Jamaican Track & Field

JAMAICA JAMAICA, a land swayed by the gentle Trade Winds, a rhythm her people move to, whether they are on the plains or in the mountains, a people that are slow walkers as our laid back rivers, but are fast runners, just as our rivers, when in spate. We compete with the durability of the Lignum Vitae tree (blooms the national flower). An island that is a little over 4,400 square miles, with a population that is a shade below 3 million people, yet this land has produced sprinters, for Jamaica to be rated in the top 5 in Olympic sprinting, as listed in Track and Field News. Jamaicans have also medaled for the Canadian, UK and the USA teams. {We little, but we Talawah}

One of the earliest organized track and field games in Jamaica can be traced to the High School Boys championship 1910 and High School Girls Championship in 1957.  Norman Manley the future Chief Premier of Jamaica was a multi-champion in 1911 at these events, winning the 100, 220, 440, 880 yards and the high jump, also setting in the process the 100 yards time of 10's. The High school system has provided the bulk of Jamaica Track Athletes.

The first Jamaican to win an Olympic gold medal was Arthur Wint in the 400 Meters in 1948, trailed by Herb McKenley for the silver. George Rhoden in 1952 brought home the 400M gold, again Herb McKenley took the silver. Of note McKenley also got the silver in the 100m registering the same time as the winner, making Herb the only sprinter to medal in the 100 and 400 meters in any Olympics, he also made it to the finals of the 200 meters in 1948. Wint got the silver in the 800, a feat that he repeated in the 1952 games and with the 400m gold became the first to gain that double (sorry Mal Whitfield). Cynthia Thompson was a hint of what was to come in the 1948 Olympics, with a 25.6 world record in a 200m heat. Una Morris made a credible impression by placing 4th in the 200m at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  Merlene Ottey was the first to medal and Deon Hemmings the first to win the gold in 1996.

Jamaica is the only country to defeat the USA in
Olympics men's 4x400m with a time of 3:03.90 at the 1952 games, that set a new world record, that was unbroken for eight years.  Herb McKenley on the third leg ran the eye popping 44.60, the first sub 45s split.  Arthur Wint had the lead going away when he was felled by leg cramps in the 1948 4x 400m that dashed our chance of winning the gold. At the Mexico City Olympics 1968, with Lennox Miller on the anchor and Errol Stewart the 1968 Jamaican high school champion on the lead off leg, the world record was equaled for the 4x100 meters in 38.6, then the same team with Michael Fray on second and Clifton Forbes on third leg, went on to set the new world of 38.39 in the semi final. Jamaica thus became the first country to go sub 39 sec, the first team gain that feat was the famed USC team with Lennox Miller taking it home in 38.6.  The Jamaican record was broken at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, the new record is 38.20.

The Carreras Company sponsored some meets in the early 1960's, featuring athletes such as Bob Hayes, Henry Carr, Mike Larrabee, Ulis Williams, Carl Kaufmann, Rudolph Plumber, Ralph Boston, John Thomas, Jeff Lindgren, Rex Cawley, Jim Beatty, John Pennel, Jim Ryan then in high school, Bob Beatty,  Frank Budd, Wyomia Tyus, Willye White, Edith McGuire and Barbara Farrell from the USA, Harry Jerome, Abigail Hoffman, Bruce Kidd (Canada), Michael Jazy (France), Bruce Tulloch, Adrian Metcalfe (UK), Tom Robinson (Bahamas), Thora Best, Edwin Roberts (Trinidad & Tobago), Anton Norris (Barbados), C.K. Yang (Formosa). From Jamaica there was George Kerr, Mal & Mel Spence, Dennis Johnson, Pablo McNeil, Lyn Headley, Clifton Forbes, Mahoney Samuels, Wellesley Clayton, Trevor Tennant, Neville & Maurice Myton, Ouida Walker, Vilma Charlton, Carmen Smith, Joan Gordon, Ray Harvey.

The 1966 Empire Games held in Kingston, introduced big time long distance running to Jamaica. This event marked the bursting out of the Kenyans and the Ethiopians, the Mexico City Olympics showed they "Run Things", Kip Keino, Mamo Waldo, the great Abebe Bikila, going for three marathon gold on a bad leg. The Kenyan's continue to run 1,2,3 in the steeple chase in most meets today. The great Ron Clarke of Australian was subdued by Naftali Temu of Kenya surges. There must be some East African in a few Jamaicans waiting to be let loose????.


1966 Empire Games Men 4x440y
1966 Empire Games Men 3 Miles