year will mark the golden jubilee of the 1948 Olympic Games in London.
It was there that Trinidad and Tobago competed in the globe's biggest
sporting event for the first time. The initial team included weightlifter,
Rodney Wilkes, who went on to win this country's first medal - silver
in the featherweight class - along with a track and field team composed
of sprinter George Lewis and long-distance runner Mannie Ramjohn.
But there was another Trinidadian sprinter in London: competing for
Great Britain -- which was not uncommon, given that his country was
still a part of the British Empire. The man in question was Emmanuel
McDonald Bailey, a 27-year old who was in the midst of establishing
a world record for a number of national titles won at the British AAA
Championships (15, 1946-53).
In addition to placing 4th in the 100 metres in London, Bailey would
go on to earn a bronze four years later at the Helsinki Olympics. But,
the zenith of his career came at Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1951 when he
clocked 10.2 to become the only Trinidad-born athlete to hold a world
record in an individual athletic discipline.It was a feat which ranked
Bailey among the finest track athletes produced by this country: Mannie
Dookie,JRN Cumberbatch, George Lewis, Michael Agostini, Edwin Roberts,
Wendell Mottley, Hasely Crawford, Michael Paul and Ian Morris.
Bailey looks back to see Herb McKenley in his wake, while winning
a race at White City Stadium. That day, Bailey's three-year old
son, Robert, had been carried to the hospital with suspected meningitis.
The sprinter's worry had been aggravated by McKenley's pre-race
psychological tactics. Bailey "ran like a deer" to leave
the great Jamaican trailing behind.
Ato Boldon's progressive strides toward joining these elite ranks, and
his continuing quest for a world record in the 100m, it is only fair
that we not forget the one who put Trinidad and Tobago on the athletics
Bailey was born in the Hardbargain section of Williamsville, south Trinidad,
on December 8, 1920, and realised his athletic prowess at an early age.
He was sprint champion at his Arima primary school - Arima Boys Government
School - as well as his secondary schools: Tranquility Boys Intermediate
and Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain.
1935, Bailey was invited to compete in a meet in St Vincent where he
broke the local record. Two years later, the precocious 16-year old
became the first local sprinter to beat JRN Cumberbatch over 220 yards
in the then national record time of 21.5. He then went on to take part
in the British AAA Championships, in London, reaching the second round
of the 220 yds. After becoming Trinidad and Tobago national sprint champion,
Bailey returned to England in 1944 as part of service in the Royal Air
Force (RAF). The following year, he was invited to represent Great Britain
in the dual meet versus France, after running second to Empire Games
sprint champion, Cyril Holmes, throughout the 1945 season. It was during
the next eight years, that Bailey established his world record for most
national titles, winning the sprint double every year - except 1948,
due to the fact that he suffered a serious injury to his left leg at
the end of 1947.
While trying to regain fitness, he competed at the '48 AAA Championships
where he was beaten by an Englishman - Alistair McCorquodale - for the
first time, and lost to John Treloar in the final. Nevertheless, he
went on to win both 100 and 200 after that, and added a relay title
to make it 15 in all. Apart from the world record established in Belgrade,
Bailey also held the British 100 yds (9.6) and European 100 metres (10.2)
records between 1946 and 1953. Noted for his disciplined training regimen,
Bailey had been likened to the Greek athletes of 3,000 years ago by
Philip Noel-Baker who stated: "No modern sprinter has ever fulfilled
the Greek ideal more perfectly than E. McDonald Bailey. In his training
he has been a model of perseverance, self-discipline, and concentration
for many years. In his races he has shown a grace of movement, a perfection
of style, that no other sprinter has ever surpassed."
a 1958 ranking of the world's 100 greatest sprinters, Bailey was placed
21st on a list which includes such sprinting greats as Bobby Morrow
(No.1), Jesse Owens, Mel Patton, Hec Hogan, Jackson Sholtz and Art Bragg.
