August 07, 2006
Davies makes leap of faith to defend stars
From David Powell
FOR the fittest-looking 64-year-old in Britain, look no farther than Lynn Davies. For a man who remembers his heyday as an athlete as if it was yesterday, who could do better than Davies? Or, for an enthusiast who would stand his ground in a room full of the sport’s strongest critics, to argue that British athletics is making progress, who more able than Lynn the Leap? Forty years after becoming the first British athlete to complete a set of Olympic, Commonwealth and European titles, Davies, the former long jumper, now leaps to the defence of track and field in Britain when the occasion demands. A competitor at three Olympics, and team manager at two, in 1980 and 1984, he is in Gothenburg in his role as president of UK Athletics.
Davies puts forward African competition in the distance running events, and the appeal of other sports by which wealth can be achieved more quickly, as reasons why it is harder for British athletes now than in his day. However, he refuses to believe that the decline is irreversible. “Not with London 2012 it isn’t,” he said.
“Not if we can build on that, and get the message across that you could be competing for your country in front of 80,000 people and that, if you win in London, you could become a millionaire. We attract a lot of young people into athletics but the challenge is retaining them.”
Jim Hogan, now 73 and back living in Ireland, was the only British medal winner, other than Davies, at the 1966 European Championships. Yet he would not have been in a Great Britain vest had he not fallen out with Ireland.
Hogan, who represented Britain on residential grounds, won the marathon after doing much of his training barefoot. “Over three miles I would be 30 seconds slower wearing shoes,” he said. He returned to Ireland in 1995 after 35 years living in England.