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Happy Birthday, Arthur Wint

When Arthur Wint emerged into the world 100 years ago, on May 25, 1920, even his father, a Presbyterian preacher, might not have foreseen the greatness that lay ahead for his son. 28 years later, Wint would become a symbol of Jamaican excellence by winning the island's first Olympic gold medal. The remarkable achievement came at the 1948 Olympic Games over 400 metres.

ArthurWint WebWint's journey to gold started at Calabar High School under the guidance first of legendary GC Foster and then former Calabar sprint great F A Laing. Already tall for his age, Wint did back-to-back class 3 sprint doubles to help Calabar win Boys Championships at Kensington Park in 1932 and 1933.

His versatility began to show in 1935 when he won the class 2 high jump and placed second in both the 440 yards and the long jump. After retaining his high jump title the following year, he starred at Champs in 1937. Wint showed his speed with a class 1 220/440 double and took silver medals in the long jump and the open 120 yard hurdles.

His first steps into the international scene were surefooted. Not yet 18, the 1.94 metre tall native of Plowden, Manchester took home gold in the 800 metres and bronze in the 400 metre hurdles from the 1938 CAC Games. A star was born.

A stint with the RAF took him to Canada and then Britain where he continued to make progress on the track. By the time the 1946 CAC Games rolled around, he was world class and did a 400/800 double, taking the shorter race ahead of compatriots Herb McKenley and George Rhoden.

Wint went to the starting line at the 1948 Olympics as a contender in both the 400 and the 800. A fast finish in the two lap final got him the silver, but with a balanced race in the 400 final, he caught the fast starting McKenley and thundered to the finish in the Olympic record equalling time of 46.2 seconds. Wint's post race comments showed how humble this Jamaican giant was. "I didn't know I had it in me", he said after his upset of McKenley, who had set a 400 metre world record the previous year.

Experts frown upon 400/800 doubles because both events are demanding. Wint's return of gold and silver was unparalleled and remained so until 1976, when Alberto Juantorena of Cuba won both events at the Montreal Olympics.

Unfortunately, his 1948 Olympic experience ended painfully. He was hustling through the third leg of the 4x400 final when he was struck by a muscle pull with McKenley waiting to anchor.

Four years later, Wint was back at the Games. He missed a medal in the 400, where Rhoden and McKenley went 1-2, but collected another silver medal in the 800 metres. Together with that pair and 200 metre finalist Les Laing, Wint made up for the 1948 relay disappointment with a win over the United States in the world record time of 3 minutes 03.9 seconds. That hard fought victory gave the 32 year-old Wint his second Olympic gold medal.

He retired the following year to concentrate on his career as a medical doctor.

Arthur Wint, OD, MBE, made wide ranging contributions to his country off the track as well. He saw to the health of Jamaicans at medical facilities around the island, often for free and was instrumental in the formation of the Sports Medicine Association. His popularity in the United Kingdom was put to use in the nineteen-seventies when he served as Jamaican High Commissioner to Britain.

His generous spirit, his fierce loyalty to his country and his drive to do his best no matter what task assigned to him earned him lofty national awards in Jamaica and Britain. In addition, the roadway that leads past the National Stadium was named Arthur Wint Drive and a statue, built in his image, stands in from of the Stadium in memory of the achievements of Wint and his Olympic teammates.

Arthur Wint died in 1992 but his legacy stands as an enormous inspiration to athletes and Jamaicans everywhere.

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