Great Sport Book by Distinguished Son of TT
Publisher’s Note: In view of the encouraging number of successful performances by today’s TT athletes, it was felt that readers could find themselves interested in this review, written seven years ago after the launch of “Olympian” - a book by Basil Ince, celebrating TT’s athletic heroes who laid the foundation in that important earlier era. In May, 2019, Basil Ince celebrated his 86th birthday. Among those present at the party was Wendell Mottley.
Dr Basil Ince
Author and former University Lecturer, Distinguished Athlete, Diplomat and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago. (Photo: Caribbean Studies Association.org)
by Rudolph Williams
One of Trinidad and Tobago’s distinguished sons, Basil A. Ince, has made an uplifting intervention on the national landscape with the publication of his book “Olympian”, a formidable piece of work launched at the National Library here on April 4, (2012).
Sub –titled “75 years of Trinidad and Tobago in Olympic Sport, 1934 – 2010”, this 392-page tour-de-force labored upon for 25 years by Dr Ince – himself a 440m Silver Medal winner in the Pan Games of 1959,a former Minister of Sport in his country’s government, and now a retired professor of political science - respectfully traces the saga of those sixty-plus nationals who represented this country in the Olympics and other world ranked games over the period.
Notwithstanding its obvious qualification for acclaim as an outstanding literary offering to the history of Trinidad and Tobago and as an effort of some value to the world of Sport in general, “Olympian” may be of even greater importance for the much-needed boost of self-esteem it can inject into the entire citizenry today , especially in these jittery times.
For in taking the enormous leap from merely compiling a history of athletic events to making a daring attempt to open a window into the psyche of the athletes, the writer brings us, the readers , in touch with our own sense of nobility and capacity for greatness as mirrored in the world class achievements of men and women whom we know as our friends, our schoolmates, our family.
“As an 11-year old boy, Lennox Kilgour, popularly known as “Gour”, wandered up Nelson Street and up Calvary Hill, peeking over fences and watching men like “Bam” Peters and Vernon Pamphile exercise.
“He could have had no idea that one day he would become a member of the most successful Olympic team that this country would send abroad”
Kilgour, together with Rodney Wilkes – both weight lifters - was part of the two-competitor team that represented this country in the Olympics in 1952. They both returned with Bronze medals.
Such is the easy, home-spun intimacy which Ince attempts as he delves into the lives of many of his subjects, capturing flashes of promise from an early age, often in the simple home environment which was often taken for granted.
Here’s how he gives a perspective into the early life of 1964 Tokyo Olympics 200m Bronze Medalist Edwin Roberts: “Ed and the writer grew up on the same street in Belmont and years later he would tell me: ‘ I used to see you on your bicycle on evenings going to the Savannah to train and I said to myself: Someday I’m going to the Savannah to train too’
“Both his parents had died and he grew up with his aunt. He attended Primary School at Belmont R.C, Rosary Boys RC and finished at Tranquility in 1960.
“Like so many ten-year old youths, he would put his speed against others by running around the block. He welcomed the prize for winning : a lump of sugar”.
In the quick, easy writing style which he has admirably managed to sustain throughout the book, Basil A. Ince gives us a rare insight into areas such as the pre-race nervous tension faced by competitors; the vulnerability of the athlete to suggestion; the perils of injury; the pain and disappointment of defeat; the scintillating beauty of man in super mode as he blasts away to sweet victory over the best in the world.
He notes, for example, how T+T Munich Olympic 100-metre finalist Hasely Crawford had to pull up lame and watch Valery Borzov of the USSR grab the Gold medal in 1972 , and how “the rage from this failure exploded four years later in Montreal”
Ince – who was manager of the Trinidad and Tobago track team at the Montreal Olympics - talks about Hasely dressing at 6.30 pm for the 100 metre Final which was due at 3.30 pm the following day; his inability to sleep causing him to have breakfast at 4.30 am; his sudden bending over in agony as he held the rails of the stairs on the descent to the stadium
“He (Crawford) blurted out: ‘Tell me something, tell me something quickly’. I hit him a sharp blow in the back vigorously and more soothingly as time went on. I said to him: ‘Everything’s going to be alright ….you’re in top shape, nobody’s going to beat you’”
Forty eight hours earlier, the man who had trained for the 200m but found himself in contention for the 100 m, had received a huge turning-point psychological booster from his coach, Wilton Jackson.
As the “Olympian” author recalls, Jackson had spotted a weakness in Crawford’s start and, after completing a regime of practicing starts which he began in Trinidad, had deftly commented: “Forget it. You ready. You going to win”
According to Ince - : “What better frame of mind could an athlete want two days before the start of his event, coming to the Games Village believing he could win the 200m and then running 10(sec) flat and being told by his coach that he was going to win the 100m?”
