THE LIKES of Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown are expected to dominate proceedings at London 2012 but it was in 1948 where the seeds to Jamaica’s athletics success were first planted.
London was chosen to host the 1948 Olympic Games just three years after World War II and Wembley Stadium was the venue that would witness Jamaica’s first ever gold medallist being crowned.
Born in Plowden, Manchester in Jamaica in 1920, Arthur Wint captured gold in the 400m ahead of compatriot Herb McKenley and a silver medal in the 800m in 1948.
Although Wint made his name on the track, he was a doctor by profession, a pilot in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and served as High Commissioner of Jamaica from 1974 to 1978.
British Olympic middle distance John Parlett raced alongside Wint in the final of the 800m and regarded the 6’5” competitor as his hero.
Parlett, who finished eighth in the final of the 800m in 1948, told the Voice of Sport: “I first met Arthur when we were in the RAF in 1946. I say met, but it was rather remote as he was a Flight Lieutenant pilot with wings and I was an AC2, the lowest form of life in the RAF.
“I had done quite well in various half-mile events and was brought into the RAF athletic team for the Inter Service Championships. I was glad I was on his side.
"We won our event the RAF won the title.”
WINNING QUARTET: (L-R) Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, Herb McKenley and Les Laing captured 4x400m gold in Helsinki in 1952
Nicknamed the ‘Gentle Giant’, Wint would go on to win gold again as part of Jamaica’s triumphant 4x400m relay at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games as well as another silver medal in the 800m.
He died in 1992 but it was his services away from athletics that made him a celebrated figure, evident by a street in Kingston called Arthur Wint Drive in his honour.
“In later years, I have been compiling a collection of archive film of Arthur’s races and have had many comments about his attitude to sport and his great contribution,” said Parlett.
“When Norma (Wint’s wife) was over here a few years ago, I met her when she had returned to Cheshire Hospital where Arthur had spent some time. A woman approached her and said: ‘I’m so pleased to meet you. Your husband saved my life.’ How many gold medals is that worth?”