ACCORDING to dictionary definition, an icon is “one who becomes the object of great attention and devotion; an idol”. In Wales, there has been a tendency to idolise its rugby players, placing the likes of ‘Golden Era’ legends Gareth Edwards, Gerald Davies, Barry John, Merv ‘the Swerve’ Davies, the Pontypool front row and JPR Williams high on a pedestal that most other sporting heroes could only dream of.
Traditionally, rugby union has been synonymous with all things Welsh and even oval-ball players of a more recent vintage, such as Sam Warburton, Shane Williams and Alun Wyn Jones, are venerated and revered by men, women and children alike.
Wales also has a fine tradition of boxers punching above their weight across the globe and glorying in such ring names as the ‘Mighty Atom’ (Jimmy Wilde), the ‘Italian Dragon’ (Joe Calzaghe), the ‘Welsh Wizard’ (Freddie Welsh), the ‘Tonypandy Terror’ (Tommy Farr), ‘Peerless Jim’ (Jim Driscoll) and the ‘Merthyr Matchstick’ (Johnny Owen).
In recent years, football has closed the gap on rugby in the battle for the right to be deemed Wales’s national sport, the likes of Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale respected by soccer fans around the world, just as ‘Gentle Giant’ John Charles was in days gone by.
No list of Welsh sporting icons would ever be complete without the inclusion of top women athletes such as Paralympian great Tanni Grey-Thompson, cycling stars Nicole Cooke and Elinor Barker and Non Evans – so versatile that she has represented Wales at no less than FOUR different sports.
But, such has been the plethora of Welsh sporting achievement down the years that apologies must go out to the likes of rugby greats Ieuan Evans, Dai Morris, Ray Gravell, Jonathan Davies, Phil Bennett, Terry Holmes, Gareth Davies, Jeff Squire, Leigh Halfpenny, Neil Jenkins, Robert Norster (the list goes on and on) and countless others from a wide variety of sports who are not listed here. Wales is proud of ewe all!
Sir Gareth Owen Edwards, CBE (born Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, July 12, 1947) is a former rugby union scrum-half who has been described by the BBC as “arguably the greatest player ever to don a Welsh jersey”. In 2003, in a poll of international rugby players conducted by Rugby World magazine, Edwards was declared the greatest player of all time. In 2007, former England captain Will Carling published his list of the ’50 Greatest Rugby Players’ in The Daily Telegraph, and ranked Edwards the greatest ever, stating; “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”. Edwards was prominent in the Welsh national team that was to the fore in European rugby in the ’60s and ’70s. He is one of a small group of Welsh players to have won three Grand Slams including Ryan Jones, Adam Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Gerald Davies and JPR Williams. In the 2007 New Year Honours, Edwards became a CBE for services to sport. He was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 2015, for services to sport and for charitable services.
Gareth Bale (born Cardiff, July 16, 1989) is a Welsh professional footballer who plays as a winger for Spanish club Real Madrid and the Wales national team. Renowned for his ball striking from distance, swerving free kicks, and his ability to get past defenders with pace, Bale has received plaudits from his peers, who have described him as a footballer with “tremendous speed, great crossing ability, a great left foot and exceptional physical qualities”. In 2011 and 2013, while playing for Tottenham, he was named PFA Players’ Player of the Year and was named in the UEFA Team of the Year. In 2013, he was also named PFA Young Player of the Year, the FWA Footballer of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Season. On September 1, 2013, Bale was transferred to Real Madrid for a then-world record transfer fee of €100.8 million, eclipsing the previous record fee of £80 million (€94 million) the club paid for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009. Bale played an integral role in his first season at Real Madrid, helping the club to win the 2013-14 Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League, scoring in both finals. The following season, he won the UEFA Super Cup and scored in a third major final to help the club win the FIFA Club World Cup. Two years later, he was a key player in another Champions League run, winning the 2015-16 title and being elected to the UEFA Squad of the Season. In 2016, ESPN ranked Bale 12th on its list of the world’s most famous athletes. Bale made his senior international debut for Wales in May 2006, becoming the youngest player at that point to represent the nation. He has since earned over 70 caps and scored 30 international goals, making him Wales’ highest scorer of all time. He was the top goal-scorer for Wales in their successful qualifying campaign for UEFA Euro 2016, scoring seven goals; he subsequently represented his nation in the finals tournament as they reached the semi-finals, scoring three goals. He has been named Welsh Footballer of the Year a record six times.
