Usain Bolt is the latest in a series of Jamaican athletes whose athletics successes have caused major consternation on the global scene. Although this is in no way surprising, we as peoples of the Caribbean, do need to revisit the developments around us and respond appropriately to an international community that seems totally amazed at the capacity of people from relatively small islands to rise up to challenge the rest of the world in a sport once dominated by major economic, political and military powerhouses.
Jamaica’s impact on the world scene has been really impressive for several years. Two of the early names to hit the international scene were those of Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley. Although Herb McKenley was to become perhaps more popular given his personality, Wint was the one to encourage the latter to engage himself in the US College system. Wint was also the nation’s first Olympic gold medallist on the track.
The Jamaicans showed their worth at the 1948 Olympics in London.
McKenley arrived in London intent on running the 200m and 400m. He was expected to win the 400m. He had already established a world record for the event when at the US Championships he had splits of 20.9 and 25.0 seconds in the 440 yards. One year earlier he had established a new world record of 46.3 in the same event. He was on fire and had been dubbed, ‘Hustling Herb’ at the collegiate level in the US.
In London McKenley finished fourth in the 200m. This was not too much of a disappointment since he really was set on winning the 400m. To his great surprise Wint went past him in the final stages of the 400m to cop gold, with Mal Whitfield of the US in third.
Wint went on to take the silver in the 800m behind Whitfield.
Jamaica was expected to do well in the 4 x 400m but Wint cramped up and the team did not make it.