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10 Years, Jamaica’s Participation in the World Athletic Championships 1983 – 1993
-Jimmy Carnegie

Helsinki 1983

Jamaica made its entry into the first World Championships in 1983 in much the same way we entered our first Olympic Games in 1948.

Of course, we all recall that at the 1948 London Olympic Games the late Hon. Arthur Wint OJ, FRCS won Jamaica’s sole gold medal in the 400m by equalling the 20 year old Olympic record of 46.2 seconds.

Well, at Helsinki in 1983, Bert Cameron won the men’s 400m establishing a championship record of 45.05 in the process.

The similarity doesn’t stop with the 400m. At both the London Games and the Helsinki Championships Jamaica won two other medals outside of the 400m gold.

At the London Games we got two silver medals. One from Wint in the 800m and the other from Herb in the 400m.

At the Helsinki Championships Merlene Ottey got a silver in the 200m (22.19) – her best individual competitive effort outdoors prior to the recent World Champs. And our girls got a set of bronze medals in the 4 X 100 relay. Earning these medals were fast starting Leleith Hodges, strong Jackie Pusey, Juliet Cuthbert (not yet 19 and not long out of Morant Bay High) and, of course, Merlene Ottey.

The similarity continues. At the London Games we had two other individuals in the sprint finals. Les Laing and Herb McKenley had placed sixth and fourth respectively in the 200m.

At the Helsinki Championships, Merlene narrowly missed a bronze in the 100m while Grace Jackson came fifth in the 200m.

At the London Games we had reached the men’s 4 X 400m final but a pulled muscle sustained by Wint robbed us of a chance at a medal, At the Helsinki Championships we also reached the final of a men’s relay – this time the 4 X 100. And again the medals eluded us after a 38.75 seventh place from George Walcott, Leroy Reid, Ray Stewart and Everald Samuels.

The Helsinki Championships had, of course, its own unique happenings. For example, while it had taken 32 years for a woman to win an Olympic medal, Merlene made sure history would not repeat itself at the World Championships by winning not one but two medals at Helsinki.

Further, it was at the first World Championships that Jamaicans of either gender won medals in a sprint relay.

And we can hardly forget that 18-year old school boy Raymond Stewart narrowly missed the final of the 100m after a brilliant 10.22 in the wind.

Rome 1987

World Championships number two was held at Rome, Italy in 1987. There was no gold medal on this occasion but our tally of medals increased from three to four (By the way, there is some ambiguity about the colour of one of these medals as we will explain later).

Merlene Ottey was again the top individual performer, going down one in the 200m and coming up one in the 100m to take the bronze in both. She finished behind Silke Gladisch of East Germany – the gold medallist in both, and behind Heike Dreschler of East Germany in the 100 and one Florence Griffiths-Joyner of the USA in the 200.

Raymond Stewart may have done better than Merlene. He initially won the bronze behind Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis – with Johnson’s time then regarded as a world record of 9.83. He also won a sprint relay bronze in 38.41 anchoring a team of John Mair, Andrew Smith and Clive Wright (Reserve Gregory Meghoo also got a medal for running in the preliminaries).

Ben Johnson was, of course, subsequently stripped of his world record after he was disgraced in Seoul. There have been contradictory reports about whether or not Johnson has been stripped of his world title. If he has, then Stewart would have to be considered the silver medallist. This matter should be clarified once and for all.

Jamaica’s four medals in Rome placed us in the top eight countries by medal totals – a feat which we sustained at the World Champs in Tokyo 1991 and the Olympic Games in Barcelona 1992.

In Rome we also had two non-medal finalist positions as both 4 X 400 relay teams placed sixth.

Running for the ladies were Cathy Rattray-Williams. Ilrey Olivier, Sandra Farmer (in her last representation for Jamaica) and Sandie Richards in a time of 3.27.51.

Our male team was in contention for a bronze medal up to the first change between Mark Senior and Devon Morris when something went wrong and we dropped three places. Completing the team were 1983 world champion Bert Cameron (who got eliminated in the semis of the 400m in a time of 45.19) and Winthrop Graham.

Our time in the final, 3.04.53.1 after running a good 3.01.08 in the semis, indicates just what we might have been able to do.

Tokyo, 1991

World Championships number three was held at Tokyo, Japan in 1991.

At Tokyo, Jamaica had its second most successful performance ever at the world level track and fields athletics – the most successful, of course, being the Fifteenth Olympiad at Helsinki, Finland in 1952.

At Tokyo, for the second time at the world level, we won five medals.

