Top Jamaican Male Olympians
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Top Jamaican Male Olympians

Top Jamaican Male Olympians

The list of male athletes has been dominated in recent years by eight-time Olympic medalist Usain Bolt. Bolt is in good company as many Jamaican male athletes have broken records and turned in spectacular performances at the Olympic Games since Jamaica first competed in 1948. Below is a list of the top male Olympians.

Usain St Leo Bolt, Trelawny

Usain Bolt
Bolt is the first person in history to hold both the 100-meter and 200-meter world records, with 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds, respectively. With a time of 36.84 seconds, he also holds the world record as a member of 4×100-meter Jamaican men’s relay team. Known as “Lightning Bolt,” he is the only sprinter to win gold medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter events at three consecutive Olympic Games in 2008, 2012, and 2016. Bolt is the first athlete to win four 200-meter World Championship titles; he has also won three 100-meter titles. Considered the greatest sprinter of all time, Bolt has been named IAAF World Athlete of the Year, Track & Field Athlete of the Year, the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year three times, and the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year four time. He retired after the 2017 World Championships.

Arthur Wint, Manchester

Arthur Wint

Arthur Wint

Wint was Jamaica’s first Olympic gold medalist, winning the 400-meter event at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London with a time of 46.2 seconds. In 1952 at the Helsinki Olympics, he was a member of Jamaica’s 4×400-meter men’s relay team that set a world record and won the gold medal. Known as the “Gentle Giant,” Wint was the Jamaican Boy Athlete of the Year in 1937 and won a gold medal in the 800-meter event at the Central American Games in Panama. At the 1948 Olympics, in addition to the 400-meter gold medal, he won a silver medal in the 800-meters, and at the 1952 Olympics, he won again won a silver medal in the 800-meters in addition to the gold for the 4×400-meter relay. He ran his last race in 1953, completed his medical internship, and became a doctor. He returned to Hanover in Jamaica to become the parish’s only resident physician in 1955. In 1973, he received Jamaica’s Order of Distinction and served as Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Britain and ambassador to Sweden and Denmark from 1974 to 1978. In 1977 he was inducted to the Black Athlete’s Hall of Fame in the United States. He was inducted into the Jamaica Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Central American & Caribbean Athletic Confederation Hall of Fame in 2003. He died on Heroes Day in 1992 at the age of 72.

The Hon. Herbert “Herb” McKenley, Clarendon

Herbert-Henry-McKenley

Jamaican Sprinter Herbert Henry McKenley – Photo Courtesy of University of Illinois

McKenley was the fastest 400-meter runner in the world five decades ago and is considered to be the force behind Jamaica’s dominance in track and field sports. He set world records in 1947 and 1948 but is better known for his work from 1954 to 1973 when he coached the Jamaican national team and served as president of Jamaica’s Amateur Athletic Association. He competed in a total of six events at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, winning one gold medal and three silver medals. He is the only person to compete in the finals of all three sprinting events, the 100-meters, 200-meters, and 400-meters at the Olympics. He was at the top of the list of the world’s best time in 1947, with 10.3 seconds in the 100-meters, 20.4 seconds in the 200-meters and 46.2 seconds in the 400-meters, the only person to have ever achieved this feat. In 1951 at the first Pan American Games, he came in third in the 100-meters, 200-meters, and 400-meters, the only time this had ever been done. He received the Jamaican Order of Merit in 2004 for his contributions to sports. He died in 2007.

Donald Quarrie, Kingston
Quarrie was one of the top sprinters in the world in the 1970s and one of the youngest to be a member of the Jamaican Olympic teams. He gained international attention with his sprint triple at the 1970 Commonwealth Games. He competed in five Olympic Games and won four medals. He was named Sportsman of the Year five times and was honored with a statue at the entrance to National Stadium. A high school was also named for him in East Kingston, and several reggae songs pay tribute to him as well. He won a gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in the 200-meters and a silver medal in the 100-meters. He equaled the 200-meter world record in 1971 and the 100-meter world record in 1976.

