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Standing on the shoulders of giants

In recent times we have all been in awe of the athletic prowess of Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, but Jamaican athletes have had a long history of excellence in international athletic competitions. It could be said that Jamaica was off to a running start from their first Olympic appearance in 1948 when Arthur Wint won the 400M gold, and continued in the 1952 Helsinki Games with a 4X400M world record performance and a 400M Olympic record. Today's celebrated athletes are truly standing on the shoulders of the giants that preceded them.

 

Inspired by this previous success and fueled by a "can do" and "never say die" attitude, this small island nation has over the years won numerous medals at major international games. Following is a summary of Jamaica's accomplishments at a few major meets over the decades.  Given our size and limited resources we have truly made significant strides, as we in Jamaica would say, "wi likkle but wi talawa". 

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Arthur Wint (22) winning the 400M & Herb McKenley (90) taking second, 1948 Olympics in London.

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George Rhoden, former record holder in the 400M (45.8s) set on 8/22/1950 in Sweden. 

The early years (1930s -1969)

Jamaica's first international medal came courtesy of Joseph Mackenzie in the 1930 Central American and Caribbean Games. Four years later Bernard Leopold Prendergast won a silver medal at the British Empire Games (today's Commonwealth Games). It could be said that Joseph Mackenzie, kick started the process but Herb McKenley and Arthur Wint put it into overdrive when they both won medals in the 400M at Jamaica's inaugural Olympic Games in 1948. At these Olympics in London Arthur Wint won the gold medal and Herb McKenley claimed the silver. 

 

In the 1952 Olympics Games in Helsinki Jamaica significantly increased their medal haul with George Rhoden winning the 400M and Herb McKenley taking silver. Herb McKenley and Authur Wint were also silver medalists in the 100M and 800M respectively. With the addition of Leslie Laing the quartet went on to shock the world by not only winning the 4X400M relay but setting a world record of 3:03.9s.

Keith Gardner produced Jamaica's only medal at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games winning the 120 yard hurdles. Two years later he was Jamaica's sole representative at the Melbourne Olympics. He failed to reach the finals which meant Jamaica won no medals at those Games.

 

Cardiff, Wales played host to the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, and Jamaica won 4 golds, 2 silvers and 1 bronze. At these Games, Keith Gardner set a Commonwealth record in the 110 yards hurdle and won the 100 yards race.

In 1960 the Olympics were held in Rome and Jamaica sent a joint team along with Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados collectively known as the British West Indies Federaton (BWI). At these games Jamaican George Kerr won two bronze medals while competing in the 800M and the 4X400M. For the 1964 Olympic Games Jamaica did not win a medal but got three fourth place finishes, 16 year old Una L. Morris in the 200M, George Kerr in the 800M and the men's 4X100M relay team. 

George Kerr was Jamaica's standout athlete at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. He won the gold in the 440 yards and silver in the 880 yards. He then followed up with gold in the 440 yards relay with teammates Laurie Khan, Malcolm Spence and Mel Spence.

The 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Jamaica and the island nation had it's first major female medalists in Carmen Smith and Una Morris. Smith took silver in the 80 metres hurdles and Morris bronze in the 440 yards.

1968 was an Olympic year and Lennox Miller was Jamaica's sole medal winner, placing second in the 100M. The 4X100M was expected to medal after setting a world record in the heats but had to settle for fourth in the finals, also losing their record to the American team in the process.

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Jamaican flag before independence

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Arthur Wint (22) winning the 400M & Herb McKenley (90) taking second, 1948 Olympics in London.

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L-R: Rhoden, McKenley, Wint and Laing. The 1952 4X400 m world record team.

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George Kerr, bronze (800/4X400M medalist in the 1960 Olympics. 

The 1970s - 90s

Edinburgh 1970, a then 19 year old Donald Quarrie won the sprint double at the Commonwealth Games. Jamaica went home with 4 gold medals, 2 silver and a bronze. 

Lennox Miller was the sole Olympic medalist at the 1972 Games, winning a bronze medal in the 100M. In 1976 after a long gold medal drought, Donald Quarrie was crowned champion in the 200M at the Games held in Montreal. The first female Olympic medalist from an English speaking Caribbean island was the great Merlene Ottey who won bronze in the 200M at the 1980 Olympic Games held in Moscow. Donald Quarrie also claimed a bronze medal at those games in the 200M.

