Jamaica is internationally known as a country great runners, although the rich sports history of that Caribbean country also includes other athletes that have made headlines in several specialties, such as soccer, basketball and even baseball.
Handpicking the top 10 Jamaican athletes of all time is not an easy task, but Panamericanworld has dared to make a list by taking into account the achievements of women and men that were born and took their first sport steps in Jamaica.
USAIN BOLT, THE MOST FAMOUS JAMAICAN ATHLETE ON EARTH
Bob Marley, the musical genius behind the globalization of reggae, was the most famous Jamaican of the world before Usain Bolt amazed us with his great talent to run faster than any other sprinter. Everything changed back in 2008, when Bolt became unstoppable in tracks and conquered numberless fans not only because of being the best sprinter in history, but also for his extraordinary charisma.
All in all, Bolt won eight Olympic titles and eleven world crowns. He retired from tracks after the 2017 London World Championship, but his records will appear in books for evermore: record in 100 meter dash with an extraordinary time of 9.58 seconds; record in 200 meters with 19.19 seconds and record in 4 x 100 meters relay, 36.84 seconds, along with Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Yohan Blake.
He was given the “Athlete of the Year” prize several times for his achievements, which is awarded by the International Athletics Federation. In an age when so many people cheat by using forbidden substances to improve their performance, Lightning Bolt successfully passed every test and retired with an exemplary record. Everybody misses his slender figure and permanent smile in the tracks.
MERLENE OTTEY, THE QUEEN OF TRACKS
His followers used to call her “the queen of tracks” and there were lots of reasons to do it: this impressive athlete was at the highest level for nearly 25 years. Ottey collected nine Olympic medals and 14 world medals. She was included on the select list of 13 stars that have competed in five editions of the Olympic Games, in the same sport, and have conquered at least eight medals. In the Moscow Games, 1980, Merlene made history by becoming the first woman from an English-speaking Caribbean country to be on the Olympic podium. Ottey finished her career representing Slovenia. A statue of this athlete can be presently seen at the Independence Park, next to other Jamaican star like Arthur Wint and Donald Quarrie.
ARTHUR WINT, A POLITE GIANT
Wint can be labeled as Jamaica’s first great runner. This man have an interesting life, which not only included numerous sports achievements, but he was also a pilot of the British Royal Force in WW2 and, after war, he studied medicine. In 1948, Wint was the first Jamaican sprinter to stand on an Olympic podium, by winning in 400 meter dash, although Jamaica’s national anthem was not played in London at the time because that country conquered its independence in 1962. As a curiosity, Wint was followed by another great Jamaican runner, Herb McKenley. Four years later, in Helsinki, Wint got his second title, as a member of the 4 x 400 meter relay. A street in Kingston was named after this athlete and a statue was placed out of the National Stadium, at the country’s capital.
VERONICA CAMPBELL, A PRIZE TO CONSISTENCY
Campbell has been one of Jamaica’s most successful sprinters and her record includes 9 world medals (3-7-1) and 8 in Olympic Games (3-3-2). She was a specialist in 200 meter dash, in which she got two Olympic titles, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 (where she carried the flag of the national delegation in the opening ceremony); while she spent eight years collecting world crowns, which speaks of this runner’s longevity. Campbell climbed to the highest step of the world podium in Osaka 2007, after winning in 100 meter dash. Afterwards, in Daegu 2011, she prevailed over her rivals in 200 meters and, in 2015, she was a member of Jamaica’s 4 x 100 relay team.
“CHILI” DAVIS, A WORLD CHAMPION JAMAICAN BALLPLAYER IN MLB
Baseball is not usually practiced in Jamaica, but several players from this country have stood out in Major League, such as Devon White and, especially, “Chili” Davis, who was born in Kingston and moved to Los Angeles at the age of ten. Davis played for five teams throughout 19 seasons in MLB. He began with the San Francisco Giants, later joined the California Angels, followed by the Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals and he finished his career with the New York Yankees. All in all, he won three World Series rings: one with the Twins, in 1991, and two with the Yankees, 1998 and 1999. “Chili” shot 2,380 hits, 350 HRs and 1,372 RBIs.
