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Jamaican Olympian, Pablo McNeil, is dead

Published:Tuesday | July 5, 2011 | 11:44 AM

Former sprint athlete and two-time Olympian, Pablo McNeil, 71, died in hospital Monday after a long illness.

The Olympian represented Jamaica in the 100 m at the Tokyo Games in 1964 and Mexico City in 1968.

In 1964 he reached the semi-finals of the 100m where he was sixth in a wind-aided 10.39 seconds. He was also the first leg runner on the Jamaican 4x100 metres team which placed fourth in the final in 39.4 seconds.

In 1968 he was eliminated at the first round of the 100m placing sixth in his heat in 10.62.

McNeil also represented Jamaica at the British West Indies Championships.

His best result came in 1965 when he won gold in the 200 metres. He also wore national colours at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston and was a member of the team which won silver in the 4x110 yards relay.

In later years McNeil became the sprint coach at Falmouth-based William Knibb High School where he was credited with getting Usain Bolt to make the successful switch from cricket to track.

McNeil coached Bolt up to age 16 before the sprint prodigy made the move to Kingston and was enrolled at the then Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association-administered High Performance Training Centre.

McNeil, who suffered a stroke in December 2007 did not watch his former athlete win Olympic gold in the 100m and 200m in 2008.

He told The Gleaner in August 2008 that his eyes, following the stroke, were too bad to stare at a television screen.

The Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Olivia Grange, has expressed regret at the passing of Jamaican Olympian and athletics coach Pablo McNeil.

“Pablo McNeil has left a mark on Jamaican and world sports.  He was a good competitor for Jamaica and went on to nurture, mentor, inspire and coach some of our fine young athletes at William Knibb High School - including Usain Bolt who has been such a success and inspiration.

“On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I offer sincerely condolences to Pablo McNeil’s family, friends, and the entire Track and Field fraternity who will be saddened by his passing," Grange said.

World and Olympic 100 and 200 metres champion, Usain Bolt, has also expressed sadness at the passing of his high school coach, Pablo McNeil.

"I am saddened by the passing of one of my first coaches in high school, Pablo McNeil. Coach McNeil was a part of my early track and field life. I appreciate all he sought to pass on to me. I would like to offer my condolences and sympathies to his family and close friends," Bolt said in a release through his publicist Carole Beckford.