On This Day

  • February 12 down the years

Alford strikes gold for Wales

Jim Alford made history for his nation © Getty Images
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1938
A packed last day in track and field at the Empire (later Commonwealth) Games.

Jim Alford won the one mile to become the first Commonwealth Games gold medallist from Wales in any sport. He led at the bell, was caught by Australia's Gerald Backhouse, but saved enough for 'an astonishing burst of speed down the straight' and won by four yards.

Australia's Decima Norman won the 220 yards, her fifth gold medal of the championship. She also won the 100 yards, long jump and both medley relays. No other athlete has won five golds at one Commonwealth Games. She won another one today in the longer relay. One of her team-mates, 16-year-old Joan Woodland was the youngest female athlete to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal.

Bill Roberts won an individual gold at last. He helped Britain win the relay at the 1936 Olympics, but at the 1934 Commonwealth Games he finished fourth in the individual 400 and second in the 440 yards. Today he led by two yards coming into the home straight, only to be caught by Bill Fritz, who'd finished fifth in that Olympic Final. But Roberts fought back to catch the Canadian right on the line.

England's 18-year-old Olympic silver medallist Dorothy Odam won the high jump with a mere 1.60 metres (5 feet 3 inches). She jumped the same height at the Games of 1950 and 1954, enough for gold then silver.

Tom Lavery of South Africa won the 120 yards hurdles in a Commonwealth best 14.0 seconds, but it was ruled wind-assisted on the evidence of a fluttering flag. No-one ran a faster time at the Games until 1970.

Australia's former world record holder Jack Metcalfe won the triple jump again, but couldn't break the Commonwealth best he'd set at the 1934 Games. It lasted as a Games record until 1958. Metcalfe also won bronze in the javelin in 1938.

1944
Bill Smith of the USA set a world record in the 200 metres freestyle. He won two gold medals at the Olympic Games four years later. A full recovery from the typhoid which struck when he was six. He took up swimming for rehab.

2006
Annexing part of the Austrian Alps after the First World War did wonders for Italy at the Winter Olympics. Quite a number of their gold medallists have had Germanic names. In the luge alone: Hildgartner, Lechner, Weissensteiner, Brugger, Huber. Today in Turin, Armin Zöggeler concluded his domination of the event by winning his second successive Olympic gold. He also won silver in 1998 and bronze in 1994 and was world champion five times. Wunderbar. After medals in five Winter Olympics, Georg Hackl finished seventh today.

1937
Charlie Dumas was born in Oklahoma. He hit the heights at 19, when he became the first athlete to jump seven feet. At the 1956 Olympics later that year, he won with 2.12 metres, a height half an inch lower. He was Pan-American Games champion in 1959 but a knee injury reduced him to sixth at the next Olympics. It's anyone's guess what he might have cleared if he'd ever bothered to train as opposed to just doing a few stretching exercises in the morning. There again, anything's a bonus when you've been paralysed by polio at the age of eight and spent eighteen months getting your legs to work again.

1966
France had been playing Five Nations rugby since 1910. Today the British countries allowed a French referee to take charge of a match in the championship for the first time. Very good of them. Bernard Marie had already reffed Wales's match in Paris the previous year, replacing an injured Irishman after half an hour. Now he was appointed from the start. He couldn't whistle up a good game, though. England and Ireland created hardly a chance between them and drew 6-6 at Twickenham.

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