Debbie Byfield-Russell grateful for honour bestowed by Jamaica Olympians Association

By June 27, 2024
Honoured Jamaica Olympians (l-r) Winthrop Graham, Debbie Byfield-Russell, Brigitte Foster-Hylton and Ian Weakly with their trophies at the Alhambra Inn in Kingston on Tuesday night. Honoured Jamaica Olympians (l-r) Winthrop Graham, Debbie Byfield-Russell, Brigitte Foster-Hylton and Ian Weakly with their trophies at the Alhambra Inn in Kingston on Tuesday night. Yardie Sports

Debbie Byfield-Russell expressed heartfelt gratitude after being honoured along with three other Olympians at a special ceremony dubbed “Beyond the Podium: Recognizing our Olympians and Team Champions," held at the Alhambra Inn in Kingston on Tuesday night. The event celebrated the achievements of Byfield-Russell, Brigitte Foster-Hylton, Winthrop Graham, and Ian Weakly.

Byfield-Russell, who competed for Jamaica at the 1972 Olympics in Munich as a member of the 4x100 relay team and retired in 1980, was moved by the recognition. Reflecting on the honour, she told Sportsmax.TV, “I don’t care how long it took as long as it’s done. I appreciate it so very much because when I think about how many people of the seven billion in the world get to be an Olympian, it’s kind of special."

Foster-Hylton, a three-time World Championship medalist, who represented Jamaica at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympic Games, was also honoured. Winthrop Graham, the silver medallist in the 400m hurdles at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, and Ian Weakly, who competed in the 400m hurdles at the 2000 and 2012 Olympic Games, were among the celebrated athletes.

In addition to the Olympians, JAAA President Garth Gayle, Timekeeper Winston Harvey, JAAA Executive Member Dennis May, and JAAA and ISSA Competitions Officer Ewan Scott were honoured for their contributions to athletics in Jamaica.

Byfield-Russell’s athletic journey began at White Marl Primary School in St Catherine and continued at Excelsior High School, where she won the 100m and 200m at the Girls Championships in 1972. She went on to represent Jamaica at various international events, including the 1971 and 1975 Pan American Games, the Carifta Games, and the 1978 Commonwealth Games. She continued to compete for Jamaica until her retirement in 1980.

After retiring from athletics, Byfield-Russell pursued higher education, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Physiology with a minor in Nutrition from California State University in Hayward in 1994. She became a founding member of the Jamaica Olympians Association in California and served on the board of the Excelsior Alumni in Florida, contributing significantly to the community.

 Reflecting on her time abroad, she said, “I went to school, I worked, I teach exercise, I am a grandmother, those things take up my time. I lived in California for a long time and was a founding member of the Jamaica Association of Northern California there. I moved to Florida eventually and I was there for 20 years and was on the board of the Excelsior Alumni. We worked hard, we gave a lot of money to DASH; I’ve been involved.”

DASH (Discipline, Ambition, Scholarship and Honour) Athletics is an organization past students of Excelsior High School that runs the school’s track and field programme. Byfield also helps fund Excelsior’s teams to the annual Penn Relays in the United States.

Having lived abroad for 52 years, Byfield-Russell returned to Jamaica two years ago and now resides in Mandeville. She shared her joy about moving back home, saying, “(It’s been) wonderful, won-der-ful. I get to be in the market, rub shoulders with my people and just enjoying myself. I am having a really good time. I am enjoying the weather there and also the peace and quiet.”

Her story is a testament to the enduring spirit of Olympians and their continuous contributions to their communities, even long after their athletic careers have ended.



Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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