Fellow Trinidadian, Mike Agostini (51st), and Jamaican legend, Herb
McKenley (59th) also figured in the ranking. Because of his success
in England, Bailey was invited to represent Trinidad and Tobago in the
inaugural Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Baranquilla,
Colombia in 1946, where he captained the team. However, there was uncertainty
on the part of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Association (TTOA) whether
or not to compete in London. There was a shortage of funds - George
Lewis had to get funding in order to compete. Furthermore, there were
the doubts concerning Bailey's fitness in light of his injury. As Bailey
admitted this week: "I was written off by the experts." It
had even been alleged that TTOA president Sir Lennox Riley, concerned
about Bailey's form, actually requested that the athlete not be included
on the local team. In any case, Bailey's father, then a member of the
TTOA wrote his son advising him to compete for Great Britain in light
of the indecision at home. It was on this basis, according to Bailey,
that: "I accepted Britain's rather tongue-in-cheek invitation to
run in the 100 metres."
Things were not certain on the other side of the Atlantic either. The
British federation left open the possibility for Bailey to be made available
to compete for his homeland. But the meeting with the Trinidad and Tobago
delegation lasted all of three minutes with the local chef-de-mission,
Knowles, brusquely declaring: "We have not made any provisions
for Bailey." In light of the injury, it was a miracle that Bailey
made it to the final where he finished fourth. Four years later in Helsinki,
Bailey figured in a dramatic 100 metres final in which four sprinters,
including himself, were credited with a time of 10.4. Photo-finish technology
was utilized and, in the end, Bailey was given a third-place finish,
and the bronze medal. Bailey's route to the world record had an interesting
twist - he had actually achieved it two years earlier in 1949. Running
in perfect conditions at a meet in Reijkjavik, Iceland, Bailey crossed
the line in 10.2. But, red-faced organizers would have to come to terms
with the absence of a wind gauge in the stadium, a stipulation already
of the IAAF: the "record" could not be ratified. Nevertheless,
Bailey took advantage of similar conditions in Belgrade to achieve the
clocking once again.
retiring from the track in 1953, McDonald Bailey dabbled in professional
rugby in England for one season, before displaying his journalistic
calling. An associate member of the London Institute of Journalists,
he worked for the BBC at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, and the 1970
Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. Over a period of 30 years, he has written
for various publications in England and Trinidad. During this time,
he went to British Guiana where he was employed with the top Guyanese
firm, Bookers, from 1954 to 1963. It was here that he introduced the
concept of cross country running, as a necessary training regimen for
all sports to the region. Long distance jogging is important in all
sports as a foundation for all-round fitness. Bailey actually helped
to introduce this on the training programme at two English Football
League clubs: Queen's Park Rangers and Brentford. Bailey is convinced
that it is the lack of such preparation that is affecting some of our
sports teams. He singled out the West Indies team, pointing out that
"Courtney Walsh can be in the prime of his career at 35, once he
keeps himself fit": by contrast, he said that other players may
be feeling the effects of strain.
of Bailey's legacy in Guyana is the country's present renown for long-distance
running. He worked closely with top sports personalities such as Joe
Solomon, George DePena and Ian McDonald. The locals have not forgotten
his work, and on two occasions last year, he was invited back to Guyana
where his wisdom was consulted again.
his return to Trinidad in 1963, Bailey worked at both the National Energy
Corporation (NEC) as well as the Shell Oil company. But he continued
to be involved in athletics and, was the coach of the outstanding Trinidad
and Tobago track team which won three medals at the 1964 Olympic Games
in Tokyo. Bailey now lives in Port of Spain: renting a room in Woodbrook
while still conducting business in downtown, where he contributes articles
for the Catholic News publication. In 1977, Bailey was awarded the Chaconia
Gold Medal for his contribution to local athletics. However, in light
of his all-round achievements, it is still a mystery as to why the local
administrative powers - particularly the Ministry of Sport and Youth
Affairs - have not made more active use of his wisdom and experience.
Why hasn't he, at least, been given access to the schools across the
country? In spite of all this, McDonald Bailey's standing as an athletic
great remains unfazed. Even today, he receives letters of admiration
and was recently presented with a book by British 400m hurdles record
holder, Kriss Akabusi. Accolades, in varying degrees, have also been
bestowed over the decades. Akabusi told Bailey that he is an "inspiration
"; while he has been referred to by track and field statistician,
Maxwell Stiles, as "one of the greatest sprinters of all time."