Cardiff AAC traces its origin back to 1882 and to the Royal Oak public house (still existing) on Newport Road, Cardiff near its junction with Broadway.
Cardiff AAC traces its origin back to 1882 and to the Royal Oak public house (still existing) on Newport Road, Cardiff near its junction with Broadway. Gladstone was Queen Victoria's Prime Minister and the first Olympic Games of the modern era (1896) were still fourteen years away.
In those days, groups of young men would challenge each other to races. From such a group, Roath (Cardiff) Harriers was formed and adopted the Royal Oak pub as its headquarters. Roath Harriers was the first athletic club in Wales catering solely for Athletics and quickly became successful in competition and active in other areas. Roath Harriers officials organised the first ever Welsh Cross Country Championships on 7th March 1894 with club runners winning both the individual (Hugh Fairlamb) and team championships. The Fairlamb family seems to have been quite a force as, in l896, Hugh's father was the driving force behind the creation of the Welsh Cross Country Association and its first President, a position he held for the next 16 years.
For the first forty or so years, Roath Harriers was a cross country club. This was understandable as there were virtually no facilities for track and field competition in Cardiff. Maindy Stadium was opened in 1951 and this coincided with the formation of Birchgrove Harriers, a club that quickly attracted good athletes and achieved sufficient success to rival Roath Harriers. Both clubs adopted Maindy Stadium (at that time the mecca of Welsh athletics) as their headquarters and co-existed in friendly rivalry. In 1968 the two clubs amalgamated to form Cardiff Amateur Athletic Club.
Roath Harriers and, since 1968, Cardiff AAC have continued to make major contributions to Welsh and, indeed international, athletics ever since. Succeeding generations of officials have played leading roles in the administration and development of Welsh and British Athletics. Ted Hopkins was a Great Britain team manager during the fifties and sixties (including being team manager at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome) and Bill Evans was Chairman of both the British Amateur Athletic Board and the Amateur Athletic Association in the ninteen eighties and nineties. Bill Evans played a leading role in the reform of the governing bodies of British athletics and was the first Chairman of the British Athletic Federation. John Lister was a member of the Council of the European Athletic Association for 12 years from 1995 to 2007 and Lynn Davies is President of U K Athletics.
The creation of Cardiff AAC in 1968 led to a period of huge success with Cardiff dominating not just Welsh but British club athletics. The British Athletic League was formed in 1969 and Cardiff was a close runner up to champions Birchfield Harriers in its first year. In the three consecutive years 1973, 1974 and 1975 Cardiff were outright British League Champions. Although it has not won the title again, Cardiff remains one of the very few British League clubs to have retained its place in the league structure without a break, has never been lower than the third division (and then only briefly) and remains to this day one of the top dozen or so British clubs and one that all other clubs respect.
On the individual front, the Roll of Honour speaks for itself. The first club athlete to gain major international honour was Jim Alford who won the gold medal for the one mile in the Empire Games of 1938. The club had to wait a further 26 years for a comparable success but then came Lynn Davies' magnificent gold medal in the long jump at the Olympic Games of 1964. Lynn's inspiration led to a subsequent medal haul that is impressive by any yardstick. From 1938 to 2012 club members have won no less than 131 (including 53 gold) medals at major international athletic championships and the Olympic Games. Of these, more than half have been won in the last 12 years.
It is invidious to pick out individuals from such an array but special mention must also be made of Colin Jackson's achievements; those of Tanni Grey-Thompson who won five medals (including four gold) at the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona, four more gold medals at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney and two more gold in 2004 in Athens; of Nigel Walker who, after a very successful athletic career, took up rugby as a "retirement pastime" and promptly won a place in the Welsh rugby team and became a Welsh rugby hero; of Jamie Baulch, silver medallist at the 1996 Olympic Games in the 4 x 400m relay and 1999 World Indoor Champion at 400m; Christian Malcolm who followed two gold medals at the 1998 World Junior Championships with a gold medal at the 2000 European Indoor Championships, silver medals at the 2001 and 2002 World and European Indoor Championships respectively and a silver medal in the 2010 European championships; and Matthew Elias who won two gold medals (including the individual 400m Hurdles title) at the 2001 European Under 23 Championships and silver and gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and European Championships respectively; Simon Lawson, Silver Medallist in the 2009 European Junior Championships; Rhys Williams, with the rare distinction of a full set of European Championship 400m hurdles medals - Junior gold medallist in 2003, Under 23 Gold Medallist in 2005, Senior European Championships Bronze Medallist in 2006, silver medallist four years later and gold medallist in 2012. This is but a brief history of a club formed in the nineteenth century that continued throughout the twentieth and is still achieving success at the highest level in the twenty first.