

Victoria’s first book – Girls In The Water - was published last November, followed by The First One To Die in November, and the third – Nobody’s Child – went on sale last month.

“They’re crime stories following two female detectives,” Victoria explained. “I had to do a lot of research to make sure that the characters were acting as real detectives would, and I based them around South Wales. There’s plenty of familiar names throughout the stories, Cosmeston Lakes, Llwynypia, the Rhondda, to name a few.

“They’ve been a great success. I got into the top 30 in the UK Kindle chart, and number five in the USA, so they’ve obviously made an impact on the readers.”  

As if leading an international sports team and writing best-selling novels wasn’t enough to keep them busy, Stephen and Victoria also welcomed a new addition to the family last August, Mia.

“It’s been a really busy time for us,” explained Victoria. “With Stephen away at the Games and managing the training, and me trying to fit in writing around Mia while I’m at home, it can be challenging. It’s just a matter of fitting things around home life.

“But we manage, and just plan for what comes next. Stephen will be carrying on aiming for more success in the sport, and I’m planning my next book, so things are unlikely to get quieter any time soon.”

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