John Charles, CBE (born Swansea, December 27, 1931; died February 21, 2004), affectionately referred to by fans as the ‘Gentle Giant’, was a Welsh international footballer who played for Leeds United and Juventus during his 25-year playing career. Rated by many as the greatest all-round footballer ever to come from Britain, he was equally adept as a forward or defender due to his strength, pace, technique, vision, ability in the air and eye for goal. He has since been included in the Football League 100 Legends and was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame. He was never cautioned nor sent off during his entire career, due to his philosophy of never kicking nor intentionally hurting opposing players.
JPR Williams, MBE FRCS (born Bridgend, March 2, 1949) is a former rugby union international who represented Wales during their Golden Era in the 1970s. Playing in the position of fullback, he was noted for his aggressive attacking style. With his long sideburns and socks around his ankles, ‘JPR’ was an iconic figure on the legendary 1970s Wales team. However, despite playing fullback throughout his international career, his favourite position was flanker, where he played for Tondu RFC at the end of his career. He won three Grand Slams. An orthopaedic surgeon by profession, Williams continued to be involved in rugby after retirement, latterly serving as president of the Bridgend Ravens.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, DBE, DL (born Cardiff, July 26, 1969), is a British politician, television presenter and former wheelchair racer, winner of 11 gold, four silver and one bronze Paralympic medals. Grey-Thompson was born with spina bifida and is one of the most successful disabled athletes in the UK, having also won 13 World Championship medals (six gold, five silver and two bronze). Over her career she held over 30 world records and won the London Marathon wheelchair race six times between 1992 and 2002.
Jimmy Wilde, (born Merthyr Tydfil, May 15, 1892; died March 10, 1969) was a Welsh professional boxer and world boxing champion. Often regarded as the greatest British fighter of all time, he was the first official world flyweight champion and was rated by American boxing writer Nat Fleischer, as well as many other professionals and fans including former boxer, trainer, manager and promoter, Charley ‘Broadway’ Rose, as “the greatest flyweight boxer ever”. Wilde earned various nicknames such as, ‘The Mighty Atom’, ‘Ghost with the Hammer in His Hand’ and ‘The Tylorstown Terror’ due to his bludgeoning punching power. While reigning as the world’s greatest flyweight, Wilde would take on bantamweights and even featherweights, and knock them out. As well as his professional career, Wilde participated in 151 bouts judged as ‘newspaper decisions’, of these he boxed 70 rounds, won 7 and lost 1, with 143 being declared as ‘no decisions’. Wilde has the longest recorded unbeaten streak in boxing history, having gone 104-0.
Ian Rush, MBE (born Flint, October 20, 1961) is a former professional footballer who played for Liverpool from 1980-1987 and 1988-1996 and is the club’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 346 goals in all competitions. At international level, Rush made 73 appearances for the Wales national team and remained the record goal-scorer for his country until 2018, with 28 goals between 1980 and 1996.
Colin Jackson, CBE (born Cardiff, February 18, 1967) is a former sprint and hurdling athlete who specialised in the 110 metres hurdles. During a career in which he represented Great Britain and Wales, he won an Olympic silver medal, became world champion twice, world indoor champion once, went undefeated at the European Championships for 12 years and was a two-time Commonwealth champion. His world record of 12.91 seconds for the 110m hurdles stood for over a decade and he remains the 60 metres hurdles world record holder.
Ryan Giggs, OBE (born Cardiff, November 29, 1973) is a football coach and former player. He is the manager of the Wales national team and a co-owner of Salford City. He played his entire professional career for Manchester United. The son of rugby union and Wales international rugby league footballer Danny Wilson, Giggs was born in Cardiff but moved to Manchester at the age of six when his father joined Swinton RLFC. Predominantly a left winger, he made his professional debut in 1991 and spent the next 23 years in the Manchester United first team. Giggs played for the Wales national team 64 times between 1991 and 2007, and was named as captain of the Great Britain team that competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics. During his time at United, he won 13 Premier League winner’s medals, four FA Cup winner’s medals, three League Cup winner’s medals, two UEFA Champions League winner’s medals, a FIFA Club World Cup winners medal, an Intercontinental Cup winner’s medal, a UEFA Super Cup winner’s medal and nine FA Community Shield winner’s medals. He was named as BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2009. In addition to the many honours Giggs has received within football, he was appointed an OBE in the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours List for his services to football.
