Welsh Athletics Trailblazer Jean Whitehead (née Docker) dies
A tribute by Clive Williams
The athletics fraternity in Wales and indeed further afield will be sad to learn of the death of former Welsh champion and record holder Jean Whitehead (née Docker) on 28th June aged 88.
She was one of the trailblazers of the sport in Wales winning the 100 and 220 yards and long jump at the very first full Welsh women’s championships in 1952.
Altogether she took 13 Welsh titles between 1952 and 1958, including taking the 100, 220 and 440 yards in one afternoon in 1955.
After winning both the 100 and 220 yards at the 1958 Welsh championships, she was selected to represent Wales for these events at the 1958 Cardiff Empire and Commonwealth Games where she set a Welsh record of 25.2 secs for 220 yards on the loose and temporary Cardiff Arms Park cinders. This time ranked her just outside the top ten in Britain that year. Altogether she set 7 Welsh records ranging from 11.4 for the 100 yards through to 58.8 for 440 yards in 1958, which was undoubtedly her best year.
When Jean and Ted attended the inaugural Welsh Sports Hall of Fame dinner in Cardiff in 2007, I had the privilege of speaking to both of them at length and indeed introducing Jean to the assembled throng at the Angel Hotel.
Said Eric Shirley Jnr:
“The Whitehead family were athletics through and through. Jean’s late husband Ted was a leading athletics official and Jean’s coach. He was also chief timekeeper at the London marathon. My father (the legendary Olympic steeplechaser of the same name) was the best man at their wedding in 1958.”
Although living in South London, and representing Middlesex Ladies AC, she never forgot her Welsh roots and was extremely proud to have represented Wales at those Cardiff Games.
All in Welsh athletics send their condolences to her family.