How Lynn ‘the leap’ Davies clinched gold at Tokyo 1964

Lynn Davies of Great Britain leaps 8.07m to win the long jump gold at the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964. Mandatory Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive
Lynn Davies of Great Britain leaps 8.07m to win the long jump gold at the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964. Mandatory Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive

In October 1964, Tokyo hosted their first Olympic Games. To celebrate, Tokyo 2020 will bring you some of the most incredible and historic moments that took place 56 years ago. In the latest part of the series, we take a look at the story of Lynn 'the leap' Davies and his winning moment at the Games.

Background

The son of a coal miner, Lynn Davies was born in Nant-y-moel, near Bridgend, Wales on 20 May 1942.

Davies, who would cement his status as a global star after Tokyo 1964, began competing in athletics during school competitions at age 18, and made progress as a long jumper.

However, it’s fair to assume that he might not have expected to be competing at the Olympics just four years later.

After qualifying to represent the Welsh team at the Commonwealth Games in Perth 1962, Davies broke the British record with a 7.72m jump - missing out on the podium by only 0.01m.

Davies was on a quest to improve and drew inspiration from the Soviet athlete, Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, who won the gold medal at the 1962 European Championships using a unique technique called the ‘hitch kick’ – wherein an athlete's arms and legs remain in motion even after taking off.

The moment

Though Davies had been improving quickly, he was still not among the favourites to win the gold medal at the Tokyo 1964 Games.

Despite making the final after qualifying with the second-longest jump, very few people gave the British athlete a chance against the defending champion Ralph Boston (USA) or even Ter-Ovanesyan.

However on the day of the final, when everything was at stake, Davies won gold with a jump of 8.07m - ending a run of eight consecutive USA victories in the men's Olympic long jump competition.

But just how did it happen?

In 2014, during a joint interview with Ralph Boston to mark the 50th anniversary of the Games, Davies recalled what happened on BBC Radio Wales Sport.

"I heard Ralph say 'I don't think anyone will jump 8m today'. I thought I had a chance," said Davies.

To which Boston replied: "If I'd known you were listening I wouldn't have said it."

This is only a small part of the story.

In Davies mind, the real reason he clinched gold and gained the nickname Lynn 'the leap' Davies was due to the weather.

That day, the rainy, cold conditions - which where more akin to autumn in Wales than Japan - played into Davies' hands.

He was even quoted as saying: “If it had not been like [that], and the day had been warm, I am sure I would not have won."

Of course this is not to take away from his efforts and determination. Davies deservedly won gold and with it created history, beating Boston (8.03m) and Ter-Ovanesyan (7.99m) on his way to victory.;

By doing so, he became the first Welshman to win an individual Olympic gold medal. He also held the title of the only British man to win long jump gold at the Olympics until Greg Rutherford's triumph at London 2012.

Lynn Davies of Great Britain completing his gold medal winning long jump of 8.07m at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.    (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)
Lynn Davies of Great Britain completing his gold medal winning long jump of 8.07m at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

What happened next?

After his heroics at Tokyo 1964, Davies continued to enjoy success, winning gold at the 1966 European Championships in Budapest and then silver three years later.

In 1966, during the Commonwealth Games, he also won gold before going on to defend his title at the 1970 Commonwealth Games - becoming the first man to win back-to-back titles.

His exploits at the Commonwealth Games, European Championships and Olympics saw him twice crowned the winner of the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year award in 1964 and 1966.

However, at the Mexico City 1968 Games, Davies finished ninth and was unable able to defend his Olympic crown, while at the Munich 1972 Games he could only finish 18th.

After announcing his retirement in 1973, Davies was employed as the technical director of Canadian Athletics until 1976, and later prepared the Great Britain team for the Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984 Games.

Davies then took up a broadcasting career with BBC Wales before working as senior lecturer in physical education at the University of Wales in Cardiff. Finally, Davies was President of UK Athletics Members Council from 2003-2011.

The 78-year-old, remains one of the most respected names in British sport.