Arthur Wint should be more than a footnote to the Jamaican people

By May 25, 2020

Had he been alive, Dr Arthur Wint would have celebrated 100 years on planet earth today and what a wonderful celebration that would have been for a man who had accomplished so much.

Each year at about this time, I am always prone to lament that Arthur Wint was not more of a local celebrity here in his home country.  After all, the man brought us our very first Olympic gold medal upsetting his compatriot Herb McKenley in the one-lap sprint in an Olympic record 46.2 in 1948.

In addition, he came within three-tenths of a second of doing that rare Olympic 400/800m double, something that only the great Alberto Juantorena managed to accomplish 28 years later in Montreal. Had he had a little more gas in the tank in the 800m, Mal Whitfield might have been forced to settle for the silver medal.

Another silver in the 800 in Helsinki in ’52, again behind Whitfield, and a crucial member of Jamaica’s 4x400m team that won gold in world-record time meant that Wint was the most decorated Jamaican Olympic athlete with two gold medals and two silver medals.

These days, it seems his name only surfaces from our collective subconscious every four years when we reminisce on our Olympic heroes from a bygone era, which for me is a travesty.

Arthur Wint was more than just a world-renowned athlete. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, an honour that I suspect came not just for his heroics on the track but also for his service in the Royal Air Force where he encountered rampant racism and other forms of prejudice.

Moreover, Dr Wint was so much more than an athlete and war veteran. He was also a man of the people.

After the war, he studied medicine and on his eventual return to Jamaica in the mid-1950s, chose to settle and work in Hanover, treating patients who came from all over the parish. Stories are told about how he would be seen playing dominoes with the fishermen out in Negril. He would later serve as a High Commissioner to Great Britain and was an ambassador to other European nations.

I wish I had met him. I sometimes imagine the stories he would tell about his Olympic exploits, his time as a Flight Lieutenant or his service to his fellow Jamaicans in Hanover. Those stories would be something to treasure for a lifetime.

Yes, there is a statue mounted in his honour at the National Stadium in Kingston but we have come to take it for granted. I would bet that not many people of the current generation would know who the statue represents.

That, for me, is sad. Arthur Wint was great man from a pantheon of great men. A champion in sports and in life, he was an exemplary Jamaican. A man who deserves to be more than a sports factoid we dredge up every four years.

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 SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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