Geraint Thomas, MBE (born Cardiff, May 25, 1986) is a professional racing cyclist, who rides for the UCI WorldTeam Team Sky, Wales and Great Britain. Competing on both track and road, he has won three World Championships, two Olympic gold medals and the 2018 Tour de France. Thomas’s early successes were in track cycling, in which he was a specialist in the team pursuit. He won three world championships and was Olympic gold medallist twice, in 2008 and 2012. In cycling’s grand tours, Thomas was initially a lead domestique to Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins in their victories. He won the first stage of 2017 Tour de France, an individual time trial, to become the first Welshman to wear the Tour’s yellow jersey. He later crashed in that race, as well as the 2017 Giro d’Italia, before winning the 2018 Tour de France, becoming the first Welshman, and the third British cyclist after Wiggins and Froome, to win the Tour.
Joe Calzaghe, CBE (born London, March 23, 1972) is a former professional boxer who competed from 1993 to 2008 and was undefeated WBO, WBA, WBC, IBF super-middleweight and The Ring light-heavyweight world champion. Calzaghe held the WBO title for over 10 years and made 21 successful defences (the most in super-middleweight history) before moving up to light-heavyweight. He was the first boxer to unify three of the four major world titles (WBA, WBC, and WBO) at super-middleweight. He retired in February 2009 with an undefeated record, and as a reigning world champion. BoxRec ranked Calzaghe as the best British super-middleweight of all time. Calzaghe was often referred to as the ‘Pride of Wales’ or the ‘Italian Dragon’. In 2007, Calzaghe won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, making him the first Welsh winner of this award since David Broome in 1960. Calzaghe was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014.
Steve Robinson, (born Cardiff, December 13, 1968) is a retired professional boxer and former WBO featherweight world title holder. He is best known for working as a storeman in Cardiff, then, with just two days’ notice, he accepted the fight against John Davison in 1993 for the vacant WBO featherweight title and won the contest on a points decision. Defending champion Ruben Palacios from Colombia, had been due to defend his title against Davison, but was stripped of his title by the WBO. With only two days to go before the bout, the promoters had to find another opponent to face Davison. Robinson accepted the chance to fight for the WBO crown and won the bout by a points decision against all the odds. He proved a worthy champion with seven successful defences of his title.
Billy Boston, MBE (born Cardiff, August 6, 1934) is a former professional rugby league international who played as a winger or centre. Boston started his career in rugby union before joining Wigan in 1953, where he spent the next 15 years and scored a club-record 478 tries in his 488 appearances. He also represented Great Britain in 31 Test matches, and was part of the team that won the 1960 Rugby League World Cup.
Non Evans, MBE (born Swansea, June 20, 1974) is a multi-discipline sportswoman who has competed internationally in four different sports – rugby union, judo, weightlifting and freestyle wrestling. Evans made her rugby debut for Wales against Scotland in 1996 and went on to play 87 times for her country, becoming the world all-time leading points-scorer, boosted by a record 64 international tries. She won silver at both the 1992 and 1996 Commonwealth Judo Championships and competed for Wales at the 2002 Commonwealth Games where she finished ninth in the under-63kg weightlifting class to became the first woman to compete in two sports at the same Games. In 2010, she placed second in the under-59kg class at the British Wrestling Championships and earned selection for the Welsh team for 2010 Commonwealth Games, where she became the first woman to compete in three sports at the Commonwealth Games. In 2012, Evans was a BBC commentator at the London Olympic weightlifting and wrestling events. She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to sport, the first ever female rugby player to receive the award.
Alun Wyn Jones, (born Swansea, September 19, 1985) is captain of the Wales national rugby union team and the Ospreys in the Pro14. He is Wales’s most capped lock forward and second most capped player behind Gethin Jenkins. He has also won nine caps for the British & Irish Lions. Jones played his first rugby for Bonymaen RFC. Having previously represented Wales at under-21 level, he made his Test debut for Wales in June 2006 against Argentina. Originally playing as a blindside flanker, he became a lock/second row. It was as a lock that he featured, and excelled, in Wales’ 2007 Six Nations campaign. He was a member of the Wales side that completed the Grand Slam in the 2008 Six Nations. In March 2009 Jones captained Wales against Italy in the Six Nations, becoming the 126th player to be captain of the country. In 2009, Jones was one of 13 Welsh players selected in the squad for the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa. He scored a try on his debut for the Lions against the Royal XV. He started the first Test and came on as a replacement in the second and third Tests. Jones was selected for the Lions’ tour to Australia in 2013 and, due to Sam Warburton’s tour-ending injury in the second Test, was selected as captain for the deciding third Test in Sydney, which the Lions won 41-16. Jones played his 100th Test when Wales faced South Africa in the quarter-finals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but Wales were knocked out of the competition 23-19, going on to win third place. After captaining Wales in the 2017 Six Nations, Jones was selected for his third British and Irish Lions tour, starting in all three Tests of the series against the All Blacks.
