Full Name: Lynn Davies
Date of Birth: 20 May 1942
Born: Nantymoel, Bridgend.
Club: Roath H, Cardiff AAC.
Coach: by Ron Pickering.
The Picture Of Dorian Gray
The general opinion in British athletics, and for those from outside of the sport who meet him, is that Lynn Davies, the President of UK Athletics and one of the sport’s finest ambassadors, has a picture in his loft somewhere of a character who never ages.
Now in his 70s, he remains as sprightly as ever and of course, one of only a handful of Britons who have won an Olympic gold medal in a field event. It might not have been that way because when Davies won the Long Jump title in Tokyo in 1964, it was not as planned. He had 1968, and Mexico City, as his target, but such was his progress, he became a hero at one of the best ever Olympics for British track and field. One of his greatest attributes is his ability to spread athletics to others, as he summed up when he was made a CBE in 2006. Welshman Davies is now a senior Lecturer at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff and after his award from the Queen, he said: “This is an honour for myself and my family but also to athletics as a whole. It is a great recognition for athletics and all those people who dedicate their lives and time to the sport.”
Hitching A Ride
A rarity perhaps, Davies was a European champion and a double Commonwealth champion, but that success arrived after he had won the ultimate title - the Olympic Games. Known as ‘Lynn The Leap’ for obvious reasons, Davies, the son of a coalminer, came from the heart of rugby-land in Brigdend, and it was hardly surprising when he revealed that his first ever jump was by the side of rugby pitch. He had first competed when he was 18 at a schools competition and when he made initial progress as a long jumper, he never expected that within four years he would be Olympic champion. He made the team for the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth in 1962 and during the competition he broke the UK record with a jump of 7.72m, but in the final round, Ghana’s Mike Ahey leapt to gold with 8.05m to edge the Welshman out of the medals. His inspiration though came that same year at the European Championships in Belgrade when Russian Igor Ter-Ovanesyan won gold with 8.19 as Davies finished 11th with 7.33m. He had seen Ter-Ovanesyan win by using a technique known as the ‘hitch kick’, whereby an athlete maintains arm and leg motion even when they have taken off. It is a formula which took him to his greatest triumph.
Jumping For Joy In Japan
Even though his career was fast improving, Davies was not considered among the favourites for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964. He made it through in the last round of the qualifying competition, but few considered he would be good enough to beat Ralph Boston, the defending champion from the USA, or Ter-Ovanesyan. When Davies, who was coached and inspired by Ron Pickering, reflected on his outstanding, remarkable triumph, he remained convinced that the weather had played its part. Tokyo might normally be renowned for being steamy with high-levels of humidity, but here it was raining and it was cold.
“If it had not been like, and the day had been warm, I am sure I would not have won,” he said.
Davies triumphed with a leap of 8.07m, achieving victory in round five at a time when the wind had dropped and difficult conditions had ceased for a brief period in a competition when Boston and others had actually asked if another runway with a sandpit in the other direction could be used to avoid the bad conditions. The officials would not allow it, and though Davies might have thought outside forces were there inspiring him along the way, take nothing away from his performance. His jump gave him victory by four centimetres from Boston with Ter-Ovanesyan third with 7.99 (though of course in 1964 the distances were measured in feet and inches and Davies won with a leap of 26 foot, 5-and-three-quarter inches). He also competed in the 4 x 100m relay but with one jump, Davies had taken himself into British athletics history.
He was the first Welshman to win an individual Olympic gold medal, he was the first and still only British man to win Long Jump gold at the Olympics (but not the only Briton because Mary Rand triumphed at the same Games) and he had broken the national record.And all four years before the Olympic Games he had really targeting…not that anyone could predict what would happen there.
What A Record
Davies progressed to win the European title in Budapest in 1966 with a jump of 7.98m to beat Ter-Ovanesyan with 7.88m and he took gold at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Kingston with 7.99m (he retained that gold in 1970 in Edinburgh). But 1968 was some year. During his career Davies set eight national records and it was June 30 in Berne that he jumped his furthest with 8.23m (27ft) in Berne. It was a distance not broken until Chris Tomlinson cleared 8.27 in Florida on April 13 2002. But how ironic Davies should make his mark with a record because that is exactly what happened at those Olympics in Mexico…only this time he was a mere spectator.
American Bob Beamon was the favourite after an amazing year where he had lost only one competition and in the first round, as the rest of the field watched, athletics was provided with an epoch-making moment. Beamon jumped 8.90m, a world record. His distance of 29 feet, 2-and-a-half inches broke the old record by an amazing 21-and-three-quarter-inches and gold was his. Ter-Ovanesyan had said to Davies: "Compared to this jump, we are as children." The Welshman had told Beamon: "You have destroyed this event!" It had not only ended the competition, the others knew that realistically, they were chasing silver and with confidence shattered, Davies finished only ninth. But Davies was a true battler and he came back to win the 1969 European silver with 8.07m as Ter-Ovanesyan won with 8.17. He also took part in the Olympics in Munich in 1972, he studied physical education at Cardiff Training College and later became technical director of Canadian athletics (1973-6) and British team manager before taking up a broadcasting career with BBC Wales and then working as senior lecturer in physical education at the University of Wales in Cardiff. He was elected as president of UK Athletics in 2003 and remains one of the most respected names in British sport.
1962: 11th LJ Europeans, 4th LJ, qf 100y Commonwealth Games
1964: 1st LJ, 8th 100m Olympics
1965: 2nd LJ World University Games
1966: 1st LJ, sf 100y, 4th 4x110y Commonwealth Games; 1st LJ, 5th 4x100m Europeans
1967: 1st LJ European Indoors
1968: 9th LJ Olympics
1969: 2nd LJ European Indoors, 2nd LJ Europeans
1970: 1st LJ, qf 100m, 5th 4x100m Commonwealth Games
1971: 4th LJ Europeans
1972: 8th LJ European Indoors, dnq 18th LJ Olympics
UK Internationals: 43 (1962-72)
Won AAA LJ 1964, 1966-9, Indoor LJ 1963, 1966, 1972; Junior TJ 1961; Welsh LJ 1962-3, 1965-6; TJ 1961-2,
100y 9.5 (1964), 100m 10.4 (1967), 220y 21.2 (1966), long jump 8.23 (1968). triple jump 15.43 (1962).
Indoors: 60y 6.3 (1966), long jump 7.97 (1966)