Gold came from Dahlia Duhaney, Juliet Cuthbert, Beverly McDonald and Merlene Ottey in the women’s 4 X 100m.

Silver came from Winthrop Graham – the first ever medal at the world level in any event outside of the three sprints and the relays.

Merlene Ottey repeated what she had done four years earlier at Rome with bronze medals in the 100m and 200m.

Finally, a set of bronze medals were won by Patrick O’Connor, Devon Morris, Seymour Fagan and Winthrop Graham in the 4 X 400m.

Howard Burnett also got a bronze for running in the heat for Graham and 17-year old school girl Merlene Frazier won a gold, running for Ottey in the heat. Frazier thus became the most successful Caribbean sports personality ever of her age since Vilfredo Benitez of Puerto Rico won his first professional world boxing title at that age in the 1970’s.

Winthrop Graham also became the most successful male double medallist at the world level since Donald Quarrie at Montreal in 1976. If Stewart, however, has in fact been elevated for his Rome feat they would be in the same category (Graham, however, winning medals in a hurdles and a relay event).

Stewart was also one of the additional finalists at Tokyo in what is probably the most significant non-medal winning performance ever in the history of our sport. He finished sixth in the greatest men’s 100m race ever run by a Central American and thus also Jamaican and Caribbean – in a record time of 9.96.

He had led the race in fact at 50 metres and was still equal first at 60. In this race not only did Carl Lewis set a new world record of 9.86 but Leroy Burrell in second beat his own previous world mark by one 200th of a second. Dennis Mitchell in third at 9.91 had been in force up to June (this race was in August). Linford Christie (who was to go on to win the Olympic title in 1992) did not get a medal in fourth although his British national record of 9.92 equalled the world record at the beginning of the year. Frank Fredericks of Namibia, who was to go on to win the silvers in the 200 at both Tokyo and Barcelona, set an African and national record of 9.95 in fifth.

Our only other men’s final placing was in the 4 X 100 relaywhere Stewart, Dennis Mowatt in his first major international outing, John Mair and Michael Green finished sixth. Wayne Watson had run in the heat instead of Mowatt. O’Connor missed the final of the 400 by just a 100th of a second.

For the women, Juliet Cuthbert was the only other finalist finishing sixth in the 100 after running well throughout the Championships. Michelle Freeman finished a very creditable fifth in one semi-final of the women’s 100m hurdles.

It is noteworthy that our women’s 4 X 400m team would almost certainly have made the final but was not sent due to the lack of funds.

It is noteworthy that our women’s 4 X 400m team would almost certainly have made the final but was not sent due to the lack of funds.

Finalists & Medal Winners in the World Athletic Championships 1983 - 1993
Empty
1983 1987 1991 1993
Gold Bert Cameron (400m)
Empty
4 X 100: J. Cuthbert, B.McDonald, M. Ottey, D. Duhaney
(M. Frazier)
M. Ottey (200m)
Silver M. Ottey (200m) Ray Stewart (100m) W. Graham (400m H) M. Ottey (100m)
Bronze 4 X 100: L. Hodges, J. Pusey, J. Cuthbert, M. Ottey M. Ottey (100m)
M. Ottey (200m)
4 X 100: J. Mair, A. Smith, C. Wright, R. Stewart
(G. Meghoo)
M. Ottey (100m)
M. Ottey (200m)
4 X 400: W. Graham, P. O'Connor, D. Morris, S. Fagan
(H. Burnett)
W. Graham (400m H)
S. Richards(400m)
4 X 100: M. Freeman, J. Campbell, N. Mitchell, M. Ottey
Finalist M. Ottey (4th, 100m)
G. Jackson (5th, 200m)
4 X 100: (7th) J.Walcott, C. Reid, R. Stewart, S. Samuels
4 X 400: (6th) C. Rattray, I. Oliver, S. Farmer, S. Richards
4 X 400: (6th) M. Senior, D. Morris, B. Cameron, W. Graham
R. Stewart (6th, 100m)
J. Cuthbert (6th, 100m)
4 X 100: D. Mowatt, J. Mair, M. Green, R. Stewart
(W. Watson)
4 X 400: (4th): J. Campbell, S. Richards, E. Turner, D. Hemmings
(B. Grant)
D. Hemmings (6th, 400m H)
G. Haughton (6th, 400m)
N. Mitchell (7th, 100m)
J. Campbell (7th, 400m)
M. Freeman (7th, 100m H)
R. Stewart (8th, 100m)
4 X 400: (8th) G. Haughton, E. Clarke, W. Graham, D. Blake

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