Shane Williams, MBE (born Morriston, February 26, 1977) is a rugby union wing most famous for his long and successful tenure for the Ospreys and the Wales national team. Williams is the record try-scorer for Wales, and is fourth on the international list of leading rugby union Test try-scorers behind Daisuke Ohata, Bryan Habana and David Campese. He is Wales’s most capped winger. In 2008, Williams was selected as the World Rugby Player of the Year, then known as the IRB Player of the Year. Since his retirement from international rugby in 2012, Williams has worked as a presenter on S4C’s Six Nations rugby programme Y Clwb Rygbi Rhyngwladol, and as a pundit. Williams was selected to the Barbarians squad that played Wales in June 2012. It was originally planned to be his last appearance as a player, but he shortly thereafter signed a one-year contract to play in Japan with Mitsubishi Sagamihara DynaBoars. Williams was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to rugby. Williams extended his stay in Japan before finally announcing he would be returning home at the end of the 2014-15 Japanese Top League season. In November 2016, Williams was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
Sam Warburton, OBE (born Cardiff, October 5, 1988), is a former international rugby union player. Warburton played for the Cardiff Blues and was first capped for Wales in 2009. He usually played as an openside flanker but was also capable of playing at blindside. In June 2011, he was named as Wales captain versus the Barbarians and subsequently in August 2011 he was named as the Wales captain for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. In April 2013, he was named the British Lions’ captain for the 2013 tour to Australia and was selected as captain for the 2017 tour to New Zealand. Warburton holds the record for the most Wales caps as captain. In July 2018 he announced his retirement from rugby union.
Gerald Davies, CBE DL (born Llansaint, February 7, 1945) is a former rugby union wing who played for Wales between 1966 and 1978. He is one of a small group of Welsh players to have won three Grand Slams. Davies played club rugby for Cardiff RFC and London Welsh. He captained Cardiff for three seasons in the 1970s, his most famous game for Cardiff probably being a 1977-8 Welsh Cup game against Pontypool when he scored four tries to earn his side a 16–11 win. He made his international debut on December 3, 1966 against Australia in Cardiff, where Wales lost 14-11 – he was to face the Wallabies again in his final appearance for Wales in 1978, this time in Sydney. All in all, he was capped 46 times for his country. He was switched from his original position of centre to the right wing by Wales coach Clive Rowlands on their 1969 tour of Australia and New Zealand, and thereafter played in that position. Davies toured with the British Lions in 1968 and 1971. A superb attacking player, he has been called one of the best wingers rugby has ever seen. Davies is best remembered for his try – one of 20 in 46 Tests – in the 1971 Five Nations match against Scotland. The Scots were leading before Davies scored in the corner in the last minute. Back-rower John Taylor then kicked his famous conversion to steal victory. Invited to join the 1974 Lions Tour of South Africa, he turned the opportunity down on his personal uncomfortable position at the consequences and realities of apartheid. After retiring as a player, Davies became a journalist, writing on rugby matters for The Times. He became chairman of the Wales Youth Agency, and his commitment to youth work earned him a CBE in 2002. He is a Deputy Lieutenant of Gwent. In November 2007 he was announced as the manager of the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
Barry John, (born Cefneithin, January 6, 1945) is a former rugby union fly-half who played, during the amateur era of the sport, in the 1960s and early 1970s. John began his rugby career as a schoolboy playing for his local team Cefneithin RFC before switching to first-class west Wales team Llanelli RFC in 1964. It was while at Llanelli that John was first selected for the Wales national team, a shock selection as a replacement for David Watkins to face a touring Australian team. In 1967 John left Llanelli RFC for Cardiff RFC and there formed a partnership with Gareth Edwards that became one of the most famous half-back pairings in world rugby. From 1967, John and Edwards made an inseparable partnership with rugby selectors, being chosen to play together at all levels of the sport, for Cardiff, Wales, the Barbarians and in 1968 for the British Lions tour of South Africa. The 1968 Lions tour ended prematurely for John when he suffered a broken collarbone in the first Test against the South African national team. In 1971, the Wales national team entered what is considered their second ‘Golden Age’, with a team rich in experience and talent. John was part of the team that won the 1971 Five Nations Championship, the first time Wales had achieved a Grand Slam win since 1952. He then cemented his reputation as one of the sport’s greatest players with his pivotal role in the British Lions winning tour over New Zealand in 1971. On the 1971 tour, John appeared in all four Tests, playing some of his finest rugby and finishing as the Lions’ top Test scorer. John won 25 caps for Wales and five for the British Lions. Possessing excellent balance to his running, along with precision kicking, made him one of the great players of the modern era. He retired from rugby at the age of 27, as Wales’s highest points-scorer.
