Mon | May 22, 2017

The team that keeps on giving

Published:Thursday | October 16, 2014 | 10:00 AM
Hoilette with his plaque after being honoured by Kingston College at their annual 5K Run/Walk at the school in May 2014.
Bolt and former coach McNeil after he won the World Junior 200m race in 2002 at the National Stadium.-File photo
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Hubert Lawrence

At this time, 50 years ago, Jamaica went to Tokyo for the Olympic Games with the late George Kerr as our top star. An 800-metre bronze medallist in 1960, Kerr just missed another podium finish. That set the tone for a number of near misses.

Una Morris, just 17, placed fourth in the women's 200-metre final. Even today, 50 years on, that's a supreme performance for a Jamaican junior sprinter at the senior level.

Morris was just one of three high-school athletes on the team. Neville Myton had defied conventional wisdom to make the 800-metre team with a World Junior record at the team-selection meet. Rupert Hoilette, the phenomenal 400-metre runner, had earned a spot on the team as well. All three came back to Champs in 1965 with banner performances.

Pablo McNeil, a 100m semi-finalist, home-trained Patrick Robinson, Lindy Headley and Dennis Johnson, placed a close fourth in the 4x100. Both Morris and the men's 4x100m team set national records along the way.

The men's 4x400 team finished fourth too.

service

Medals, however, don't tell the whole story about Jamaica's 1964 Olympic team. In the decades since they went to Tokyo, the 1964 team has set a benchmark for service to sport. Just three years before Tokyo, Vilma Charlton was a star at Girls' Championships. Having served sport and education in parallel long careers, she is now a vice-president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Associa-tion (JAAA).

Morris is Dr Una Chong now and has served her adopted home in California in medicine and sport. Myton has nurtured dozens of Jamaican athletes, including sprint queen Veronica Campbell-Brown.

McNeil, who died in 2011, coached for years at William Knibb Memorial High. There he guided talented students, including the incomparable Usain Bolt, Pan-Am and Commonwealth 100m winner Lerone Clarke and 2007 World 200m finalist Marvin Anderson.

A businessman in his own right, Hoilette is an expert TV analyst of sprinting, with distinguished work on television to his credit.

A medical doctor for years, Robinson revolutionised baton passing in Jamaica In the late 60s. Headley heads a charitable foundation in Jamaica. A world record equalling sprinter at the 100-yard distance, Johnson has played a key role in lifting the profile of collegiate sport in Jamaica. Critically, he engaged Stephen Francis to coach at the University of Technology. The rest, as they say, is history.

All of them have a wealth of knowledge and they've been generous enough to share it. Simply put, the 1964 Olympic team is the team that keeps on giving. There probably isn't another that has plowed back its knowledge and time the way that team has.

Best of all, 50 years after the Tokyo Olympics, they show no signs of slowing down.

Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised athletics since 1980.