Former coach hails Michael McDonald as one of a kind
THE UNSUNG heroes of Jamaican track and field in the 1990s were the 400-metre men, who kept Jamaica in the medals from 1994 to 2005. One of their number, ace lead-off runner Michael McDonald, was honoured at last Saturday’s Jamalco Development...
THE UNSUNG heroes of Jamaican track and field in the 1990s were the 400-metre men, who kept Jamaica in the medals from 1994 to 2005.
One of their number, ace lead-off runner Michael McDonald, was honoured at last Saturday’s Jamalco Development Meet. McDonald’s coach, Oliver Heywood, said the barrel-chested 400-metre ace was one of a kind.
Heywood coached McDonald to the 1994 World Junior 400-metre gold medal, a feat not repeated by any Jamaican, male or female, and to a senior career punctuated by relay medals at the Olympics and the World Championships.
Heywood, himself once a world-class prospect in the 200 and 400 metres, revealed the secrets to McDonald’s success.
“Michael, as an athlete, was one of a kind that I coached. He was talented, very strong and he always followed instructions and that was why he was so successful during his days in track and field,” said the man who has coached at Vere Technical High School, Garvey Maceo and at the Jamalco Track Club.
In his last season as a schoolboy, McDonald won gold in the 400 at Boys and Girls’ Championships and clocked 45.83 to win Jamaica’s first World Junior title in the one-lap event in Lisbon.
As a pioneer of the stay-at-home movement, and with Heywood continuing as his coach, he sprinted 45.46 in the memorable 1995 National Championships 400-metre final and did his part, on the opening leg, on the first Jamaican quartet to break three minutes in the 4x400 relay.
That milestone came in the World Championships heats. In the final, he won his first major senior medal when the team placed second.
He first broke the 45-second barrier with a clocking of 44.75 from lane eight at the 1996 Mutual Games and repeated the feat on 15 other occasions, topped by a benchmark 44.61 at the 1999 CAC Games in Bridgetown.
A semi-finalist in the 400 at the 1996 Olympic Games, McDonald produced a sensational lead-off leg in the 4x400 semis (44.54) and won a bronze medal for his efforts. He blazed another 44.5 at the 1997 World Championships where he, Gregory Haughton, Danny McFarlane and Davian Clarke won silver.
That time still makes Jamaica the fourth-fastest nation in history.
In 1998 and 1999, with McDonald flying on the first leg, Jamaica won the Commonwealth and Pan-Am relay gold medals in record time.
In 2001, he reeled off seven sub-45 performances, and took the National title. Despite an injury in the World Championships semifinal, he earned a number-five world ranking from Track and Field News.
The injury spoiled a US-based season where he had won seven of his 11 races and placed second in the rest.
After accepting the Jamalco award on McDonald’s behalf, Heywood was to extract asked lessons from his former athlete’s career for today’s generation.
“I’d want them to be patient,” Heywood offered, “to work hard and their reward will be success.”