It is now history that Crawford won the gold medal in the 100 m final in Montreal, full of rage : for Borzov who had beaten him in Munich – and whom he whipped this time - , and for the government of his homeland, which neglected to give him assistance for the Games.
“Olympian” dutifully records Crawford’s last words to himself before he won the Gold for his country:
“And then the last thing I remember, I will never forget it, I said: ‘I went back to Trinidad and ask for assistance and my own people turn me down. Ah go show them’ I will never forget that. That’s the last thing I said”.
Or let’s examine how the writer captures the excitement of Wendell Mottley anchoring Trinidad and Tobago to Gold in the 4x440 m Relay of the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica.
The account starts with Lennox Yearwood leading off and, according to plan, bringing in the baton in fifth position, within striking distance of the leaders. Kent Bernard also delivered by holding second place when he handed the baton to Ed Roberts. The third leg was the leg of the relay, for it literally blew the race wide open.
Tucking himself behind (respected Jamaican quarter) George Kerr until the turn, Ed Roberts flew past the hapless George and opened a 10 yard gap in the process.
According to the “Olympian” author: ”The raucous stadium turned into a morgue. You could hear a pin drop as the realization struck home that Jamaica was not going to bring down the Games curtain with gold.
“Once Wendell got the baton, the Jamaican crowd turned appreciative as if they realized they would be seeing the last appearance of a great West Indian quarter-miler……The “Times” (London) correspondent put it all in perspective when he penned: ‘the games ended last night on the highest of notes with the 4x440 relay…the final leg in 44.3 seconds by W. Mottley comprised one of the most memorable moments in the history of the sport’
“The crowd rose in a tumult of shouting and cheering as Mottley swept home”.
Wendell Mottley receives the ORTT (Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago) National Award on November 1, 2018 from President Paula-Mae Weekes at President’s House. Looking on are TT Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (centre) and Chief Justice Ivor Archie. Following his outstanding athletic career, Mottley distinguished himself as an elected Parliamentarian and Minister in the Trinidad and Tobago government, and other top positions in the private and public sector. (Photo: The Office of The President of Trinidad and Tobago)
By describing this spontaneous “shouting and cheering” by the Jamaicans for Mottley of Trinidad and Tobago, Ince captured the sense of unity – that feeling of oneness – which citizens of these English-speaking Caribbean islands (and Guyana) generally feel when any one of us emerges victorious.
Those cheers for Mottley in Jamaica were equaled by cheers for Usain Bolt of Jamaica by Trinidadians in the last Olympic 100m final in Beijing – although we in T+T would have been even happier if our second-placed Richard Thompson had won.
This comprehensive book spans the range of sporting activity in which Trinidad and Tobago participated in the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, The Pan Am Games and the World Championships.
As such, it contains features on individuals involved in Weight Lifting, Track and Field, Cycling, Swimming and Yachting, Shooting, Boxing, Taekwondo and team sports Football and Hockey.
Notwithstanding the impressive detailed information based on personal interviews and research to be found in “Olympian”, it is in the numerous vignettes of information perhaps not known or remembered by many, that the book evokes a sense of nostalgic charm.
For instance, here’s how Basil Ince records the account from James Jackson, the only walker individually featured in “Olympian”, of how he (Jackson) was selected for the Pan Am Games of 1951:
“ One morning at work, Bertram Dufont (a former champion walker, then an official) passed by the Trinidad Pharmacy, then located at the corner of Frederick and Oxford Streets, where I was working.
“He said: ‘I hear they are putting on a walker for Buenos Aires. They are going to have a trial from South Quay to Curepe (seven miles). I won the trial on Sunday morning.( John) Asche did not enter the race. He was walking as a professional then. Two weeks after, I left with the team. I trained in those two weeks”
Jackson won Silver in the 5,000m Walking Race.
And what about the story of Thora Best (sister of the respected deceased Economist Lloyd Best), the nation’s first female medalist in major international competition?
Having experienced bitter disappointment after being disqualified for jumping the gun in the 100m final at the Pan Am Games in Sao Paulo in 1963 (“That made the national news for two weeks”), Best ran a near world record time in the 80 m hurdles in the Texas Southern Relays in the next (1964) Olympic Year.
Pleased to be selected on her country’s 1964 Olympic team and hungry to make amends for Sao Paulo , Best was dealt the biggest disappointment of her career when her name was scratched from the final team list.
As the then teenager recalled: “I was in my prime, I was running fast, and these were the big games – the Olympic Games. But they wouldn’t send me because Trinidad said they couldn’t send a chaperone”.
