Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Barranquilla and those who went before

Published:Tuesday | July 24, 2018 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence/ Gleaner Writer

When the Jamaica team takes to the track and to the field this week at the 2018 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Barranquilla, Colombia, the 50-strong athletics team will be following famous footsteps.

In a bygone era, Baranquilla witnessed the birth of a sensational Jamaica team that would make history at the 1948 Olympic Games. The 2018 Games will launch the international careers of a number of newcomers, while at the same time, veterans will restart the climb to the top.

When track and field starts on July 29, the Jamaica team will have the quality and experience of O'Dayne Richards, Sherone Simpson and Nesta Carter, all Olympic or World Championship medallists, and two-time Olympian Nickiesha Wilson, who was a World Championships 400 metre hurdle finalist in 2007. Alongside them will be newcomers Jonielle Smith, who set a 100 metre personal best of 11.07 seconds in London on the weekend, and long jumpers Tissana Hickling and Athletics World Cup runner-up Ramone Bailey.

When Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley and George Rhoden journeyed to Colombia for the 1946 CAC Games, they weren't yet the legends they are today. In Baranquilla, they posted the signs of greatness to come. Wint led a 1-2-3 finish in the 400m and won the 800m as well. The promise of 4x400m glory appeared with Wint, individual silver and bronze medal winners McKenley and Rhoden and Clinton Woodstock taking the long relay.




Cynthia Thompson marked herself as a candidate for Olympic glory by winning the women's 100m, with McKenley showing for his versatility with medals in the 100m, 200m and 400m. By 1947, 'Mr Mac' was the fastest man in the world in all three sprints, a feat no one else has achieved since.

In all, Jamaica won five gold medals in athletics with high jumper Carmen Phipps adding to the tally. More rounded than most latter day teams often are, the 1946 contingent also took medals in the men's 1500m, and in both of the men's horizontal jumps. Elsewhere, Jamaica made the podium in swimming, softball, tennis, water polo and weightlifting.

That team won 18 medals in track and field to take second place overall. That placing has only been bettered twice. In 1950, Jamaica topped the medal table with eight gold, eight silver and two bronze. That was exceeded in 2010 by a gathering of 10 gold, seven silver and eight bronze medals.