30 years ago, Merthyr Tydfil born Venissa Head was Britain’s undisputed number one in both shot and discus, and to this day at the end of the 2013 track and field season, her best discus (64.68m) and shot (19.06m) performances are the second best achieved by any British athlete behind Meg Ritchie and Judy Oakes.
She has won more Welsh titles than anyone else, taking a remarkable 25 shot and discus titles between 1974 and 1988, a record that is unlikely to be surpassed in the foreseeable future. Her Welsh records for the shot and discus have stood for almost a quarter of a century – a phenomenal achievement. Venissa’s 15 shot titles between 1974 and 1988 is also the most number of wins in an individual event. Her 25 Welsh title wins surpassed the previous record of D.J.P Richards who took 23 Welsh track, cross-country and walking titles spanning a quarter of a century some 75 years ago.
Her Welsh shot record of 19.06m set indoors at RAF ST. Athan on 7th April 1984 has stood for a remarkable 29 years and the nearest anyone has got to it since is Philippa Roles with 15.95m in 1999. Venissa’s best outdoors is the equally remarkable 18.83m set a couple of weeks later in Haverfordwest. Incredibly, altogether she set 23 Welsh shot records, and 16 for the discus. No Welsh athlete in any event ever, has achieved this feat. She is a truly amazing athlete!
She won the Welsh Women’s’ shot title for the first time in 1974 whilst a 17 year old schoolgirl at Cyfarthfa Castle Grammar School in Merthyr with a very modest 12.38m and it was to be another fifteen years before anyone else was to hold the title. Her twin sister Vivienne took the discus title for three successive years between 1976 and 1978, but then Venissa took over to win 10 successive titles.
Venissa took part in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles but achieved her finest performance when she took the Commonwealth Games discus silver medal in Edinburgh in 1986. She led until the fourth round of throws and eventually had to settle for second spot, with 56.20m, just 22cms behind winner Gael Martin of Australia. She was also a finalist in the shot (6th with 15.52m) and 8th in the discus with 45.72m in the 1974 Christchurch Games; and 6th in the discus with 50.64m at the following Edmonton Commonwealth Games in 1978.
She is one of the all-time greats of Welsh athletics.
Venissa was a very popular and well merited addition to the Welsh Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010.
Clive Williams/Jan 2014
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