Goodbye Germaine Mason
The date is July 22, 2002. The location is a Knutsford Boulevard bank, a short drive from the National Stadium where the 8th staging of the World Junior Championships had ended the day before. Among the customers is Germaine Mason, who had won a historic bronze medal for Jamaica in the Championships.
Mason had broken new ground by winning the nation's first World Junior high jump medal two years earlier. His bronze in Kingston made him the first to win medals in back-to-back Championships. Yet, though, he jumped 2.21 metres for third inside a packed Stadium and though the meet was broadcast on national television, no one in the bank seemed to know him.
An impromptu poll was conducted in the waiting line to test the conclusion. One by one, the customers around Mason admitted to never having seen him before. This was in stark contrast to the attention Mason and his World Junior teammates had enjoyed in the previous week.
He chuckled good-naturedly at his status as an invisible man and the fleeting nature of fame in sport.
His death on Thursday morning vaulted him back to the front pages as much as his high jumping ever did. In the years after the World Juniors, he became Jamaica's best high jumper ever. In 2003, he won the Pan-American Games gold medal and reached the final at the World Championships in Paris.
Then, with the Athens Olympics just months away, he won the bronze at the 2004 World Indoor Championships. Sadly, he broke his ankle along the way. That mishap derailed his bid for Olympic glory until 2008. Jumping for Great Britain, he leapt to the runner-up spot.
Injuries hastened his retirement, but at the 2008 Olympics in the Chinese city of Beijing, he had a well-deserved moment in the spotlight.
As news broke of his tragic death in a motorcycle accident, the most common question was probably, 'Germaine who? As it was in the bank in 2002, Mason wasn't well known here outside the sport. That is perhaps understandable.
Nevertheless, he leaves a considerable legacy behind. At Wolmer's Boys School, he set a Class Two high jump record of 2.09 metres at the first combined Boys and Girls' Championships in 1999. It stood until 2012 when Kristoff Bryan, who also attended Wolmer's Boys School, broke it.
Like the others at the MVP Track Club at the start of this century, he was a symbol of the then new effort to produce world class at home. In addition, he was proof that Jamaicans could do more than sprint. Regrettably, his death robs two countries of a man who genuinely was a sporting pioneer.
- Hubert Lawrence