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Valerie Davies: Swim Wales 125

Swimming, Diving

It was in the chilly waters of Roath Park Lake where Valerie Davies set out on a trailblazing swimming career.

Davies, who lived opposite the iconic Cardiff location, learned to swim with the Roath Swimming Club back when the lake was a hub for swimmers across the capital.

Earmarked as a special talent from an early age, she won her first Welsh swimming title when she was only 11 and by the time she went to the 1927 European Championships at the age of 15 she had notched 15 titles. At the Welsh championships in Porthcawl in 1927 she also won the Welsh women’s diving title and went on to compete as the youngest swimmer at the Europeans in Bologna that same year. At the 1931 European Championships in Paris she won a silver medal in the relay.

Davies holds the distinction of winning the first medal for Wales at the British Empire Games (now the Commonwealth Games) and being part of the first British team to strike gold at the European swimming championships.

Although Davies had been part of the relay team that won the European Championships in 1927 she was not chosen for the Amsterdam Olympic Games and instead had to wait until 1930 to participate in another championships. Davies was a one-woman Welsh swimming team at the first British Empire Games in Canada and won the nation’s only three medals of the Games at freestyle and backstroke.

Swimming was one of seven sports in those inaugural Games and the only one in which women were allowed to compete. Valerie struck silver in the 400 yards freestyle and 100 backstroke, and bronze in the 100 freestyle. From Hamilton she went on to swim for Team GB at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, where she won two bronze medals.

She had been part of the British 4 x 100 metres freestyle relay team that won the European Championships in 1927, but was not chosen for the Amsterdam Olympic Games a year later. In LA, she narrowly defeated team mate Phyllis Harding to win the bronze medal in the 100 backstroke and added a medal of the same colour in the freestyle relay. Her last major championship was the 1934 British Empire Games in London, where she added yet another bronze medal to her collection.

Valerie Latham (nee Davies – Swimmer) Born in Cardiff on 29 June, 1912; Died in Newport, in August, 2001.