Caribbean athletes have made history at the Olympic Games. Since the time when Cuban fencer Ramón Fonst first made it to the awards podium at the Paris 1900 event and until Rio 2016, dozens of formidable athletes from this region have won medals in the main sporting event on the planet. What have been the most memorable performances? At PanamericanWorld we share the Olympic feats of some of the icons of the Caribbean.
Many Caribbean athletes have achieved an Olympic medal under the flag of the country that colonized the territory where they were born. Before Usain Bolt wowed us with his formidable racing, between 2008 and 2016, other Jamaicans shone in the 100-meter sprint. For example, Linford Christie was Olympic champion in 1992, representing Great Britain; meanwhile, Donovan Bailey ran with the Canadian flag and triumphed in Atlanta 1996.
In basketball, another illustrious son of Jamaica, Patrick Ewing, was a two-time Olympic champion, first as a university student, in Los Angeles 1984 and then as part of the “Dream Team” of NBA stars from the United States, in Barcelona 1992. The best judoka of the 21st century has been, by far, Teddy Riner, who was born in Guadeloupe, an overseas region of France. Riner has won three Olympic medals, two of them gold, in 2012 and 2016, in the 100-kilogram division. Now, in our list of the most outstanding Caribbean athletes in the Olympic Games we include those who stood on the podium with the same flag of the country in which they were born.
Ramón Fonst (Fencing, Cuba)
The first Olympic champion of Latin America and the Caribbean was Cuban fencer Ramón Fonst. At the 1900 Paris Games, Fonst, who lived in the French capital, was crowned in the sword competition, at only 17 years old. In that summer event, the Cuban won a silver medal in the sword for fencing masters, a modality that was only seen in those Games.
Four years later, in San Louis, Fonst won three titles: he repeated in the epee, he triumphed in the individual and team foil. With his five medals, he is the Cuban athlete who has climbed the most to the top of the awards podium at the Olympic Games.
Silvio Cator (Athletics, Haiti)
Haiti has achieved two medals in its Olympic history. The most remembered medal was that of Silvio Cator, who finished second, in the long jump, of the 1928 Amsterdam Games, with a stretch of 7.58 meters. When he retired from athletics, Cator also played soccer and later turned to politics. In 1946 he was elected mayor of Port-au-Prince. The national stadium, located in that city, was named after him.
Hasely Crawford (Athletics, Trinidad and Tobago)
Crawford was the first Caribbean to win the 100 meter dash at the Olympics. In the 1976 Montreal event, the Trinidadian entered the finish line first, with a time of 10.06, just ahead of another Caribbean legend, Jamaican Donald Quarrie. In addition, Crawford competed in two other summer games, Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984; but he did not come close to an Olympic final again.
Related Article: The 10 Fastest Caribbean Sprinters of All Time
Donald Quarrie (Athletics, Jamaica)
Among the most outstanding Caribbean athletes in the Olympic Games, we couldn’t leave out this extraordinary Jamaican runner. He participated in five summer games, in which he won four medals.
At the 1976 Montreal Games he triumphed in the 200 meters and came in second, behind Crawford, in the 100-meter dash.
He then won the bronze medal, in the 200 meters, at the 1980 Moscow games, and finished his Olympic cycle with a silver medal, as part of the Jamaica 4 × 100 meter relay, in Los Angeles 1984.
He is such an important figure in the country that today a statue of him stands at the National Stadium in Kingston.
Merlene Ottey (Athletics, Jamaica)
Ottey has been another great Caribbean runner. She was never able to climb to the top of the Olympic podium; but she didn’t stop trying. She holds the record for Olympic participations because she participated in seven consecutive summer games, between 1984 and 2004. In total, she obtained nine medals, three silver (100, 200 and 4 × 100 meter relay) and six bronze, at those same distances.
Keshorn Walcott (Athletics, Trinidad and Tobago)
At the London 2012 Games, javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott entered the history of Trinidadian sport by becoming the first Olympic multi-medalist from that country. In the British capital, Walcott sent the javelin soaring up to 84.58 meters, seven centimeters farther than the occupant of the second place, Ukrainian Oleksandr Pyatnytsya.
Then, at Rio 2016, Walcott was back on the podium, although this time he was in third place, with a shot of 85.38 meters.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Athletics, Jamaica)
“Pocket Rocket”, as she is nicknamed, has been the best Caribbean athlete of all time. Her career is admirable and, for sure, she will continue to add titles, because she announced that her retirement will take at least one more year.
In her three Olympic appearances, Shelly-Ann has achieved six medals. In Beijing 2008 and London she won the 100-meter dash. In the British capital she finished second in the 200 meters and also in the 4 × 100 meters relay. Meanwhile, in Rio 2016 she took the bronze, in the 100 meters and in the 4 × 100 meters relay.
Now, in Tokyo, at 34 years old, many consider her the great favorite to win the 100 meters again. Recently, in a competition in Jamaica, she achieved the second fastest time in the history of that distance, with 10.63 seconds.
Félix Sánchez (Athletics, Dominican Republic)
Sánchez has been the best athlete from the Dominican Republic in the Olympic Games. He was born in the United States, but his parents are Dominican and he always competed in international events with the flag of the Caribbean country.
“Super Felix”, as he was nicknamed, has conquered two Olympic titles, in the 400 meters hurdles. In the 2004 Athens Games he triumphed with a time of 47.63 seconds. Eight years later, when everyone thought he was finished, the Dominican won in London, curiously with the same time that he scored in the Greek capital. It is no coincidence that the largest stadium in the Dominican Republic is named after him.
Usain Bolt (Athletics, Jamaica)
The greatest runner of all time is a universal icon. For a decade, Usain Bolt marveled us with his spectacular runs, at the Olympics and World Championships. Summarizing his achievements in a few lines is impossible.
Bolt retired at the age of 31 and his name is on the books as an Olympic and world record holder in the 100 meters, 200 meters and the Jamaican 4 × 100 relay. He has been the only runner capable of conquering the 100 and 200 meters three times in a row at the Olympic Games. He won eight gold medals in total at Summer games. Only the doping of Nesta Carter, in 2008, prevented Bolt from completing the triplet also in the 4 × 100 relay.
Teófilo Stevenson (Boxing, Cuba)
Cuba is the Caribbean country with the most medals in the Olympic Games, with 226, including 78 gold medals. Therefore, selecting another champion besides Fonst was difficult. Our choice is boxer Teófilo Stevenson, not only because of the results he obtained in summer games, but because of his absolute dominance in the super heavyweight division for more than a decade, in all the international tournaments in which he participated. Stevenson was a three-time Olympic champion. His very strong punch was felt at the Games in Munich 1972, Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980. In those appointments he hardly received any blows, but he threw many. He never wanted to turn professional and could have been a champion in Los Angeles 1984, but Cuba declined its participation in those Games.