Graham Price, MBE (born Moascar, Egypt, November 24, 1951) is a former rugby union prop forward, who was a member of the famous Pontypool RFC front row known as the ‘Viet Gwent’. He won 41 caps for Wales and a record 12 for the British and Irish Lions. Born in Egypt, Price was brought up in Pontypool and started playing for the local team after leaving school. Alongside Bobby Windsor and Charlie Faulkner, the tight-head prop became part of the legendary front row immortalised in song by Max Boyce. He made his debut for Wales in the 1975 Five Nations Championship against France at the Parc des Princes in Paris. When the ball was hacked forward to within 10 feet of the French line following a Welsh counter-attack, Price showed a remarkable turn of speed to catch the ball as it bounced and ran it in for a celebrated try. Wales won by 25-10, their biggest victory over the French since 1909, and the try was subsequently voted the fourth best try ever by a Welsh player. Grand Slams followed for the Wales team in 1976 and 1978. Price played as a prop in a record 12 successive Tests for the British and Irish Lions, touring New Zealand in 1977. He returned from injury for the South Africa tour in 1980 and made his final international appearances in the New Zealand Lions tour of 1983 at the age of 31. His record of 12 appearances for a prop for the British and Irish Lions is not expected to be broken.
Mervyn Davies, OBE (born Swansea, December 9, 1946; died March 15, 2012), often known as ‘Merv the Swerve’, was a rugby union No 8 who won 38 caps for Wales. Davies joined London Welsh in 1968, later moving to Swansea. He won his first cap for Wales in 1969 against Scotland, going on to play 38 consecutive matches for Wales and scoring two tries. During this period Wales won two Grand Slams and three Triple Crowns. He went on the British and Irish Lions tours to New Zealand in 1971 and to South Africa in 1974, playing in eight Tests. In a total of 46 international appearances for Wales and the Lions he only ended on the losing side nine times. Tall and slight of frame, he grew a Mexican moustache to make himself appear more aggressive on the rugby field. His career was ended by a subarachnoid hemorrhage suffered when captaining Swansea against Pontypool in 1976. He was a patient in the University Hospital of Wales for several months, and received goodwill messages from all over the world. In a poll of Welsh rugby fans in 2002, Davies was voted both Greatest Ever Welsh Captain and Greatest Ever Welsh No 8. In 2001, he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.
Tony Lewis, CBE (born Swansea, July 6, 1938) is a former England cricket captain and later a renowned journalist who went on to become the face of BBC Television cricket coverage in the 1990s, and president of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). He made his first-class cricket debut in 1955 at the age of 17, playing for Glamorgan against Leicestershire in the County Championship while still at Neath Grammar School. He was also chosen as a first violinist by the National Youth Orchestra of Wales in the same year. He captained Cambridge in his final season there in 1962, when in all matches he made 2188 runs at 40.51, with five centuries. He captained Glamorgan from 1967 to 1972, taking the county to its second championship in 1969, when Glamorgan went through the season undefeated. He was the last man to captain England on his Test debut. He led England on a gruelling five-month tour in 1972/73 to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Despite having no Test match experience, Lewis scored 70 not out in his debut Test in Delhi, which guided England to their first victory on the Indian subcontinent for more than two decades. England lost the next two Tests, but Lewis went on to score his maiden Test hundred (125) in Kanpur. He went on to captain England a total of eight times, achieving England’s first Test victory in India since 1951, losing twice and drawing five times. Lewis was asked by the selectors to make himself available to lead the 1973–74 tour of West Indies but declined in order to take up opportunities in writing and broadcasting. Lewis, however, remains the only Glamorgan player to captain England and the only one to lead England on a major Test tour. Lewis also played rugby union for Neath and Gloucester before winning a Blue for Cambridge in The Varsity Match in 1959. In 1975 he was appointed Cricket and Rugby correspondent of The Sunday Telegraph. He was a founding member of the Sports Council for Wales in 1968 and put in long service to Glamorgan County Cricket Club as chairman, followed later as president and trustee. His broadcasting extended from Test Match Special to the anchorman of all of BBC television’s coverage of cricket from 1986 to 1999. After long service to cricket at Lord’s – committee work from 1967 to 2011 – he created, and chaired for five years, the MCC World Cricket Committee, from 2006 to 2011. Lewis turned his high profile in cricket and broadcasting to the benefit of his home country, making an important contribution to Welsh golf ambitions by leading the successful Wales Ryder Cup Bid (2010). His sporting contribution continued as captain of Royal Porthcawl Golf Club 2012. Lewis served eight years as chairman of the Wales Tourist Board and was chairman of the Welsh National Opera Company. He was also a founding Trustee of the Wales Millennium Centre. He led the research into the Television Review System (DRS); with his predecessor he secured a two-thirds majority of 18,000 MCC members to win Women’s admittance into full MCC membership. Lewis led the research and development of the use of the pink cricket ball cricket ball for day-night Test cricket in order to arrest declines in attendances. He was awarded the CBE for services to cricket, broadcasting and Wales, in the 2004 New Year Honours.
