Olympians lauded at Jamalco
Jamaican Olympians Debbie Byfield, Dorothy Scott and Ruth Williams-Simpson were on centre stage last Saturday at the Puma/JAAA Jamalco Development meet at Halse Hall in Clarendon. The trio was lauded for their accomplishments at a ceremony attended by top sporting officials. Byfield, Scott and Williams-Simpson were all gratified that their performances for Jamaica had been remembered.
Byfield, who made the 1972 Olympic team while a star at Excelsior High School, gushed, "I feel so honoured." Now 63 years old, she reflected, "Going to the Olympics was a big deal for me."
Though her trip to Munich ended with a baton spill in the 4x100 metres heats, she treasures the experience.
"I wasn't old enough to appreciate it," she advanced.
Byfield, who got a scholarship to California State University, also reached the 1975 Pan-American Games 400m final.
In the 1984 Olympics, Scott became the first Jamaican woman since Kathleen Russell in 1948 to reach the long jump final. Even though she was also a fine sprinter at Vere Technical High School, Scott had words of encouragement for athletes currently doing her prime event.
"We need people in the events that we're not really shining in," the 1980 and 1984 Olympian reasoned. Williams-Simpson, who was Scott's roommate at Texas Woman's University, was a 200/400-metre runner who ran for Jamaica in three Olympics. Still as tall as she was in her running days, she made the 1972 and 1976 Olympics while training in Jamaica and credits friends and family for their help. In addition, the 1971 Pan-American Games 4x400 metre relay bronze medal winner said fellow St Andrew Technical graduate Mike Fray for starting her track career. Williams-Simpson, who ran her last Olympics in 1980, recalled Fray coming to her class to recruit students to run on Sports Day.
"He said, 'Who's in Holmes House?' I stood up, we all stood up and then he looked at me and said, 'With those long legs, you must can run' and that's how it started," she related.
Three other Olympians were honoured on Saturday. They were 1972 Olympic 200-metre finalist Rosie Allwood, 1983 World Championship 4x100 bronze medal winner Leleith Hodges, who were unable to attend, and the late Marlene Lewis, the first Jamaican to compete at the Olympics in the women's discus.
Among those celebrating the retired athletes were Jamaica Olympic Association president Chris Samuda; president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, Dr Warren Blake; and 1996 Olympic 400m hurdles champion Deon Hemmings-McCatty.