David Jones, one of the great names of British sprinting history.

31-03-2018Humphrey Carter

"One of Britain’s fastest men on two feet." This is how the boys’ publication The Victor described athlete David Jones in its edition on 25 November, 1961. The comic, which in its day featured personalities which all young boys aspired to be, ran a double-page spread of how the young farmer’s boy became one of the country’s, the Commonwealth's and the world’s fastest sprinters.

David, who has lived full time in San Telmo for the past 15 years, although he has been regularly visiting San Telmo for most of his life, was educated at Felsted School, Essex and that is where he found his sprinter’s legs.

"I was initially taken on as a long-distance runner; cross country all that kind of stuff. In my first race I came 35th; the school was somewhat perplexed, I certainly didn’t live up to my billing. But I was a short-distance runner. 300 metres was pretty much my maximum distance."

After having got that straight with the school he went on to win three consecutive AAA (Amateur Athletics Association) titles at 220 yards (1959-1961). During that period he competed for Great Britain in the 1960 Olympics held in Rome in the 4x100 metre rela. He won the bronze medal with his teammates Peter Radford, David Segal and Nick Whitehead. He reached the 100 metres semi final in which he was denied a place in the final in a photo finish with Ray Norton of the USA.

David Jones subsequently won a gold medal in the 4x110 yards relay in the England team with Peter Radford, Alf Meakin, Len Carter, as well as winning a silver medal in the 220 yards event at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth. He was part of the 4x110 yards relay team (Peter Radford, Ron Jones and Berwyn Jones were his teammates) who defeated the USA team (which included Bob Hayes) at the White City Stadium in 1963 during the GB v USA match.

He was the holder of world best performance over 150 yards in a time of 13.9 secs in May 1961 at Southend. David was also part of the ITV track and field commentary team for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

"Beating the USA at White City was the first time they had been beaten and we set a world record time in doing so. But remember, back then, we were all amateurs.

"After I left school, I was taken on at a local brewery on a new scheme for two lucky students to spend a whole year learning the trade from top to bottom. I was working terrible shift hours and had to combine that with the athletics training. At the matches and Games we were given free running spikes by Puma but that was it. We did get a uniform for the Games, I had to model it once in Piccadilly Circus. It was all good fun, we were all teammates and got on very well on and off the track, money never came into it. Yes, the top runners caught the eyes of the media and we got plenty of coverage, but that was about it.

"My only regret is that because of the Rome Olympics I missed the all school athletics championship so missed out on that title"

Having gone through the prep and public school system, sport was a very important feature of growing up. "I was not very academic, I was best on the sports field, playing games. I was a very good hockey player, some said that had I not been sprinting I would have made the Olympic hockey team on the right wing.

"Anyway, I always played hockey during the winter and that is how I kept in shape and fit for the forthcoming athletics season. There was no taking time off for winter training and all that. As soon as the athletics training was over, I’d swap my spikes for my boots and my hockey stick. It’s a great game and there was a great social atmosphere, just like the rugby clubs. We’d often warm up in the local pub and then finish in the clubhouse bar. Obviously we all wanted to win and enjoyed doing so, but it wasn’t the end of the world."

Apart from winning his medals, what he is really proud of is that at the Rome Olympics, they decided to attach the medals to silver chains, as they originally used to be. There were no ribbons, and in fact the Rome games were the last to award such medals. In Perth in 1962, the Empire and Commonwealth committee opted to do the same; ever since it’s been ribbons.

It is because of his heroics at the Perth games that David has been invited to the forthcoming Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Queensland this month. "I’ve got to pay my way and all that but I can’t wait to get out there and back amongst the athletes. I’m extremely excited to be getting back into that atmosphere again and catching up with people I haven’t seen for years. Who would have thought 56 years ago that I would be returning to Australia to be part of the Commonwealth Games. I’m not going to be running that’s for sure, but I’m looking forward to meeting the boys and girls taking part and seeing at first hand how the whole sport hand has changed.

"Throughout my career sport has been my thing. I was the secretary and president of the Ghost Hockey Club. We were a touring side and would take care of any veterans sides visiting the UK. But the sport changed so much, artificial pitches etc., we all finally decided to call it a day over a grand dinner in London.

"I also love watching sport and I’m particularly impressed with how women’s sport has come along. Just look at our rugby and cricket teams, they’re currently performing better than the men and in football as well. I think that’s a been a wonderful development in sport. But I’m glad I was involved when I was. I think there’s too much pressure today."

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