I admit it is borderline whether we should include Lynn Davies as a person from Roath. I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with him recently and by just by virtue of the fact that he is a thoroughly nice man I think we should do our best to include him.
The Olympic gold medal long jump winner in the Tokyo 1964 games was born in Nantmoel, near Bridgend in 1942. The son of a coal miner, he went to Ogmore Grammar School before moving to Cardiff in 1961 to attend Cardiff Training College in Cyncoed. He joined Roath Harriers which later merged with Birchgrove Harriers to become Cardiff Amateur Athletic Club with its base at Maindy Stadium, the history of which was covered in our last blog.
His training runs took in the streets of the area including Roth Park. His coach and mentor was Ron Pickering, the Welsh national coach, who soon identified Lynn’s athletic skills. Prior to that he’d had a promising career as a footballer and had had a trial with Cardiff City. Lyn said of his time in Cyncoed that “Suddenly I was in a place which had a running track, gym and excellent lecturers who helped me. At the end of those three years in May 1964 I was the fittest I had ever been.”
Ron Pickering urged him to concentrate on long jumping and the rest as they say is history. He won an Olympic gold medal in the long jump in 1964 with a jump of 8.07 metres (26 ft 6 in), making him first Welshman to ever win an individual Olympic gold medal. He was the only British man to win Long Jump gold at the Olympics till Greg Rutherford won gold in 2012.
Since winning gold Lynn Davies has had the nickname “Lynn the Leap”. At the 1964 Olympics he also ran in the 100 metres and was a member of the relay team which reached the 4x100m final. And let’s not forget h was a Roath Harrier at the time. Lynn competed in the next two Olympics in Mexico City and Munich and in Mexico was flag bearer for the British team at the opening ceremony.
So what of his non-Olympic achievements? Davies was the 1966 European champion in the long jump and was the silver medalist three years later. He was also twice the Commonwealth Games champion, winning titles in 1966 and 1970, becoming the first man to win that title twice. He thereby became the first athlete to hold Olympic, European and Commonwealth titles at the same time.
His personal bests were: 100 meters – 10.51s (1967); Long Jump – 27′-0″ (8.23m) (1968). Lynn Davies’ long jump best of 8.23m, set in Berne in June 1968, is still the fourth best long jump of all-time by a British athlete – despite the improved facilities of today, where all-weather run-ups have replaced the soggy loose cinders that Lynn mostly competed on. It is also still the longest ever jump by a Welsh athlete.
Lynn Davies was twice a winner of the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year award, taking the honour in 1964 and 1966.
After retiring from competitions in 1973 he became technical director of Canadian athletics until 1976 before returning to live in the Cardiff area where he has lived ever since. He became British athletics team manager and took up broadcasting career with BBC Wales.
Davies was created a CBE on 17 June 2006, having previously received an MBE in 1967.
He’s always been regarded as one of the sport’s finest ambassadors which no doubt led him to becoming President of UK Athletics, the governing body of the sport in Great Britain, a position he only stepped down from in 2015.
The college in Cyncoed where Lynn Davies started his athletics career was new in 1961 having previously been at the Heath. It has undergone many name changes over the years but he has maintained a strong association with it. Not only was he a student there but has also been a Senior Lecturer and an ambassador.
I think but am not certain that the name changes have been: 1976 it became part of the South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education, then in 1990 Cardiff Institute of Higher Education, in 1996 University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) and finally in 2009 Cardiff Metropolitan University.
So why so I say its borderline whether he is famous Roath man? Well, the Cyncoed campus sits literally just outside the border of the old Parish of Roath. Lynn, with one of his famous jumps could have leapt over the border and into Roath, and probably still can. We will therefore include him on our Roath People page.