Wilfred Wooller, (born Rhos-on-Sea, November 20, 1912; died March 10, 1997) was a cricketer, rugby union player, cricket administrator and journalist. He was acclaimed as one of the greatest all-round sportsmen that Wales has ever produced. He captained Glamorgan CCC for 14 years, was secretary for 30 and president for six. Wooller won 18 international rugby union caps for Wales and represented Cardiff RFC at club level. In 1935, he was inspirational in the Welsh victory over the All Blacks. He was a Cambridge Blue in 1935 and 1936. Wooller was appointed captain-secretary of Glamorgan in 1947 and led them to an unexpected County Championship triumph in 1948. He served as a Test selector from 1955 to 1961. Wooller played for Cardiff City FC, once scoring a hat-trick at centre-forward. Wooller also represented Wales at squash racquets and the Cardiff Athletic Club at bowls.
Elinor Barker, MBE (born Cardiff, September 7, 1994) is a racing cyclist, who currently rides on the track for Welsh Cycling and Great Britain, and on the road for Wiggle High5. Barker is an Olympic, two-time world and four-time European champion in the team pursuit, as well as a world champion in the points race. Barker was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to cycling.
Nicole Cooke, MBE (born Swansea, April 13, 1983) is a former professional road bicycle racer and Commonwealth, Olympic and World road race champion., After setting her heart on winning the Olympics at the age of 11, Nicole won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and followed this up with gold at the world championship road race six weeks later, becoming the first rider in history to win Olympic and World Championship road race in the same year. Other highlights in a career that spanned 13 years include riding in the yellow jersey over the mythical mountains of the Tour de France en route to two Tour victories, gold at the Commonwealth Games road race and conquering the Spring Classics with victories in the Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallone and Tour of Flanders, and winning the World Cup Series.
Richard Meade, OBE (born Chepstow, December 4, 1938; died January 8, 2015) was Britain’s most successful male equestrian Olympian. He was a triple Olympic gold medallist and the first British rider to win an individual Olympic title. He also won five World Championship medals, including team golds in 1970 and 1982.
John Toshack, MBE (born Cardiff, March 22, 1949) is a former professional footballer. He began his playing career as a teenager with his home-town club Cardiff City, becoming the youngest player to make an appearance for the side when he made his debut in 1965. After establishing himself in the first-team, he went on to make over 200 appearances and scored 100 goals in all competitions after forming a striking partnership with Brian Clark. In 1970, he joined First Division side Liverpool, where he formed a noted forward partnership with Kevin Keegan and Steve Heighway that helped the club to win two league titles, the UEFA Cup on two occasions, the FA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup. He joined Swansea City as player-manager in March 1978 and led the club to three promotions in four seasons, elevating them from the Fourth Division to the First Division in a feat that led former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly to describe him as the “manager of the century”. During his career, he scored over 150 goals in the Football League in more than 350 appearances and also represented Wales at international level, winning 40 caps and scoring 13 goals. He later embarked on a managerial career abroad, taking charge of Spanish side Real Sociedad, winning the Copa del Rey in 1987. Two years later, he was appointed manager of Real Madrid and led them to a fifth consecutive La Liga title with a record total of points and goals scored. In 1994, he was appointed part-time manager of Wales alongside his job at Sociedad but resigned from the role after just 47 days having been in charge for one match. In 2004, he was appointed as manager of Wales for a second time and remained with the side for six years, presiding over three ultimately unsuccessful qualifying campaigns.
