Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Hurt by injury - History-making Jamaican Olympian regrets not being able to give his best in 1960

Published:Sunday | August 28, 2016 | 8:00 AMRyon Jones
Paul Foreman in action at the George VI Memorial Park.
Damar Forbes, who placed 12th at the just concluded Rio 2016 Games and James Beckford, who won silver at the Atlanta 1996 staging, are the only other men to have represented Jamaica in the long jump at the Olympics.
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While Jamaicans continue to bask in the success of the athletes in Rio, one Olympian continues to bemoan the fact that injury prevented him from soaring to the heights that he could have reached.

Paul Foreman left his footprints in the sands of history when he competed in the long jump at the 1960 Rome Games as part of the West Indies Federation.

This was the only time the short-lived Federation participated at the Olympic Games, as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago competed independently in 1964, while Barbados started competing at the 1968 Games.

Foreman was, however, not able to give of his best on such a historic occasion after pulling his hamstring a month before the Games.

"At the Games, there were three batches of athletes in the morning qualifications. There were no qualifiers (to the final) from the first batch, there were a few from the second; I was in the third and I qualified. So there were 14 who qualified for the finals, with me included," said Foreman, who has a lifetime best of 25.10 feet (7.66m). .

"I had my side bandaged and I had a no jump the first jump; the second jump I made close to 24 feet then the third jump I pulled the muscles again. So I literally had one jump in the finals of the Games."

That one jump of 23.81 feet (7.26m) saw him finish in 12th place.

 

UPSETTING INJURY

 

And 56 years and 14 Olympics later, the now 77-year-old Jamaican who resides abroad has not been able to get over the disappointment of not having been able to perform at his optimum during the Games.

"The Olympics was my singular focus, so the injury really was upsetting because it really interfered with one of my life goals, which was to compete fully in the Olympics, and one jump didn't satisfy me," Foreman told The Sunday Gleaner.

"I have told my wife that in 56 years, I don't think a single day has passed that I haven't thought about it. Those were easily the best competing conditions that I ever saw that day in Rome; perfect conditions and I was hurt.

"It just really was upsetting and very frustrating, but that is life."

Foreman, who captured gold at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, was one of only eight track and field athletes from the region who journeyed to the 1960 Olympics.

The others were Jamaicans George Kerr, Keith Gardner, Malcolm Spence, and Dennis Johnson; Trinidad and Tobago's Clifton Bernard and Barbadian James Wedderburn. Kerr won bronze in the men's 800m before teaming up with Gardner, Spence, and Wedderburn to claim another bronze in the 4X400m.

After leaving Rome, Foreman journeyed directly to Lagos, Nigeria, for the first West African Games, where he was placed second in the long jump at what turned out to be his last major championship.

Foreman, who was on a track scholarship at the University of Illinois, thanks to the late Herb McKenley, decided to focus on his studies and went on to obtain his PhD. He also represented the university with distinction, winning the long jump at the Big Ten Conference for three consecutive years.

Damar Forbes, who placed 12th at the just-concluded Rio 2016 Games, and James Beckford, who won silver at the Atlanta 1996 staging, are the only other men to have represented Jamaica in the long jump at the Olympics.

Foreman believes all that is needed to produce more top-class long jumpers is more facilities spread across the island.

"I won the long jump and the high jump at Champs, and when you landed you did so in sand. Nobody did the flop then. If I tried the flop at George's Memorial Park, I would have broken my neck," Foreman shared.

"So what is needed is to continue upgrading the facilities, so the youngsters in Morant Bay and Negril have access to the conditions that would be conducive to good performance."

Foreman has been doing his bit having recently, provided funds for his alma mater St George's College to lay down a synthetic long jump area.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com