THERE are less than 200 days to go until the opening of the Commonwealth Games, the biggest competition in the competitive career of Laura Halford.

And the 17-year-old from Cricklade had the best possible start in her build-up to Glasgow when scooping the Rhythmic Gymnast of the Year title at the Welsh Gymnastics Awards & Gala Evening last week.

The glittering ceremony at the Sport Wales National Centre & SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff was packed to the rafters.

Laura, an A-level student at New College in Swindon, was understandably favourite to collect the prize having won both her national title and the British Championships in 2013.

She was nonetheless delighted to receive the honour ahead of the likes of Olympian and fellow Welsh team member Frankie Jones.

"I won the Most Promising Gymnast award back in 2007 so it was great to do the double," said Laura, who was accompanied to the ceremony by her proud mum Paula.

Laura could not relax on the night, however, as she had to perform her ribbon routine as part of the pre-awards entertainment.

If anyone doubts how seriously Laura's governing body is taking the Commonwealth Games, a visit to the Welsh Gymnastics website will put them straight. On the home page, the Countdown to Glasgow clock has just ticked past the 200-day mark.

"I have had fantastic start to what I hope is a really big year, and the Commonwealth Games will come around really fast," said Laura, who believes the strong Welsh side have medal hopes in the team event.

"I won my two big titles last year despite all four of my routines (hoop, ball, club and ribbon) being new. I was not nearly so confident about them then as I am now.

"There will be no more major changes to my routines now – it is just a question of trying to perfect them."

Laura's first chance this year to try out her displays under the pressure of international competition will come in Tartu, Estonia next month when she competes in the Miss Valentine tournament.

It is the 20th anniversary of this prestigious gymnastics event for which 30 countries have entered teams.