the Caribbean nations participating in the Games of the 27th Olympiad
in Sydney, it was the celebration of a century. For one hundred years,
the Olympics have brought glory to a select group of countries, and
which have seen the rise of many great athletes who have earned the
right to be grouped with the best there ever was and, in the process,
have gained recognition for their native lands.
all started when Cuba and Haiti traveled to Paris for the 1900 Games.
At the time they were anomalies: two independent nations in a region
still marked by colonialism .It was, therefore, only just that these
nations shared the honor of representing the Caribbean in France. It
was not a fruitless occasion by any means, with 16-year old Cuban fencing
sensation, Ramon Fonst, winning the individual epee event. Fonst was
outstanding among his competitors here and, when it came to the open
epee class for amateurs and fencing masters, the only person who had
an edge over him was his French instructor, Albert Ayat, who beat him
into second place. Four years later, in St. Louis, Fonst continued his
mastery with a gold medal in the individual epee competition and triumph
in the individual foil competition. This time, however, he had a capable
compatriot in Manuel Diaz winner of the individual sabre gold
medal. Fonst and Diaz then linked up with American Albert Van Zo Post,
to win the team foil event.
Cuban who stood out at the 1904 Olympics, was marathon runner, Felix
Carvajal. A mail carrier from Havana, Carvajal financed his trip to
St. Louis through a series of exhibitions. He then proceeded to lose
all of his money during a craps game in New Orleans and was forced to
hitchhike the rest of the way to Missouri. Carvajal arrived at the marathon
starting line looking more like a spectator than a competitor; he was
clad in heavy shoes, long trousers, a long-sleeved shirt and topped
off with a beret. Martin Sheridan, the American discus thrower was on
hand to lend Carvajal assistance by cutting his trousers at the knees.
The Cubans running tactics will probably not figure in any modern
coaching manual. He spent much of his time chatting with by-standers
and even took a detour through an apple orchard where he helped himself
to some of the produce. Despite all of this, Carvajal still wound up
fourth in the race!
Cuba then withdrew from the Olympic Games until the 1924 event in Paris.
That was where Haiti made its mark, literally, in the shooting competition.
The team of Ludovic Augustin, Astrel Rolland, Ludovic Valborge, Destin
Destine and Eloi Metullus scored a total of 646 points in the free rifle
competition, to finish in a tie with France behind the United States
(676 points). The French eventually won a play-off, leaving Haiti to
settle for bronze. Four years later, Silvio Cator, who also served as
captain of the Haitian national soccer team, took the long jump silver
medal in track and field with a leap of 7.58 meters. This was to be
the last Caribbean medal-earning performance for the next 20 years.
games saw the Olympic debuts of Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago
and British Guiana (later Guyana). With the exception of the latter,
all finished in the medals table. Juan Venegas earned a bronze for Puerto
Rico in the bantamweight boxing competition and Trinidad and Tobagos
Rodney Wilkes was a silver medalist in the featherweight category in
weightlifting. It was at these games that the Jamaican quartet of George
Rhoden, Leslie Laing, Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley would lay the groundwork
for their countrys distinct prowess in track and field. Over the
course of two Olympics, they captured a total of eight medals, including
three golds. The highlight was the world record victory in the 4x400
meters relay in Helsinki in 1952, with anchor Rhoden finishing a yard
ahead of his American counterpart, Mal Whitfield to bring his team victory
in 3 minutes, 3.9 seconds.
the West Indies Federation was formed in the spirit of fostering greater
regional unity and, in conjunction, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and
Barbados sent a unified team to the 1960 Rome Olympics, competing as
the British West Indies. Two medals were won in track and field: Jamaican
George Kerr took the bronze in the 800m and then figured in another
bronze medal effort in the 4x400 relay. The team which comprised
Jamaicans Kerr, Malcolm Spence and Keith Gardner, plus Barbadian James
Wedderburn finished behind the USA and West Germany in a time
of 3:04.0. But the West Indies Federation did not last long and was
dissolved in 1962, leaving Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago (which both
won Independence that year) to compete in Tokyo, in 1964, as separate
teams once again. The Trinidadians claimed three medals in track and
field: a bronze in the 200m (Edwin Roberts), a silver in the 400 (Wendell
Mottley) and a bronze in the 4x400 relay. Enrique Figuerola, meanwhile,
became the first Castro-era Cuban to medal in the Olympics when he finished
second to American Bob Hayes in the 100 m.
all the famous records that were established in the rarefied confines
of Mexico City, Caribbean athletes still managed to play a role in track
and field in 1968. Lennox Miller finished second in the mens 100
m to the USAs Jim Hines, who set a world record of 9.95 seconds.
There were also silver medals for Cuba in the men and womens 4x100
m relay events. In addition, the Cubans made some inroads into boxing
with Enrique Regueiferos and Rolando Garbey winning silver medals in
the light-welterweight and light-middleweight classes, respectively.
But, it wasnt until four years later that the Cubans status
as the regions sporting powerhouse started becoming evident. The
Munich games saw them earning two medals in track and field, five in
boxing (including three golds) and a bronze medal in basketball, with
Cuba falling to the eventual gold medallists, the USSR, in the semi-finals.