Asafa Powell, St. Catherine

Asafa Powell

Asafa Powell

Powell is a 100-meter specialist and has broken the under-10-second barrier in competition more often than any other runner in history, doing so 97 times. He set the 100-meter record twice between 2005 and 2008 and consistently broke the 10-second barrier during competition. His personal best time of 9.72 seconds ranks fourth among the top all-time male 100-meter runners. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, he won gold in the 4×100-meter relay. He also competed at the2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympics in the 100-meter event.

Yohan Blake, St. James

Yohan Blake

Yohan Blake

Blake won a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships and a silver in the 100-meter and 200-meter events at the 2012 Olympics in London. He is the second-fastest man in the world, second only to Jamaica’ Usain Bolt, in the 100-meters and 200-meters. His has personal best times of 9.68 seconds and 19.26 seconds, respectively. He was the youngest 100-meter World Champion and holds the Jamaican national junior record for the 100-meter. At the age of 19 and 196 days, Blake was at one time the youngest sprinter to break the 10-seoncd barrier.

George Ezekiel Kerr, Kingston
Kerr represented Jamaica at the 1964 Olympics, finishing fourth in the 800-meters and the 4×400-meter relay events. He broke the 800-meter Olympic record in the 800-meter semifinals but lost the bronze medal by less then one-tenth of a second. He represented the British West Indies at the 1960 Summer Olympics, winning the bronze medal in the 800-meters. Kerr became the first Jamaican athlete to see the national flag flown in recognition of his wins in the 400-meter and 800-meter events at the Central American and Caribbean Games at National Stadium in Kingston. He won a total of five medals at three Commonwealth Games, a bronze in 1958 in the 4×400-meter relay, silver in the 880 in 1962, and a bronze, his final medal, in the 880 in 1966. Kerr died in 2012.

George Rhoden, Kingston

Olympic Gold Medalist George Rhoden

Olympic Gold Medalist George Rhoden

George Vincent Rhoden won two Olympic gold medals in 1952. He was one of the most successful long sprinters from Jamaica in the 1940s and 1950s. Although he competed at the 1948 Summer Olympics, he did not win a medal. He set a world record in the 400-meter in 1950 and won the AAU championships in the event from 1949 to 1951. He was a favorite at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, winning gold in the 400-meters. He also won gold as anchor runner of Jamaica’s relay team, setting a world record of 3:03.9.

Greg Haughton, St. Mary
Gregory Haughton took home the gold medal in the 400-meters at the 1996 Summer Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics. He ran a personal best in the 400-meters at 44.56 seconds. He also won bronze medals in the 400-meters at the 1995 and 2001 World Championships. He won gold over the distance at the 2001 Goodwill Games, the 1999 Pan American Games, 1993 Central American and the Caribbean Championships in Athletics. He was twice named NJCAA Champion and a three-time NCAA champion in the 400-meters. He won five Jamaican national titles during his career. As a member of Jamaica’s 4×400-meter relay team, he was named 2004 World Indoor Champion, 1998 Commonwealth Champion, and 1999 Pan American Games champion. He won Olympic bronze medals in the relay in 2000 and 1996, and four silver medals at the World Championships.

James Beckford, St. Mary
Long jumper James Beckford competed for Jamaica at the Olympic Games in 1996, 2000, and 2004. He won a silver medal in the long jump at the 1996 Games and two silvers at the World Championships between 1995 and 2003. He holds the Jamaican record for the triple jump at 17.92 meters. He also held the long jump record with 8.62 meters until 2019 when Tajay Gayle surpassed the mark at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar. He as named Jamaica Sportsman of the Year in 1995, 1996, and 2003. In 2018, he won the World Masters Championships.

Top Jamaican Male Olympians pin

Photo: Deposit Photos

About the author

Stephanie Korney