JAMAICA: Fastest Island Under The Sun


A proud record
Jamaican athletes a strong force in the 200m
PAUL BURROWES, Observer staff reporter
Saturday, June 05, 2004

OTTEY. World champion in 1993 and 1995
Herb McKenley, Donald Quarrie and Merlene Ottey have etched their names in the annals of sprints.

Now a host of talented young stars, led by the awesome world junior record holder Usain Bolt, are blazing their own trail for Jamaica in the 200 metres.

Bolt, Asafa Powell, Steve Mullings, Veronica Campbell, Aleen Bailey, Sherone Simpson, Simone Facey and Aneisha McLaughlin all represent Jamaica’s rising force on the world stage in the half-lapper.

Bolt and Powell are rated one and two respectively on the IAAF 2004 world list in the 200m and Veronica Campbell is currently at number three, indicating Jamaica’s continuing prowess in this sprint.

With the spotlight increasingly focused on drug cheats, more Jamaicans could well earn certain shades of medal that have eluded them for decades at the Olympic Games.

QUARRIE. Olympic champion in 1976
Jamaicans have been a force on the 200m/220yd world stage since 1946 when McKenley, representing the University of Illinois, won the 220 yards at the United States National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One championships.

He repeated the feat in 1947, on both occasions taking the 440 yards title as well. By that time, McKenley was considered the number two in the 220 yards, second only to American Mel Patton, the 1948 Olympic champion and world record holder.

McKenley was bronze medallist in the 200 metres at the 1946 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Barranquilla, Colombia, beaten by Cuban Rafael Fortún and Panamanian Lloyd LaBeach. All three clocked 21.7 seconds.

At the 1948 Olympic Games in London, McKenley placed fourth in 21.2 seconds, the same time as bronze medallist Lloyd LaBeach of Panama (who broke the 220 yard world record two years earlier). Les Laing was sixth in 21.6 seconds.

Two years later, McKenley was back near the top again. This time he and LaBeach were in a fight for supremacy.

McKenley returned to the 1950 CAC Games in Guatemala, running away with the 200m gold in a convincing but wind-aided 20.9 seconds. He took his gold with great satisfaction as he silenced the two men who beat him four years earlier - Cuba’s Fortún, the silver medallist (21.2) and Panamanian LaBeach (21.2).

In 1951, McKenley went to the inaugural Pan American Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but had to settle for the bronze in the 200 m with 21.5 seconds. Again, he was beaten by Fortún, who struck gold in 21.3 seconds, with American Art Bragg taking the silver in 21.4 seconds.

By this time, another Jamaican, George Rhoden, was creating waves on the world stage but in 1952 McKenley was still ranked as one of the top two 200m sprinters in the world.

Rhoden, in 1951, was the NCAA Division One champion in the 220 yards. He won in 20.7 seconds. But his preferred event was the one-lapper.

In 1953, McKenley retired from the track as one of the top five runners in the 200 m, with Laing holding on to a place in the top 10.

Five years later, in 1958, Jamaican sprint hurdler Keith Gardner showed that he, too, could run the 220 yards.

At the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, Gardner clinched the silver in 21.11, beaten by Bahamian Tom Robinson (21.08).

Men had led the way for Jamaica up to then. But in 1964, 17 year-old Una Morris changed all that. She went to the Olympic Games in Tokyo and just missed out on the bronze - placing fourth in 23.5 seconds.

It would take another 12 years before another Jamaican woman would find herself in the top 10.

At the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Morris and Vilma Charlton placed sixth and seventh respectively. The roles were reversed at the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Charlton placing fifth and Morris sixth.

In 1967 in Provo, Utah, Lennox ‘Billy’ Miller ran an impressive 20.35 seconds while Mike Fray placed fifth at the Pan American Games. Fray clocked 21.4.

Fray kept himself in the top 10 a year later, 1968, with Miller in that category in 1969.

At the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, a new Jamaican star broke onto the world stage. He was 19-year-old Donald Quarrie and he immediately made his mark.

He took the 1970 Commonwealth Games gold in 20.56 seconds and a year later at the Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia he struck gold convincingly, in a world record 19.86 seconds.

At about the same time, Rosie Allwood surfaced as Jamaica’s new 200m queen.

Allwood was fifth at the Pan American Games in Cali and ran an encouraging 23.11 seconds at the 1972 Olympic Games. It was the first and only time that Allwood was ranked in the top 10 in the 200 m.