 

The World Athletics Championships made its debut in 1983 and Jamaica's Bert Cameron became the first 400M World Champion when he won the 400M. Merlene Ottey picked up a silver medal in the 200M and a bronze in the 4X100M. The other members of that bronze medal 4X100M team were Jacqueline Pusey, Leleith Hodges and Juliet Cuthbert.

 

The Jamaican team went on to win 3 medals at the 1984 Los Angles Games with Merlene Ottey winning bronze in the 100M and 200M, and the men's 4X100M team of (Al Lawrence, Greg Meghoo, Donald Quarrie and Ray Stewart) claiming silver. The Seoul Olympics of 1988 produced two silver medals for Jamaica, Grace Jackson in the 200M and the men's 4X400M relay team comprising of Bert Cameron, Winthrop Graham, Devon Morris and Howard Davis. 

The medal count was five for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, three silver medals and two bronze. Juliet Cuthbert won two of the silver medals finishing second in the 100M and 200M. Winthrop Graham was responsible for the other silver medal finishing second in the 400M hurdles. Merlene Ottey got bronze in both the 100M and 200M.

 

Jamaica had a decent showing during the 1993 World Championships with Merlene Ottey winning gold in the 200M and silver in the 100M.  She also earned a bronze medal in the 4X100M relay along with teammates Michelle Freeman, Juliet Campbell and Nikole Mitchell. The team also got two bronze medals from Winthrop Graham and Sandie Richards in the 400M hurdles and the 400M respectively.

Victoria, British Colombia in Canada was the site of the 1994 Commonwealth Games. Michael Green won silver in the 100M, Deon Hemmings won silver in the 400M hurldes and her teammate Debbie-Ann Parris finished third for bronze. Sandie Richards took home the bronze in the 400M while the women's  and men's 4X400M team were both silver medalists. The members of the women's team were Revoli Campbell, Deon Hemmings, Inez Turner, Sandie Richards and the men's team, Orville Taylor,Dennis Blake, Linval Laird, Garth Robinson, Roxbert Martin.

In 1995 the World Championships were held in Sweden and Jamaica went home with 7 medals. Individual medalists were, Merlene Ottey (200M gold and 100M silver), James Beckford won the long jump, Deon Hemmings (400M hurdles bronze) and Greg Haughton (400M bronze). The 4X100M women's team (Dahlia Duhaney, Juliet Cuthbert, Beverly McDonald, Merlene Ottey and Michelle Freeman*) won silver and the men's 4X400M (Michael McDonald, Davian Clarke, Danny McFarlane, Greg Haughton and Dennis Blake*) also claimed silver.

At the Atlanta Games in 1996 Deon Hemmings set an Olympic record of 52.82s and claimed the gold medal in the 400M hurdles. Jamaica would win 5 more medals at those Games with Merlene Ottey placing second in the 100M and 200M, James Beckford taking silver in the long jump, the 4X100M relay team of (Merlene Ottey, Juliet Cuthbert, Michelle Freeman, Nikole Mitchell, Gillian Russell and Andrea Lloyd) and the men's 4X400M team of (Davian Clarke, Michael McDonald, Greg Haughton, Roxbert Martin, Dennis Blake, and Garth Robinson), taking bronze.

The 1997 World Championships was again a pretty good outing for Jamaica. The team managed to take home 4 silver medals and 3 bronze.  Individual medalists were Sandie Richards(400M silver), Deon Hemmings(400M hurdles silver), Merlene Ottey(200M bronze) and Michelle Freeman(100M hurdles Bronze). The women's 4X100M team of  Beverly McDonald, Merlene Frazer, Juliet Cuthbert and Beverly Grant won silver. While the men's 4X400M relay team of  Michael McDonald, Greg Haughton, Danny McFarlane, and Davian Clarke won silver (after Antonio Pettigrew was disqualified).

The 1998 Commonwealth Games were held in Kuala Lumpur and Jamaica won four gold medals. Gillian Russel won the 100M hurdles setting a common wealth record of 12.7s. The other gold medalists were Sandie Richards 400M, Dinsdale Morgan 400M hurdles and the men's 4X400M relay team (Davian Clarke, Gregory Haughton, Michael McDonald and Roxbert Martin).

 

To close out the 90s, the Jamaican team competed in the 1999 World Championships held in Seville, Spain. Officially the team won 6 medals, 2 silver and 4 bronze. The individual event contributors were,  Beverly McDonald (200M silver), Merlene Frazer (200M bronze), Lorraine Graham-Fenton (400M bronze) and Deon Hemmings (400M hurdles bronze). The men's 4x400M team comprising Michael McDonald,Greg Haughton, Danny McFarlane, Davian Clarke, Paston Coke* and Omar Brown*, won silver and the women's 4X100M team of Aleen Bailey, Merlene Frazer, Beverly McDonald and Peta-Gaye Dowdie took home the bronze medal.

