sports gazette

The top ten Welsh sporting greats

Published: 28 Feb 2017

On St David's Day, Sports Gazette reviews the list of Welsh sporting greats

10) Lynn Davies

Lynn the Leap leapt to gold in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and became the first athlete to obtain consecutive Commonwealth long jump golds in 1966 and 1970. In 1966 he also won gold in the European Championships in Hungary.


9) Ian Woosnam

As part of the Big Five alongside Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Sandy Lyle, Woosnam helped make Europe a real task force in the Ryder Cup. His own personal successes included winning The Masters in 1991 and being sixth greatest of all-time with 29 European Tour victories. For his accolades, he will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in September 2017.


8) Nicole Cooke

Nicole became the first cyclist, male or female to win Olympic and World Championship gold in the road race in the same year in 2008. In a career that spanned 14 years she also claimed Commonwealth Games road race gold in 2002. More recently she has been a strong advocate for women’s cycling and has spoken out in parliament about the sexism claims that have come to the forefront in British Cycling.

7) JPR Williams

JPR was one of the golden boys of the golden years of Welsh rugby and the fullback is one of the only a small handful of Welsh players who have won three Grand Slams. He was on the only successful British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, winning the 1971 series with a long-distance drop goal. He helped define the fullback position with his aggressive style of play and notable sideburns.

6) Jade Jones

Jade Jones became the first ever Brit to win an Olympic gold medal in Taekwondo in London 2012 and went on to retain her title four years later in Rio. Nicknamed 'The Headhunter' for her notorious head kick, Jones was awarded an MBE after being named among the New Years’ Honours List in 2013.

5) Colin Jackson

Despite never becoming Olympic champion Jackson managed to achieve just about everything else as a 110m hurdler. The double World champion, four times European champion and two-time Commonwealth champion also held the World Record for almost 13 years. As a regular pundit for BBC athletics Jackson watched China’s Liu Xiang equal his own world record of 12.91 in Athens 2004 before it was eventually beaten two years later when Liu ran 12.88.


 4) Gareth Bale

There is no doubt that Bale is Wales’ most successful football player, coming from a nation that loves rugby, Bale defied the odds to become the world’s most expensive footballer of the time (2009) with a transfer fee of 100.8 million euros from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid. It was at Real Madrid taht he helped win the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup. Last summer he helped the previously hesitant Welsh National Team, who had not seen a major championship in almost 60 years, to the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

3) Tanni Grey-Thompson

As one of Britain’s most successful Paralympians ever Tanni amounted a grand total of 11 golds, four silvers and a bronze in wheelchair racing in a 16-year career spanning five Games. On top of that she also won the London marathon six times and held over 30 World Records. As one of the leaders of the Paralympic movement to the forefront of British sport Tanni became a Dame in 2005 for her services for sport and now sits as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords. Tanni sits on the board for various organisations such as ukactive and is also a patron for many charities such as Sportsaid foundation.

2) Joe Calzaghe

This two-weight champion has a definitive place on this list. The Welshman had an undefeated record of 46-0 and retired from professional boxing as reigning World Champion. Calzaghe is the longest reigning super middle weight champion in boxing history and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014. 

1) Sir Gareth Edwards

Sir Gareth is considered by many to be one of the greatest rugby players of all time. The scrum-half made his international debut at just 19 in 1967 and went on to win 53 caps for his country and spent most of that time as captain. His partnership with outside half Barry John contributed massively to Wales’ most successful rugby era ever with seven Five Nations wins including three Grand Slams. Edwards was also part of the glorious 1971 Lions' tour to New Zealand and during his time wiht the Barbarians played an integral role in 'that try'.

Former England Captain Will Carling ranked Sir Gareth the greatest rugby player of all time and said: “He was a supreme athlete with supreme skills, the complete package. He played in the 1970s, but, if he played now, he would still be the best. He was outstanding at running, passing, kicking and reading the game. He sits astride the whole of rugby as the ultimate athlete on the pitch.”

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