The Other Sports of Wales – Part 2

The Other Sports of Wales – Part 2

The Welsh have always produced top athletes and there is not an international competition taking place that does not have a host of Welsh athletes representing Great Britain. One of the most famous athletes to have represented Wales and Great Britain was Lynn “the Leap” Davies. At the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Davies jumped 8.07 meters to win the gold medal in the long jump. In the same games he also took part in the 100 meters and the 4 x 100 meters relay. In his career he also became the European Champion in 1966 and twice won the Commonwealth gold medal.

Colin Jackson in action

One of Wales’ most recognizable sporting faces is Colin Jackson who is now one of the main presenters on BBC athletics coverage. Jackson’s athletics career was running the Hurdles event, competing in the 110 meters hurdles outside and the 60 meters distance indoors.

His personal best time of 12.91 seconds for the outdoor event was the world record time for over a decade, and he still holds the world’s best time for the indoor race. He won the World Championships twice and over a period of 12 years was undefeated at European Championships. He won a silver at the 1988 in Seoul but it was unfortunate that he never won an Olympic Gold. Another hurdler who also won the world Championships was Dai Green who ran the event over 400 meters. There was a period in his career between 2010 and 2011 where he was simply the best hurdler in the world. Over this 16 month period he became the European, Diamond League and Commonwealth Champion as well as having his World Championship success.

In 1984 Welshman Steve Jones broke the world marathon record in Chicago by running a time of 2 hours 8 minutes and 5 seconds. It was his first marathon that he had completed and he had no idea he had broken the record, as he never wore a watch when he raced.

The following year he went onto win the London Marathon, and later in 1985 he won the Chicago marathon for a second time when he won the race in a time of 2 hours 7 minutes and 13 seconds, which remains the British record today. Also in 1985 he broke the world record for the half marathon if a time 61 minutes and 14 seconds when winning in Birmingham.

Joe Calzaghe with his championship belts

Very few boxers go through their career undefeated, but one Welshman did so and he did it in the most understated manner. Joe Calzaghe won all 46 of his fights that he took part in during his 16 year career, of which half were world championship contests. He has been described as the best super-middleweight boxer of all time. His last two fights were in the States but the majority of his contests were held in Wales. This created huge national interest and he was simply unbeatable when fighting in Cardiff at the National Stadium with the country behind him. The downside was that he never got the recognition he deserved from the American boxing fraternity as they did not see enough of him.

The dangers of boxing were tragically brought to the attention of sports fans around the world with the death of Johnny Owen in 1980. Owen was a bantamweight and his sleight frame earned him the nickname of “the Merthyr Matchstick”. The start of his career saw him wining the European and commonwealth titles and on 19th September 1980 he challenged the Mexican Lupe Pintor for the World title in Los Angeles. Despite taking a lead in the early rounds Owen was knocked unconscious in the 12th round, and he never regained consciousness being pronounced dead seven weeks later.

Two of the country’s most famous sportsman achieved great success in the world of equestrian in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. David Broome who was born in Cardiff represented Britain if five Olympic Games and was voted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the year in 1960 after winning a bronze at the Olympic Games.

At many of the events he participated in one of his main rivals was his fellow country man Richard Meade who was born in Chepstow. Meade won three Olympic gold medals plus five world championship medals, which included two gold’s. Meade was regarded as the better horseman but putting these two together gave Britain a great team.