Ian Woosnam, OBE (born Oswestry, March 2, 1958) is a professional golfer, Ryder Cup player and former US Masters champion. ‘Woosie’ was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2017. He turned professional in 1976 and first played the European Tour in 1979. Woosnam spent his early years on Tour driving around the continent in a camper van, living on a diet of baked beans to save money. After three modest seasons, his career took off in 1982 when he won the Swiss Open and came eighth on the Order of Merit (prize money list). By 1987 he was top of the money list with global tournament earnings of £1,062,662. Woosnam reached the top of the Official World Golf Ranking in 1991, eventually spending a total of 50 weeks as World Number 1. In the same year, he won the Masters; the first person representing Wales to ever win a Major championship. In 2001, at the age of 43, Woosnam became the oldest player to win the World Match Play Championship when he beat Pádraig Harrington 2 & 1 in the final. Woosnam was a member of eight consecutive European Ryder Cup teams from 1983 to 1997, accumulating an overall record of 14 wins, 12 losses and five halves in 31 matches. He was a vice captain for the 2002 European team and was elected as captain for the 2006 Ryder Cup, leading Europe to victory over the U.S. 18½-9½ at the K Club, County Kildare, Ireland. Woosnam won three BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year awards.
Lynn Davies CBE (born Nantymoel, May 20, 1942) is a former track and field athlete from the Cardiff Amateur Athletic Club, who specialised in the long jump. He was the 1964 Olympic champion in the event, earning himself the nickname ‘Lynn the Leap’) with a jump of 8.07 metres. He finished ninth in 1968, having been flag bearer at the opening ceremony. In 1964 he also competed in the 100 metres and 4×100 metres. He was 18th in the long jump at the 1972 Olympics. Outside the Olympics, he was the 1966 European champion in the long jump and was the silver medallist three years later. He was also twice the Commonwealth Games champion, having won titles in 1966 and 1970 (becoming the first man to win that title two times). Davies was twice a winner of the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year award, taking the honour in 1964 and 1966. After retiring from competitions in 1973 he became technical director of Canadian athletics until 1976 and later prepared the British team to the Moscow Olympics. During the 1990s, he was a member of BBC Cymru/Wales’ sports department. Davies was created a CBE in 2006, having previously received an MBE in 1967. He was elected to serve as President of the UK Athletics Members Council.
Ray Reardon, MBE (born Tredegar, October 8, 1932) is a retired snooker player who dominated the sport in the 1970s, winning six World Championships, and is remembered as one of the best players of the 20th Century. Despite being a genial figure, his dark widow’s peak and sharp-toothed grin earned him the nickname ‘Dracula’. Reardon holds the record of being the oldest world champion in snooker history, winning his sixth and final world title in 1978, aged 45 years and 203 days. This passed the previous record of Joe Davis who won his last title in 1946 aged 45 years and 33 days.
Paul Radmilovic, (born Cardiff, March 5, 1886; died September 29, 1968) was a Welsh water polo player and competitive swimmer of Croatian and Irish origin who represented Great Britain at four Summer Olympics, winning four titles in a 22-year Olympic career. He won four gold medals across three successive Olympic Games, a record which stood for a Great Britain Olympic athlete until broken by Sir Steve Redgrave when he won his fifth gold medal at Sydney in 2000. In 1928, Radmilovic became the first person to compete for Britain at five Olympic Games, a record that would remain until surpassed by fencer Bill Hoskyns in 1976.
Mark Hughes, OBE (born Wrexham, November 1, 1963)is a football manager and former player, who took over as manager of Premier League club Southampton in 2018. During his playing career he was most noted for two spells at Manchester United, but he also played for Barcelona and Bayern Munich, as well as the English clubs Chelsea, Southampton, Everton and finally Blackburn Rovers. He also made 72 appearances for Wales scoring 16 goals. He retired from playing in 2002.
