September 1985 saw the end of the glittering career of the 1978 Commonwealth Games champion Berwyn Price as he retired from the sport which he had graced with pride and dignity for nearly two decades.
The 6’3” tall Price dominated British hurdling for more than a decade, and finally at the age of thirty-four he made up his mind to quit after the disappointment of his club Swansea Harriers’ failure to get back into the British league.
During his career the Pontllanfraith raised, Tredegar born star had done so much to stimulate interest in athletics in Wales through his own career and his efforts as Head of Sport and Recreation for the local council in Swansea.
An international match at Karlstad in Sweden on July 3rd 1982 saw him gain his 50th and last British international vest. At the time it was a record number of vests for a Welsh athlete, nine ahead off Lynn Davies. Colin Jackson is currently the only athlete with more to his credit. He also equalled the number of vests held by another great British hurdler, Alan Pascoe. Berwyn’s total included 11 indoor and 39 outdoor internationals. He took part in both the 1972 (Munich) and 1976 (Montreal) Olympic Games, reaching the semi-finals of his speciality on both occasions.
His first major title was the European junior crown in Paris in 1970. He followed this with a win in the 1973 world Student Games in Moscow in a new British and Commonwealth record of 13.69 beating David Hemery’s mark of 13.72 set in 1970. He then went on to win the first of his two Commonwealth medals, a silver in Christchurch in 1974 with a time of 13.84. During the Games he made his one and only serious attempt at the longer distance of 400 hurdles: “To make up the numbers and to show the Welsh flag”. He clocked 52.8 in both heat and semi-final.
Of course, he went one better in the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games when he became only the fourth Welshman to take a Commonwealth gold, following in the footsteps of Reg Thomas, Jim Alford and Lynn Davies. He also took silver in the 1976 European Indoor Championships in Munich, when he set a new British record of 7.80 for 60m hurdles.
Berwyn felt more at home in the Commonwealth Games than the Olympics and has the equal highest number of appearances in the Games by a Welsh athlete – four, matched only by Ron and Steve Jones.
In 1973 he won the first of his six consecutive AAA titles. He was the first ever UK champion in 1977 on home soil in Cwmbran Stadium. Having won the Welsh junior title in 1969, he went on to add six Welsh senior titles to his long list of achievements. As well as winning those six AAA titles, he finished second on three occasions in 1970, 1971 and 1972 – a truly amazing record of consistency.
His last three seasons of competitive athletics were restricted to the Welsh League and with his recurring back trouble causing all sorts of problems he felt satisfied with a distinguished career, during which he had been a fine ambassador for his sport and country.
He won all his medals as a member of Cardiff AAC after attending that famous sporting school, Lewis School, Pengam, before briefly joining his local club, Bargoed AC. At Lewis School his mentor was PE teacher John Davis, who said in typical teacher style at the time: “right – you’re going to be a hurdler!” Davis helped with the early coaching before he arrived at Cardiff AAC where John Lister, himself a former Welsh 120y hurdles champion gave advice. Gwyn Evans at Aberystwyth University also helped a great deal on technique. His first love though was rugby, because, as he put it at the time “being a Welsh lad from the Valleys, rugby has to be your first consideration”. Fortunately, athletics prevailed and he became one of the all-time greats of Welsh athletics.
Berwyn was inducted into the Welsh Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.
Mike Walters and Clive Williams