A Jamaican sports icon through the eyes of his daughter
Jamaica has produced many great track and field stars over the years, but the late Dr. Arthur Wint stands out as the pioneer of the country’s athletics landscape.
Wint won Jamaica’s first Olympic gold medal at the 1948 London Games in the 400-metre final. He also picked up a silver medal in the 800-metre event at the same Games and again in 1952 in Helsinki where he teamed up with George Rhoden, Les Laing and Herb McKenley to clinch the 4 x 400-metre relay silver medal.
Wint’s story is captured in The Longer Run: A Daughter’s Story of Arthur Wint which will be launched in Toronto later this month.
The eldest of three children, Valerie Wint paints a vivid portrait of a father, husband, teammate and friend who always managed to remain humble in spite of his professional success and personal challenges.
Among the interesting aspects of Arthur Wint’s life that his daughter reveals in her book is a tragic incident in January 1941. Just out of Excelsior high school and employed as an assistant at the government’s titles office, Wint squeezed the trigger of a gun he assumed was not loaded, killing a female office assistant. The gun belonged to the cashier and was in the office vault.
Represented by the brilliant scholar and Jamaica’s first prime minister, Norman Manley, Wint pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years probation.
The incident was never brought up in the Wint family household and his daughter did not learn of it until after his death in October 1992 at the age of 72.
“It was a very unfortunate incident and I think it was the pivotal point that changed him from being a young and playful 21-year-old to a more sober, mature and reflective person,” she said.
A Canadian resident for the past 26 years, Wint said she also learned, for the first time as she was writing the book, that her dad held a Canadian record.
“I was having a discussion with my uncle and he asked me if I knew my father broke a record while he was in Canada training to become a Royal Air Force pilot,” she said. “I went to the National Archives in Ottawa and found the Brandon Sun article that reported on the record which was wind-assisted.”
At an inter-unit track meet on Labour Day 1943 in Brandon, Manitoba, the 6′ 5″ Wint won the 440-yards race in a wind-aided 48.45 sec., the long jump and triple jump events handily in his first athletic competition of the season.
Valerie Wint, who spent five years at York University and moved back to Jamaica for 10 years before relocating permanently to Canada, said the idea for the book was conceived nearly two decades ago.
“Because I was in Canada, I did not get the opportunity to interview him properly,” she said. “The one time I tried to interview him with a tape recorder, he just stopped talking. A few years after he died, I did some research and went back to Jamaica to conduct interviews with family and people close to him, some of whom have died, including Herb McKenley. I started writing a little, but then I stopped.
“That was around the same time Rachel Manley launched Drumblair: Memories of a Jamaican Childhood (and) I mentioned to her what I was doing and she offered her help. About three years ago, I ran into her at the Wolmer’s Old Boys Association’s Christmas brunch and she asked me what was happening with the book. I said nothing and she told me I had to finish it because it was an important part of our history. She even said she would help me complete it.
“Rachel mentored me through it and helped me to find my voice. It was also through her that I was introduced to the publishing company.”
In the foreword, former Jamaica prime minister, P.J. Patterson, said the book reflects much more than the stellar achievements of an outstanding athlete.
“It reveals his major accomplishments as a surgeon, diplomat and community builder,” said Patterson. “While Valerie Wint admits openly to hero-worshipping her dad, she does not engage in a jaundiced presentation. The accolades she showers on her father appear well deserved.
“As one delves through the pages, in addition to his outstanding exploits as an athlete, other qualities are revealed that would establish Wint’s right to the pedestal on which he is deservingly placed.”
Wint served as a medical practitioner for 20 years up until 1973 and was Jamaica’s High Commissioner to London from 1974 to 1978.
Renowned Jamaica jurist and author, Patrick Robinson, said Wint was his first track and field hero. Wint’s photograph graces the cover of Robinson’s book, Jamaican Athletics: A Model for the World.
“He was a great Jamaican and simply a great man,” said Robinson. “The photo of Arthur Wint on the cover is the most iconic image of Jamaica. It’s a symbol of what we are as a people and what we aspire to be. It represents the best of Jamaica.”
The Longer Run: A Daughter’s Story of Arthur Wint is available at A Different Booklist, 746 Bathurst Street.