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Goodbye, Mr G

Published:Thursday | January 10, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Hubert Lawrence
Workmen carry out repairs to the National Stadium Pool, which has been the subject of much discussion recently. The repair work, valued at $5m, is scheduled for completion at the end of the month. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

When Kingston College (KC) revolutionised Jamaican high school track, William Goldsmith was at the heart of the action.

The revolution ushered in specialist coaches for each athletic discipline, a new approach to sprint relay baton passing, training designed to get athletes to peak for Boys' Championships, and weight training. Goldsmith held the reins in this area and laid the foundation for stunning success, and not just in athletics.

With legendary Foggy Burrowes at the helm, Donovan Davis, Lloyd Keeling, Carl Belnavis, John Vernon, Howard Aris and Goldsmith formed the core of a new forward-thinking faculty of coaches. Each took charge of a specific discipline and together they took KC into a new era.

With Mr G strengthening the team, KC won 14 successive holds on the Mortimer Geddes Trophy, the symbol of supremacy in high school track and field. Eventually, the revolution spread. Today, and for decades now, every school uses weightlifting as part of their athletics programme.

It's one reason for the advancement of Jamaican athletics.

Known as 'Youngster', the former world-class weightlifter conditioned KC champions like future West Indies bowling legend Michael Holding and two-Olympic 100-metre medallist Lennox Miller. In fact, his weightlifting methods were applied to a wide range of sports. That helped KC to prominence in a wide range of sports.

However, to consider him merely a weight-training coach would be to undersell his contribution. In an interview for the 2010 book Champs 100: A Century of Jamaican High School Athletics 1910-2010, KC hero Trevor 'TC' Campbell reveals Youngster Goldsmith the motivator. TC had a fever just before Boys' Championships in 1970. The Class Two athlete feared the worst, but was lifted by words of wisdom from Youngster Goldsmith.


"Every group of us had somebody who was designated to pick us up and take us to wherever we were going to meet," recalled TC. "He was my pick-up man. He came in the morning and I said, 'Mr G, I don't feel well. I had this terrible fever last night. Don't have it now, but I just don't feel well'."

"His advice was, 'Don't worry about it, TC. When I lifted the world record, on the night before, I also had a terrible fever. So I wouldn't worry about it if I were you because maybe the same thing is in store for you that was in store for me.'"

"So I took it and broke the 400 record in the heats," TC said, "and that really now solidified everything. That's how the belief became concrete that I could do what I wanted to do."

The rest is history as TC went on to become one of the best performers in the history of Boys' Championships.

If you bumped into Mr G at KC, in Liguanea as he went about his business, at the meet named after him, the Youngster Goldsmith Hurdles and Field Events Classic or at the Penn Relays ,which he attended until recently, he was always good for a chat. His decades of knowledge would open your eyes and expand your perspective on sport.

He'd enjoy telling stories on his time as a world-class weightlifter as much as insights on the athletes who passed through his hands.

People often ask why Jamaica is so good at track and field. One big reason is the revolution that started at KC in the Youngster Goldsmith era. There are other reasons, including the availability of US college scholarships starting in 1942, the opening of G.C. Foster College in 1980, the start of the train-at-home movement by the MVP in 1998 and the seasoning our young athletes get at Champs.

If you enter the picture in the 21st century, you might overlook the importance of all these factors to our current medal machine that Jamaican track and field is today. That would be dangerous because it would obscure the contribution of people like Youngster Goldsmith. He was a living example that sometimes the heroes of sport are on the sidelines.

Hubbert Lawrence is the author of Champs 100: A Century of Jamaican High School Athletics 1910-2010.