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Lennox Miller father of Inger Miller, they became the first father-daughter to win Olympic track and field medals.

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Donald Quarrie, winner of  4 Olympic medals and has equalled the 200M and 100M world records, in 1971 and 1976 respectively. 

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Bert Cameron, the first World Athletics Championships 400M winner.   

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Greg Haughton, won 3 Olympic medals and was a 3 time NCAA champion.

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Deon Hemmings, the first Jamaican woman to win an Olympic gold medal (400M hurdles,1996 Games).  

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Novlene Williams-Mills, a three-time Olympic silver medallist in the 4×400M 

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Merlene Ottey current world indoor record holder for the 200M. Also has the record for most World Championship medals in individual events (10).

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The 2000s

Jamaica officially got nine medals at the 2000 Olympics Games in Sydney. Lorrraine Fenton (400M), defending Olympic champion Deon Hemmings (400M hurdles), Tanya Lawrence (100M)*, the women's 4X400M relay team of Lorraine Fenton, Sandie Richards, Catherine Scott and Deon Hemmings and the 4X100M relay team of Merlene Ottey, Tanya Lawrence, Veronica Campbell and Beverly McDonald all won silver medals.  Greg Haughton (400M), Merlene Ottey (100M), Beverly McDonald (200M) and the men's 4X400M relay team comprising of  Greg Haughton, Danny McFarlane,  Michael McDonald Michael BlackwoodChristopher Williams and Sanjay Ayre taking bronze. Of note is that the medals in the women's 100M and 200M were altered after the disqualification of Marion Jones. 

The 8th World Championships in Athletics were held in Edmonton, Canada in 2001, and Jamaica left those Games with six medals. The sole gold medal came in the women's 4X400M relay. The members of that team were Sandie Richards, Catherine Scott-Pomales, Debbie-Ann Parris, Lorraine Fenton, Michelle Burgher* and Deon Hemmings*.  The women's 4X100M relay team of Juliet Campbell, Merlene Frazer, Beverly McDonald, Astia Walker and Elva Goulbourne* won the bronze medal. The men's 4X400M relay team of Brandon Simpson, Christopher Williams, Greg Haughton, Danny McFarlane, Michael Blackwood* and Mario Watts* took home the silver. Individual medalist at these games were, Lorraine Fenton (400M silver), Greg Haughton (400M bronze) and Christopher Williams (200M silver).

In 2002 Manchester England played host to the Commonwealth Games and the Jamaican team had a very good medal haul taking home 14 medals. Individual female medalists were, Lacena Golding-Clarke (100M hurdles gold), Vonette Dixon (100M hurdles silver), Veronica Campbell (100M silver), Juliet Campbell (200M silver), Sandie Richards (400M bronze), and Debbie-Ann Parris (400M hurdles silver). The women's 4X100M women captured silver, team members were, Elva Goulbourne, Juliet Campbell, Astia Walker and Veronica Campbell.  The men's team had the following individual medalists, Michael Blackwood (400M gold), Maurice Wignall (110M hurdles bronze) and Ian Weakley (400M hurdles bronze). The 4X100M relay team of Michael Frater, Dwight Thomas, Christopher Williams and Asafa Powell won the silver medal.

The 2003 World Championships were held in Paris, Jamaica won 4 silver medals and 2 bronze. In Beijing at the 2004 Olympics Veronica Campbell won the 200M and took home bronze in the 100M. Danny McFarlane got silver in the 400M hurdles, Aleen Bailey, Veronica Campbell, Tayna Lawrence, Beverly McDonald* and Sherone Simpson won gold in the 4X100M and the team of Michelle Burgher, Nadia Davy, Sandie Richards, Ronetta Smith* and Novlene Williams won bronze in the 4X400M.

The success of athletics in Jamaica continued throughout the 2000s with the emergence of athletes like Asafa Powell, Shelly-Ann Fraser, the great Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Shericka Jackson, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Novlene Williams-Mills, Hansle Parchment to name a few.

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Veronica Campbell-Brown, one of only three women to win 2 consecutive 200M titles at the Olympics (2004-08).

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Asafa Powell, 2 time world record holder in the 100M and the current record holder for the most sub 10 seconds 100 m races

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Usain Bolt, the greatest sprinter of all time, record holder in the 100M/200M and 4X100M relay.

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