Welsh Sports Hall of Fame Roll of Honour
1990: Billy Boston (Rugby League), David Broome (Equestrian), Lynn Davies (Athletics), Jim Driscoll (Boxing), Ken Jones (Rugby Union), Sir Harry Llewellyn (Equestrian), Billy Meredith (Association Football), Sheila Morrow (Hockey), Jack Petersen (Boxing), Kirsty Wade (Athletics)
1991: Jack Anthony (Horse Racing), Cliff Jones (Rugby Union), Cliff Morgan (Rugby Union), Dai Rees (Golf)
1992: Gerald Davies (Rugby Union), Tanni Grey-Thompson (Para Athletics), George Latham (Association Football), Ray Reardon (Snooker), Irene Steer (Swimming), Jim Sullivan (Rugby League), Eddie Thomas (Boxing), Jimmy Wilde (Boxing)
1993: John Charles (Association Football), Paulo Radmilovic (Water Polo)
1994: Valerie Davies (Swimming), Maurice Turnbull (Cricket), Freddie Welsh (Boxing), J.P.R. Williams (Rugby Union)
1995: Jim Alford (Athletics), Ivor Allchurch (Association Football), Hugh Edwards (Rowing), Fulke Walwyn (Equestrian)
1996: Janet Ackland (Bowls), Richard Meade (Equestrian), Howard Winstone (Boxing)
1997: Tommy Farr (Boxing), Trevor Ford (Association Football), Chris Hallam (Para Athletics), Fred Keenor (Association Football), Bleddyn Williams (Rugby Union)
1998: Johnnie Clay (Cricket), John Disley (Athletics), Gareth Edwards (Rugby Union), Cliff Jones (Association Football), Lewis Jones (Rugby Union/League), Geoff Lewis (Horse Racing), Jimmy Michael (Cycling), Jimmy Murphy (Association Football), Vicki Thomas (Golf), Freddie Williams (Speedway)
1999: Horace Blew (Association Football), Ann Ellis (Hockey), Carwyn James (Rugby Union), Barry John (Rugby Union)
Colin Jones (Boxing)
2000: Sir Charles Evans (Mountaineering), Teresa John (Para Athletics), Jonathan Jones (Powerboating), Gus Risman (Rugby League), Dick Rees (Equestrian), David Watkins (Rugby Union/League)
2001: Ronnie Burgess (Association Football), Mervyn Davies (Rugby Union), Nancy Evans (Table Tennis), Roy Evans (Table Tennis), Ian Rush (Association Football), David Winters (Para Athletics), Martyn Woodroffe (Swimming)
2002: Audrey Bates (Squash/Lacrosse), Mal Evans (Bowls), Steve Jones (Athletics), Gwyn Nicholls (Rugby Union), Berwyn Price (Athletics), Dave Thomas (Golf)
2003: Jonathan Davies (Rugby Union/League), Willie Davies (Rugby League/Union), John Dawes (Rugby Union), Mark Hughes (Association Football), Nick Whitehead (Athletics)
2004: Trevor Foster (Rugby League), Terry Griffiths (Snooker), Bryn Jones (Association Football), Tony Lewis (Cricket), Ivor Powell (Association Football), Arthur Whitford (Gymnastics)
2005: John Gwilliam (Rugby Union), Colin Jackson (Athletics), Tom Richards (Athletics), Steve Robinson (Boxing), John Toshack (Association Football)
2006: Brian Huggett (Golf), Don Shepherd (Cricket), Jack Matthews (Rugby Union), Alf Sherwood (Association Football), Allan Watkins (Cricket)
2007: Arthur Gould (Rugby Union), Helen Weston (Netball), Phil Bennett (Rugby Union), Joe Calzaghe (Boxing)
2008: Billy Trew (Rugby Union)
2009: J.J. Williams (Rugby Union), David Roberts (Para Swimming), Clive Sullivan (Rugby League)
2010: Ian Woosnam (Golf), Alan Petherbridge (Judo), Jack Kelsey (Association Football)
2011 (no new entries)
2012: Bryn Meredith (Rugby Union), Non Evans (Judo/Rugby Union/Wrestling/Weightlifting), Albert Gladstone (Rowing), Cecil Griffiths (Athletics), David Jacobs (Athletics), John Ainsworth-Davis (Athletics)
2013: Nicole Cooke (Cycling), John Harris (Para Athletics), Ron Jones (Athletics), David Morgan (Weightlifting), Clive Rowlands (Rugby Union)
2014: David Davies (Swimming), Bob Morgan (Diving), Denis Reardon (Boxing), John Burns (Weightlifting), Clive Thomas (Association Football), Reg Thomas (Athletics)
2015: Jeff Jones (Cricket), Simon Jones (Cricket), Wilf Wooller (Cricket/Rugby Union), Steve Barry (Athletics), Frankie Jones (Gymnastics)
2016: Tom James (Rowing), Alan Jones (Cricket), Neville Southall (Association Football), Gary Speed (Association Football)
2017: Christian Malcolm (Athletics), Graham Price (Rugby Union), Peter Walker (Cricket), Terry Yorath (Association Football)
2018: Roy Francis (Rugby League), Becky James (Cycling), Lynne Thomas (Cricket/Hockey), Kelly Morgan (Badminton), Jayne Ludlow (Association Football)
* Top Welsh sportswomen: WalesOnline gallery