Tue | Sep 17, 2019

Olympians honoured at JAAA/Jamalco Meet

Published:Tuesday | February 5, 2019 | 12:23 AM
In this file photo from Friday, April 19, 1968, Juan Franceschi (left), Puerto Rico’s and Central American and Caribbean Games quarter-mile champion, is about to hit the tape in winning the international schoolboys 100 yards from Errol Stewart (right) of Trench Town Comprehensive High School. Excelsior’s Horace Levy, partly hidden by Stewart, was third. Franceschi also won the 440 yards.

Honoured on Saturday, Olympic sprinters Horace Levy and Errol Stewart say track and field made a big difference in their lives. Levy, a member of the 1972 Olympic team, said sport taught him the personal discipline needed to succeed in life. The1968 Olympian Stewart agreed and revealed that he has enjoyed watching Jamaica dominate sprinting in recent years.

Levy and Stewart were among six Olympians placed on centre stage at last Saturday’s JAAA/Jamalco development meet at Halse Hall. Levy, a star at Boys Championships for the Manning’s School and Excelsior High, explained what the honour meant to him.

“I’m extremely grateful and thankful for it,” he said. Now a leading ear, nose and throat specialist in Detroit, Doctor Levy said, “I’m happy that what I’ve done is appreciated so much.”

He was a Class Two 440 yards event winner for Manning’s before winning individual medals and relay honours at home and at the Penn Relays with Excelsior. “We accomplished a lot,” he reminisced, “but together we had a great deal of fun and we laughed, we smiled, we talked about a lot of things that made us all much richer and more understanding of each other.”

He went from Excelsior to the University of Nebraska and expressed the view that athletics helped him.

“Every way it has helped me,” he stated, “but especially the aspect of discipline in your life and getting things accomplished, because you cannot be a great sprinter or a great athlete without trial, failures, tribulation and discipline.”

First-leg runner

Stewart, the first-leg runner of Jamaica’s world record setting 1968 Olympic Games 4x100m relay team, concurred.

“Without my two legs, I wouldn’t be here now, where I am, because track and field has brought me a lot.” The former Trench Town Comprehensive, Excelsior and University of Texas El Paso student-athlete remembered his showdown at Boys Champs in 1969 with Don Quarrie, then of Camperdown.

As usual, he started best. “It’s like Quarrie had that burst, but we have always been pretty good friends, competitors,” he remembered.

The 1972 NCAA 100m bronze medallist watched Jamaica dominate sprinting but is equally impressed with the nation’s hurdlers. “It’s good to see Jamaican hurdlers running because the only hurdler that I know was Godfrey Murray, but we have hurdlers winning big meets, setting records.”

Murray was a 1972 Olympian who won the bronze in the 110m hurdles in 1970 at the Commonwealth Games. Levy and Stewart were honoured alongside three-time Olympian Alfred Daley, who was represented by his sisters Veda and Sylvia, 1980 cycling bronze medallist David Weller and two of Stewart’s 1968 relay teammates, Lennox Miller and Clifton Forbes. Miller, who died in 2000, was represented by family friend Lorna Bell. Forbes died in 2010, and his widow Joan was moved by the honour posthumously bestowed on the sprinter and fitness trainer to the Sunshine Girls.

“We’re really appreciative, my daughter and I, we’re really happy that he’s being remembered in this way,” she said, fighting back tears.

Among those present at Jamalco was Olympic finalist Mike Fray, who teamed with Stewart, Forbes and Miller in 1968 and was a teammate to Levy and Daley in 1972.

He praised the organisers for honouring the veterans and placed their performances in perspective.

“Fifty-one years ago, we did something that’s still holds some significance,” he reflected on the 1968 Jamaica feat of equalling the world record of 38.65 seconds in the heats and cutting it to 38.39 in the final.