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  Track And Field

Morris steals show

The following is the fifth in a series on Jamaica's performances at the Summer Olympic Games. Earlier articles focussed on the island's showing at the Games of 1948, 1952, 1956 and 1964. The STAR SPORTS Countdown to Athens is sponsored by Digicel.

WITH the federal experience over Jamaica went to the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan as a two-year-old Caribbean nation, having gained independence from Great Britain on August 6, 1962.

In Tokyo Jamaica was represented in yachting and shooting for the first time. The pistol shooting representative was Roy Anthony Bridge who finished 51st in his event. Better known as 'Tony', Bridge went on to have an outstanding career as a sport administrator and from 1973 to his death in December 2000 was the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member in Jamaica.

Good performance

Overall the team performed well but like it was in Melbourne, Australia eight years earlier Jamaica failed to bring home a medal. The Caribbean, however, did not come home emty-handed as the men again reached the 4x400 metres final and ran in the sprint relay final for the first time but perhaps the most outstanding performance of the meet was that of Una Morris, a lanky 16-year-old schoolgirl from Kingston Technical High, who reached the 200 metres final.

Competing in her first Games, Morris placed fourth in 23.58 seconds behind gold medalist Edith McGuire of the United States who won in a then Olympic record 23.05.

Morris, now Dr. Morris-Chung, a heart specialist in California, registered the best performance by a Jamaican female until Merlene Ottey won Jamaica's first medal, a bronze in the same event, at the Moscow Games in 1980. Morris also ran in the 400m where she was fifth in the semi-finals in 54.9.

The other female members of the team were Adlin Mair who was eliminated in the heats of the 200m, Carmen Smith who also dropped out in the heats of the 80m hurdles but reached the 100m semi-finals and current local sports administrator Vilma Charlton (4x100m) who, like Morris, was attending her first of three Olympic Games.

Kerr's record run

There were three other fourth place finishes for Jamaica at the Games. George Kerr in his third and final Olympics, was fourth in the men's 800 metres. He ran a then Games record 1.45.9 in the semi-finals and in the final was just edged out for the bronze medal by Kenya's Wilson Kiprogut, both were credited with 1.45.9. The gold medalist was New Zealand's Peter Snell, the last man to take the 800m, 1500m double at the Olympics. Snell's winning time in the 800m was an Olympic record 1.45.1.

The men's 4x400m went to their fifth consecutive final. The twins, Mal and Mel Spence, were members of the quartet along with Kerr and Laurie Khan who ran the anchor leg.

Led by Denis Johnson, a former joint holder of the 100 yards world record, Jamaica clocked 39.49 in the 4x100m behind gold medalists the United States in a world record 39.06. The team in running order was Pablo McNeil (the former William Knibb High coach who discovered current teenage sprint sensation Usain Bolt). He was followed by Patrick Robinson (now a medical doctor), Lindy Headley (son of the great West Indies batsman George Headley) and Johnson.

Individually, apart from Kerr, the men failed to get past the semi-finals of their events. Johnson (10.5) was fifth in the semi-finals of the men's 100m and McNeil sixth (10.5). Les Laing (11.0) was eliminated in the heats.

Khan also reached the semi-finals of the 400m with a best time of 46.9.

Long jumper did not get to the final while Neville Myton in the 800m and 1,500m was eliminated in the first round and Rupert Hoilette reached the second round of the 400m.

Boxers John Elliot and Ronald Holmes were eliminated early while yachtsmen Steve Henriques, Earl Taylor and Barton Kirkonell ended up in 23rd spot.

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