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Was rugby and track star Jones Wales greatest ever all-rounder? NEW BOOK COVERS THE UNIQUE CAREER OF SPORTING LEGEND.


IT'S HARD to imagine a sportsman today who could compete with the best in the world at more than one sport.

Someone with the try-scoring prowess of Shane Williams in international rugby and the sprinting ability of Christian Malcolm in athletics, all rolled into one man.

Never mind what he would be worth to sponsors or what the media interest would be, the sheer difficulty of trying to reach the top of two very different disciplines would seem almost impossible.

But in the '40s and '50s that's exactly what Welsh legend Ken Jones did.

Jones was not only a Welsh international and British Lion who scored tries that will live as long in the memory as any Williams has scored, but also a man who triumphed on the track at both the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics.

A new book chronicling the extraordinary life of Jones asks whether he can rightly be regarded as Wales' greatest ever all-round sportsman.

"When considering who may lay claim to being Wales' finest all-round sportsman the name Ken Jones must be on every shortlist and after much discussion it would be difficult to come to any conclusion other than the man from Blaenavon should top the list," writes author Steve Lewis.

Born in town of Blaenavon on December 30, 1921, to John and Ella Jones, he was brought up at a time when the mining industry was in crisis and life was tough.

But like everyone growing up at that time Jones knew no different and was keen to make the most of his time at the Church Boys Endowed Junior School.

It was there he learned to run and play rugby, and it wasn't long before he caught the attention of Bob Barwell, a well-known trainer of the local rugby team who also had a good eye for spotting the next athletics star.

He would help Jones blossom from "a schoolboy prodigy to a serious contender" and by 1940 he was getting ready to enter the most successful period of his life.

On the rugby pitch that success came with Blaenavon, Pontypool and especially Newport, where he would spend the majority of his career.

It brought international recognition with the first of his 44 caps coming on January 18, 1947, against England, at the age of 25.

Jones would play the next 43 consecutive Wales games and while length-of-the field tries against England and Ireland in 1952 will long be remembered, his most famous score in a red jersey came in 1953.

The opponents were the long-feared All Blacks and it was Jones' pick up and try from a Clem Thomas kick that gave Wales a famous victory - and is still the last time we beat New Zealand.

"Ken was not only murderously fast and fearless in the tackle but possessed a razor-sharp sense of anticipation," remembers Bleddyn Williams, the former Wales rugby great. "When you watched him play you felt the tingling of the spine - the prickling of the scalp. He was world class."

At the track the pinnacle of his career came at the 1948 Olympics when he would be part of the Great Britain 4x100 metres relay team that would win silver.

It came in controversial circumstances, with gold medallists America being disqualified before later reinstated Olympic champions following an appeal. However it came, the silver medal was regarded by Jones as his peak of his glittering career in rugby and athletics.

Jones would later go on to win a bronze medal in the 220-yard sprint at the 1954 Commonwealth Games and a silver medal at the European Championships in the same year, when he had the honour of captaining the British team.

Wales legend Cliff Morgan said of Jones: "He shone like a glittering star and his passion for rugby never faltered. Ken was, indeed, the complete athlete but I also admired his true sense of values.

"I am proud to call Ken Jones my friend and he will live in my heart for ever."

* Ken Jones, Boots and Spikes, by Steve Lewis is published by SportsBooks and priced pounds 18.99


* Ken Jones, left, races Gareth Morgan of Bangor in 1951 * Welsh rugby legend Ken Jones in action for his country. He scored against the All Blacks
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 27, 2011
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