HERB MCKENLEY, THE “PIONEER” OF SPRINTERS IN JAMAICA
If Arthur Wint was once recognized as the “creator” of Jamaican speed tradition, McKenley can be described as the “pioneer” of supremacy in the track for Caribbean sprinters. McKenley was the first Jamaican athlete to win a scholarship in a U.S. university, back in 1942. He was good at running in 200 and 400 meters, although he preferred the last one, where he set a world record in 1947, with 46.3 seconds. However, McKenley couldn’t win the gold in the 400 meters final of the London Olympics Games, in 1948, because he was left behind by his compatriot Wint.
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Four years later, in Helsinki, McKenley got the silver in 200 and 400 meters, and he conquered the crown in relay. Besides the sports triumphs, McKenley is famous because of his extraordinary contribution to development of athletics in Jamaica. In 1950 he fostered the idea of creating several athletics clubs throughout the country, so more runners came up as a result of this program. McKenley was the director of the national team, 1954-1973. In 1992, McKenley was given the Silver Order, delivered by the International Olympic Committee as recognition to his contribution to athletics for over half a century.
DONALD QUARRIE, THE SPEED KING IN THE 1970S
Quarrie was the king of speed back in the 1970s. He competed in Olympics Games, where the athlete conquered four medals (one gold, two silvers and one bronze medal. His first Olympic win came in 200 meter dash, in Montreal 1976. He also finished second in 100 meters, since he was surpassed by another Caribbean athlete: Trinitarian Hasely Crawford. In Moscow 1980, he was third in 200 meters. Moreover, in the British Commonwealth Games and Pan American games Quarrie was the leader of the decade by collecting nine medals. A statue of Donald Quarrie can be presently seen at Jamaica’s National Stadium.
PATRICK EWING, A JAMAICAN PLAYER IN THE NBA HALL OF FAME
This player has been one of the best pivots in the history of NBA. He was born in Jamaica, but moved to the United States when he was 12 years old. His seven feet of height and mobility in the court caught the eye of professionals and, in 1985, he was chosen in the draft for the New York Knicks, where he developed his successful career. All in all, Ewing scored 24,815 points and caught 11,617 rebounds. He is still the leader in both segments in the Knicks. He played in eleven All Star Games and won two Olympic crowns: Los Angeles 1984 and Barcelona 1992, where was a member of the so-called “Dream Team.”
SHELLY-ANN FRASER-PRYCE, THE SMALL GIANT OF TRACKS
This small runner, who was barely 1.52 meters tall, has been one of the greatest sprinters of the 21st century XXI. Her name made headlines in Beijing Olympics Games, 2008, when she was still 21 years old and won the final of 100 meter dash, thus becoming the first Caribbean athlete to conquer that title. Four years later, in London, she once again prevailed over her rivals in that distance. During her three Olympic performances she has conquered six medals (2-3-1) and nine (7-2-0) in World Championships. Out of her seven crowns in these events, three have been obtained in 100 meter dash. In the queen test of athletics, Fraser-Pryce holds the fourth position in the historic ranking with 10.70 seconds, only surpassed by Florence Griffith-Joyner, Carmelita Jeter and Marion Jones.
2013 was her most successful year, since she won three gold medals in the Moscow World Championship and the International Athletics Federation named her Athlete of the Year, the second Jamaican runner to achieve it after Merlene Ottey, who did it in 1990.
JOHN BARNES, FROM KINGSTON TO STARDOM IN LIVERPOOL
This player is described as one of the best wings in the history of British soccer. He was born in Kingston and learned to play soccer in high school. He moved to England at the age of 12. In 1981, Barnes signed a contract with the Watford club and spent six years there, when he scored 85 goal in 296 games. In 1987, he joined the Liverpool team and, in ten years, won the title of the League and two crowns in the FA Cup. He scored 106 goals in 403 games with the Liverpool uniform.
Barnes wore the British national uniform in 79 games. Among his most memorable performances, we can mention the quarterfinals duel against Argentina, in Mexico World Cup, 1986. After his retirement, Barnes became a soccer coach and TV sportscasters. In 2008-2009, Barnes managed Jamaica’s national team.