Jamaican athletes who made history

Everyone knows Usain Bolt, but what about the other Jamaican track and field athletes who paved the way for future trendsetters? BUZZ Fam as we celebrate the achievements of our athletes at the Tokyo Olympics, we present a list of memorable Jamaican athletes who encouraged future athletes to go off!

Arthur Wint

Top 10 Jamaican Track and Field Athletic Stars
Athur Wint (Photo: Jamaican experiences)

Arthur Wint made history when he became Jamaica’s first Olympic gold medalist. Wint won the gold medal in the 400m (46.2 seconds) at the 1948 London Games, defeating teammate Herb McKenley. He also took home silver in the 800m. 

Wint, who was affectionately called “The Gentle Giant” was inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in the United States in 1977, the Jamaica Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, and the Central American and Caribbean Athletic Confederation Hall of Fame in 2003.

He was born in Plowden, Manchester, Jamaica in May 1920, and died on heroes day on October 19, 1992, at the age of 72. His funeral was attended by hundreds of people, including the Jamaican Prime Minister. He is memorialized by a statue outside the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.

Herbert Henry Mckenley

Herbert Henry McKenley

Herbert Henry McKenley is the only sprinter in the 20th century to win Olympic medals in the 100m and 400m, as well as have made the final round at the Olympics in all three sprints – 100, 200, and 400 metres. He is also the first man to run the quarter-mile under 46 seconds then under 45 seconds. In 1951, he won bronze medals in all three events at the Pan American Games.

He was born in Clarendon, Jamaica, on July 10, 1922, and was lovingly known as ‘Herb’ McKenley. After he retired from the field, he became a coach for the Jamaican national team from 1954 to 1973, as well as the head of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association. In 2004, he was given the Jamaican Order of Merit for his accomplishments in track and field.

He died on November 26, 2007, at the age of 85.

Donald Quarrie

Donald Quarrie

This Kingstonian, Donald Quarrie was one of the finest sprinters in the world in the 1970s. The 1976 Olympics in Montreal was the pinnacle of his career. Quarrie won gold in the 200m and silver in the 100m. He equalled the 200 meters world record in 1971 and equalled the 100 metres world record in 1976. He has lifetime bests of 10.07 seconds and 19.86 seconds for the events.

He has received recognition both on and off the field, a statue of him is proudly positioned at the entrance to Jamaica’s National Stadium as well as a school (Donald Quarrie High School) that bears his name in Eastern Kingston. 

Deon Marie Hemmings

Summer Olympics: Deon Marie Hemmings tops the list of most successful  female 400m hurdlers
Deon Marie Hemmings (Photo: Sportskeeda)

Deon Marie Hemmings paved the way for Jamaica’s future female hurdlers. When Deon Hemmings won the 400m Hurdles at the 1996 Olympics, she became the first Jamaican woman to win an Olympic gold.

She won the gold medal ahead of world record holder Kim Batten of the United States with a timing of 52.64 seconds in the 1996 Atlanta Games. For 12 years, this time was the Jamaican record.

Deon won the Olympic silver medal in the 2000 Olympics and established herself as the finest female 400-metre hurdles in Olympic history.

Merlene Ottey

Who Is Merlene Ottey? The Jamaican Athlete?
Merlene Ottey (Photo: My Island Jamaica)

This 15-time athlete of the year was born on 10 May 1960 and is a Jamaican-Slovenian former track and field sprinter. Undoubtedly though, for many, she’s Jamaican golden queen, who laid the ground for later champions like Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

In all major competitions, Ottey racked up 15 bronze medals which gave her, maybe the unwanted title, ‘the Bronze Queen’.

Only an Olympic title is lacking from her incredible career tally of eight medals at the Games (a record) and 14 World Championship medals, including two world titles over 200m, in 1993 and 1995, and another obtained with the Jamaican relay team in 1991. Ottey is the only woman to have competed at seven editions of the Olympic Games. And in the 1980 Moscow games, Ottey became the first female English-speaking Caribbean athlete to win an Olympic medal. 

Back in Jamaica, she was awarded an Officer of the Order of Nation, and the Order of Distinction for ‘services in the field of sport’.


Olympic reflection with Veronica Campbell Brown - AW
Veronica Campbell-Brown (Photo: Athletics Weekly)

Veronica Campbell- Brown is an eight (8th) time Olympic medalist.  She is one of Jamaica’s most decorated athletes. She is known for her specialization in the 100 meters and 200meters races which she dominated. Brown made history when she became the second woman in history to win two consecutive 200 m events. 

She has won world championships at the youth, junior and senior levels. At the 2004 Athen Olympics Campbell-Brown won the women’s 200m making her the first Jamaican and Caribbean woman in the history of the Olympics games to win a sprint Olympic title. She has recently retired from competitive racing.  

Shelly-Ann-Fraser Pryce

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Shelly-ann Fraser-Pryce is affectionately known as ‘Pocket Rocket’. She was given the nickname because of her explosive block start and her petite figure. Fraser-Pryce became a household name in the 2008 Beijing Olympics where she dominated the 100 metre race to win a gold medal, she then went on to defend her title in the 2012 Olympics.

Fraser-Pryce became the first female sprinter to win gold medals in the 100 metre dash, 200-metre dash, and 4×100 meter dash in the same World Championships in 2013. Fraser-Pryce is also only the second woman in history to hold the world titles in the 60m, 100m, and 200m at the same time. Her dominance in the sport remains as she continues to represent jamaica. She has recently won a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and copped a gold medal in the 4X100 metre relay to add to her collection of Olympic medals.

Asafa Powell

Asafa Powell

Asafa Powell is considered one of Jamaica’s best male sprinters. He is the fourth fastest man in history with a personal best of 9.72s. Powell has broken the ten-second barrier 97 times as of September 1, 2016, more than anyone else. 

Powell has run under 9.90s 44 times, with 36 of his runs falling between 9.80 and 9.89. He is one of just five men in history to have run legitimately under 9.80 seconds eight times.

He started his Olympic debut at the 2004 Olympics where he competed in the 100-metre event. Powell then went on to compete in the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016  Olympics games. 

He has received medals at the IAAF World Athletics competition, Olympics, world championships, and at Commonwealth Games, but is yet to achieve an individual Olympic gold medal. Powell was named the 2007 Sportsman of the Year by the RJR Sports Foundation on January 29, 2008.

Usain Bolt

Track and field legend, Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt is the world’s fastest man and is lauded for his impact on track and field. The ‘Lightning Bolt’ as he is often referred to set the world record for the 100-metre race in the 2008 Reebok Grand Prix in New York, running a 9.72 and beating reigning world champion Tyson Gay by over a second. That same year at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he broke his own record with a run of 9.69. He did it again a second time at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin where he ran a 9.58-second run. He also owns the Olympic record for the 100-metre race: 9.63, set at the 2012 London Games.

Bolt became the first athlete since American Carl Lewis in 1984 to win the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, and four-by-four-meter relay at the same Olympics, as well as the first to establish world records (9.69 seconds, 19.30 seconds, and 37.10 seconds, respectively) in all three events. He went on to win medals at World Championships and Olympic Games.

The 34-year-old retired in 2017.

Elaine Thompson-Herah

Elaine Thompson-Herah, the fastest woman alive

Elaine Thompson-Herah is a four-time Olympic champion who became a sprinting sensation after winning gold in the 100 and 200 meters at both the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics in 2016 and the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020.

Thompson-Herah made history when she equalled the second-fastest time in the 100m finals at the 2020 Olympics. The Manchester native is now the fastest woman alive.

Article was written by BUZZ interns; Mya Watson and Abigail Wint