Ruth Swinhoe (previously Martin-Jones and Howell)
Ruth was Britain’s number one long jumper in the 1970s and was the first Welsh female track & field athlete to win a medal at a major games when she won the long jump bronze at the Christchurch Commonwealth Games in 1974. Her jump of 6.38m was the same as the silver medallist, Brenda Eisler of Canada but the Canadian had a better second jump – 6.34 to Ruth’s 6.31, so it could quite easily have been silver.
Her versatility was clearly displayed by the fact that she held Welsh records at four different events – long jump, high jump, 100m hurdles and pentathlon/heptathlon. Not surprisingly she held the Welsh record for the latter for eleven years between 1967 and 1978.
An interesting statistic is that Ruth’s name is in the world record books. The first heptathlon to be held anywhere in the world was at Birmingham's Alexandra Stadium on 23-24 September 1978 and it was won by Ruth, who can therefore consider herself at least the holder of a World Best Performance for a couple of weeks until a German competition was won with a better score the following month!
She was clearly Britain’s number one long jumper in her Commonwealth bronze medal winning year of 1972 as she won for Britain in their match against East Germany and The Netherlands with 6.35m. The Criccieth-born athlete followed this up the following week with another great performance but was narrowly beaten by the great Polish Olympic champion Irena Szewinska by a mere 3cms. Unfortunately the wind was just over the limit as Ruth jumped a personal best 6.54m to top the UK rankings that year.
Altogether she broke the Welsh long jump record four times, firstly in 1970 with 6.14m and eventually with an indoor leap of 6.51 four years later which stood for 8 years until beaten by Gill Regan by just 1cm. Remarkably, Ruth’s 6.51remains to this day as the second best jump by a Welsh woman after 42 years. That 6.51 was a UK all-comer’s record and set whilst winning for Great Britain in their match against The Netherlands at Cosford in 1974.
Ruth became the first Welshwoman to compete in the Olympic Games when she was part of Britain’s team at the 1972 Munich Games. And apart from her Christchurch Commonwealth Games appearance, she took part in both the preceding (Edinburgh) and succeeding (Edmonton) Games where she reached the final of the long jump on both occasions. She was also a finalist in the pentathlon and with the Welsh women’s sprint relay team in Edinburgh and in the pentathlon in Edmonton repeating her Edinburgh 6th place finish.
Amongst Welsh women athletes, only Venissa Head has competed for Britain on more occasions than Ruth – 28 against 25.
She was inducted in the Welsh Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016.