In addition, Cuba also finished sixth in the womens volleyball
the regions finest track and field hour came in the 1976 Olympics
in Montreal, with the mens 100 m going to Hasely Crawford of Trinidad
and Tobago and the 200 m to Jamaicas Don Quarrie. Perhaps the
greatest achievement was that of Cuban Alberto Juantorena. One of the
favorites in the 400 meters, he duly won the event in 44.26. But he
immortalized himself when, in an event in which he was a virtual unknown,
the 800 m, he won the gold medal in a world record time of 1:43.50.
It was one of two great doubles achieved in Montreal: the other came
from Finlands Lasse Viren, who repeated his 5,000 and 10,000 meters
triumphs from 1972.
the western boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, some Caribbean
nations still decided to make the trip to the Soviet capital. Again,
it was Cuba that made the biggest impact, with 20 medals (8 golds) and
a fourth-place finish in the medal standings. Among the gold medallists
was Teofilo Stevenson, who became the first boxer to win three heavyweight
titles. Jamaica had three bronze medals with cyclist David Weller
becoming the countrys first non-track and field medalist - and
Guyana got its first ever Olympic medal when Michael Anthony achieved
the bronze in the bantamweight boxing division.
later, Cuba decided to show solidarity with the Eastern Bloc in boycotting
the Los Angeles Olympics. Still, Caribbean nations were able to do well,
particularly in track and field. Thirty-three year old Don Quarrie,
earned a silver medal in the 4x100 m relay. Meanwhile, Merlene Ottey-Page,
who had earned a 200 m bronze medal in Moscow four years earlier, collected
further bronze medals in both the 100 and 200 m. In addition, the finals
of the relay events saw appearances by Jamaica (mens 4x100m, womens
4x100m), Barbados (mens 4x400m), Trinidad and Tobago (womens
4x100m) and the Bahamas (womens 4x100m). In the boxing ring, Luis
Ortiz (lightweight) and Aristides Gonzalez (middleweight) earned silver
and bronze medals for Puerto Rico, while Pedro Nolasco of the Dominican
Republic was a bronze medalist in the bantamweight division.
Cuban president Fidel Castro decided that his country should show solidarity
with North Korea in boycotting the Seoul Olympics. The rest of the Caribbean
did have a marginal degree of success. Jamaicas Grace Jackson
was a silver medalist in the womens 200 m. There were also Jamaicans
in the finals the mens 100 m, 400 m and 400 m hurdles. In the
relays, Jamaica earned a silver medal in the mens 4x400 m event,
and placed fourth and fifth in the mens 4x100 m and womens
4x400 m relays, respectively. Outside the track and field arena, two
Caribbean nations earned their first Olympic medals. Surinames
Anthony Nesty became the first black medalist in swimming when he won
the mens 100 m butterfly in an Olympic record time of 53 seconds.
In yachting, Peter Holmberg of the U.S. Virgin Islands got a silver
medal in the Finn class with 40.4 points.
Caribbean nations participated in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Among these was Cuba, returning to the fold, after a twelve-year absence.
The period of isolation from this level had virtually no effect on the
Cubans, as they proved themselves to be stronger than ever amassing
31 medals and finishing fifth in the medal standings. Among the countrys
14 gold medal winners were world-record high jumper, Javier Sotomayor,
the formidable baseball team and the talented womens volleyball
team. Seven gold medals came in boxing, while there were also gold medalists
in the disciplines of judo, Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling.
Jamaica achieved four medals in track and field (three silvers and a
bronze), with the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Suriname each claiming a
games in Atlanta, four years ago, saw the continuation of the same trend:
Cuba proving itself to be adept in a variety of disciplines, with the
rest of the region enjoying success in the track and field arena. Cuba's
baseball and womens volleyball teams repeated as Olympic champions,
as did boxers Felix Savon (heavyweight), Ariel Hernandez (middleweight)
and Hector Vinet (light welterweight). Other medals came in track and
field, weightlifting, wrestling (Greco-Roman and freestyle) and fencing.
On the track there was a gold medal for Jamaican Deon Hemmings, who
won the womens 400 m hurdles as well as silver medals for her
compatriots Merlene Ottey (womens 100 and 200 m) and James Beckford
(mens long jump). Trinidad and Tobagos Ato Boldon was a
double-bronze medalist in the mens 100 and 200 m. In the relays,
there was a silver medal for the Bahamas in the womens 4x100m,
as well as a pair of bronze medals for Jamaica (mens 4x400m, womens
were things like in Sydney 2000? The answer : More of the same. For
certain, the Caribbean was well-represented in track and field: Boldon
was one the major favorites in both the mens 100 and 200 meters;
Obadele Thompson of Barbados was also a favorite in the 200 m, while
compatriot Andrea Blackett has been making her mark in the womens
100 m hurdles over the last two years; Deon Hemmings sought to repeat
her 400 m hurdles triumph, while 40-year old Ottey made her sixth Olympic
Games appearance. Cuba was expected to do well overall, with three gold
medalists from last years world championships in Seville on show:
Ivan Pedroso (mens long jump), Yoelvis Quesada (mens triple
jump) and Ana Quirot (womens 800 m). In addition, Cuba entered
the Sydney Games with the stated intention of sweeping all twelve boxing
divisions, with Savon seeking to emulate Stevenson as a three-time heavyweight
champion. Cuba, once again, was among the favorites to win the baseball
and womens volleyball titles for a third consecutive time.
the results, Caribbean athletes at Sydney Olympics 2000 continued the
tradition of excellence set in motion a century ago by Ramon Fonst.