Les Laing was a member of the ‘Magnificent Five’, sometimes referred to as the ‘Galant Five’ (Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, Les Laing and Byron LaBeach) who took the world by storm in 1952 at the Olympic Games which were held in Helsinki. The team ran a world record time of 3:03.9, breaking a 20 year-old record.
Although he rarely spent time in Jamaica, everyone remembered him as the quiet one by nature. Les also competed in the 200m at the 1948 (London) & 1952 (Helsinki) 200m Olympics where he placed 6th & 5th at the respective Finals.
Olympian Laing hailed from Linstead, St. Catherine and his prowess in Track and Field began at the Dinthill Technical High School where he majored in Agricultural Science. He pursued this subject at the Jamaica School of Agriculture and later received a job as a teacher in Puerto Rico in his field.
In June 2003, the then Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association, now referred to as the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, held a VMBS sponsored function to honour the entire 4x400m gold medallists team in the 1952 Olympic Games. When he arrived for the function in Kingston Jamaica, Laing was astonished at the level of interest still being shown after 51 years.
He was also inducted into the Central American and Caribbean Confederation Hall of Fame in 2005.
He was married to Carmen Phipps, sister of Frank Phipps and is an Olympian herself who competed with the late Dr. Cynthia Thompson, in the high jump event in 1948. She was the 1946 Central America and Caribbean (CAC) champion in High Jump. The union produced three children, one girl and two boys.
Les Laing died at age 95 years, twelve days short of his 96th birthday. Jamaica says thanks to Les Laing, a quiet giant who has left a great legacy in Jamaica athletics.
May his soul Rest in Peace.
February 10, 2021.