Ruth Williams, another Jamaican, was fifth at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, clocking 23.39, and her countrywoman Carol Cummings was eighth at the 1975 Pan American in Mexico City.

Quarrie struck gold at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand registering 20.73 seconds, but in Zurich that same year (on August 16) he timed a superb world-leading 20.06 seconds.

In 1975, Quarrie ran another world-leading 20.12 in Eugene, Texas, which was hand-timed to a world record 19.8 seconds. He was ready for the Montreal Olympics a year later.

Quarrie triumphed, winning the 1976 Olympic gold in 20.23 seconds, with compatriot Colin Bradford placing seventh in 21.17 seconds.

At the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Colin Bradford took the bronze in 20.43 (wind-assisted) and Floyd Brown was fifth in 20.79 seconds.

Brown was fifth again at the 1979 Pan American Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the same year that Italian Pietro Mennea broke the world record in Mexico City at high altitude. He clocked an amazing 19.72 seconds.

It was no suprise when the Italian won the 1980 Olympic gold in Moscow, Russia, Quarrie finishing with the bronze in 20.29 seconds.

Merlene Ottey, 19, and Jacqueline Pusey took part in the 1979 Pan American Games. Ottey secured the 200m bronze in 22.79 with Pusey fifth in 23.08 seconds.

When she earned the bronze at the 1980 Olympic Games, timing 22.20 seconds, nobody would have guessed that it was the beginning of a career that would span two decades.

Ottey made a royal entry at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, winning the gold on a windy day. She ran 22.19. Grace Jackson was seventh in 23.25.

Ottey captured silver at the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, in a time of 22.19 seconds. Jackson placed fifth in 22.63 seconds.

A year later, at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Ottey took the bronze in 22.09 seconds and Jackson again was fifth, in 22.20.

Clive Wright and John Mair finished fourth and eighth at the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, clocking 20.73 and 21.22 seconds respectively.

Ottey returned to the 1987 World Championships in Rome, taking the bronze (22.06) and Grace Jackson made her best stand in the 200 m winning the 1998 Seoul Olympic Games silver in 21.72 seconds, beaten only by world record holder Florence Griffith-Joyner who ran an unbelievable 21.34 seconds!

At the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand, Ottey left with the 200m gold in 22.76 seconds.
Merlene Frazer and Dahlia Duhaney secured the bronze and sixth place respectively at the 1991 Pan American Games in Havana.

Ottey was bronze queen at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, posting 22.21 seconds. Juliet Cuthbert got the better of her at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona after registering 22.02 seconds for silver. Ottey took the bronze in 22.09 seconds.

The 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart proved memorable for Ottey, who finally triumphed in 21.98 seconds and showed that it was no fluke at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, clocking a triumphant 22.12 seconds.

In 1996, at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ottey took the silver in 22.24 seconds and Cuthbert was seventh.

Duhaney and Frazer were sixth and seventh at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria; and Duhaney was the 1995 Pan American Games silver medallist in Mar Del Plata, Argentina.

At the World Championships in Athens, 1997, Ottey walked away with the bronze and Juliet Campbell the silver at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Jamaica had three finalists at the 1999 World Championships in Seville. Beverly McDonald took the silver in 22.22, Frazer the bronze in 22.26, and Campbell eighth in 22.64.

Beverly Grant managed sixth at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada.

McDonald placed fourth at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Her time 22.35 seconds.

Campbell and McDonald were sixth at the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton and the 2003 World Championships in Paris respectively.

But Campbell fared better at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, winning the silver in 22.54 seconds while Danielle Browning was seventh at the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

After placing seventh in 21.19 at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Christopher Williams grabbed the silver at the 2001 Edmonton World Championships in 20.20 seconds.

Two years later, at the 2003 Pan American Games, Williams took the silver in 20.54 seconds.

However, the best of Jamaicans has not always been at the top championships.

Bolt’s world junior record of 19.93 seconds at the Carifta Games in Bermuda, Christopher Williams’ 20.02 at Walnut, Asafa Powell’s 20.17 (-1.7m/s) in Santo Domingo, and Ottey’s 21.64 in Brussells are all world-class times by any standard.

Quarrie is the 13th fastest man in the history of the 200m and Ottey the third quickest for women over the distance. Ottey still holds the world indoor record for the 200m - 21.87 seconds.

This year, Bolt and Campbell are highly tipped to enrich Jamaica’s history in the 200m.