Three years later, according to “Olympian”: “ When Thora finished third on Friday, August 6, 1967 in the 80m hurdles final (at the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, Canada), she had made history. She was the nation’s first woman to win a medal in major international competition”.
Another woman, Laura Pierre, had the distinction of being the first female to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.
On yet another note, the team for the British Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada in 1954 took 14 days on a bauxite boat to reach Port Alfred on the St Lawrence River. During that time weight lifter Rodney Wilkes practised on the boat– much to the outrage of the captain who wanted to throw Wilkes’ assembled 140 lb barbell overboard because it rolled around and caused confusion, rocking the boat.
Ince relates: “Rodney’s team members intervened. In this way, Rodney was able to exercise, thereby helping him win the Gold”
According to “Olympian:” Rodney Wilkes will always have the distinction of being the first Trinbagonian to win an Olympic medal” (Silver, Weightlifting, Featherweight- Olympic Games, London, 1948)
The article on Leslie King is no less interesting. On his highly controversial omission from this country’s 1967 Pan Am Games team, fans of the young star cyclist (the late) Leslie King contributed to a fund to send him to Belgium to gain experience.
Here’s how the author of “Olympian” put it: “Sports fans had perceived his omission as unfair and did something positive for the sixteen year old King. In this particular instance Boland Amar allowed Leslie’s well-wishers to use a Toyota car for a raffle until they could pay for it.
“But this was not an isolated instance when individuals came forward to help. Leslie mused: ‘In my period, people would chip in and sub money for my equipment. I would make a good performance, and one guy would come forward and say ‘Here, buy a tyre’”
Riding on the heels of earlier world cycling medalist Roger Gibbon (also featured in “Olympian”), King’s international record includes Gold and Silver at the CAC Games, Panama, 1970; Gold and Silver at the Pan Am Games, Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh, 1970; and Gold and Silver, Pan Am Games, 1971.
He also rode for Trinidad and Tobago at the Olympic Games of Mexico (1968) and Munich (1972).
It’s enlightening to learn from “Olympian”, for example, that Ato Boldon’s passion in sport was football and not track.
As the author notes: “It was on the soccer field (at Jamaica High School, Queens, New York) that Joe Trupiano, the school’s track coach, saw the swift moving youngster and invited him to come out for track. Ato had never given track any serious thought. Trupiano had seen something that not even Ato was aware of”
Ince points out that Boldon went on to excel in the sprints in a manner that invites comparison with other great Trinidad and Tobago and West Indian sprinters , among them Michael Agostini, Mc Donald Bailey, Hasely Crawford, Herb Mc Kinley, Lennox Miller, Don Quarrie and Ed Roberts.
Ato Boldon went on to win, among other distinguished awards, the Bronze ( 100m and 200m) for Trinidad and Tobago in the 1996 Olympic Games, Atlanta; Silver (100 m), Olympic Games, Sydney, 2000 and Bronze (200m), Olympic games, Sydney.
He is the youngest athlete to win a medal at the World Championships and the only national double-medalist at consecutive Olympic Games.
From 1934 – the year when Mannie Dookie represented this then British colony with immortal distinction at the Commonwealth Games in London by competing barefoot on the cinder Track at White City, London - Basil A. Ince has run a grueling track of highly disciplined, consistent, dedicated effort down to 2010 to produce a book of immense proportions.
His latest accounts include Richard Thompson (Silver, (100m) and Silver as part of the Men’s 4x100 Relay Team of Bledman, Burns, Calendar and Thompson in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
It closes in 2010 when Ayanna Alexander (Triple Jump, Silver), Aaron Armstrong (100 m, Bronze) and Tariq Abdul Haqq (Boxing, Silver) won medals for Trinidad and Tobago at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games.
The book contains a number exciting old photographs and a range of sidebars where the author puts the games in various perspectives including racial discrimination, the issue of financial reward and recognition for outstanding athletes, the importance of relaxation, and the effect of clothing on speed, efficiency and comfort.
Under “Trivia”, Ince lists two items which give much food for thought and discussion. These are: “Mc Donald Bailey and Ato Boldon are the only Trinidad and Tobago athletes to rank Number 1 in the world. Bailey and Boldon ranked Number 1 in the 200m in 1952 and 1998 respectively.
“McDonald Bailey is the sole Trinidad and Tobago athlete to hold a world record (outdoors).He was clocked in 10.2 for the 100m in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1951”
“Olympian” was published by the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT)
The outstanding achievement of writing this important book is in itself reflective of the high caliber of the man, Basil Ince himself in his own career path , and a fine example set out for the nation’s younger ones to emulate.
As an athlete, Basil Ince left Trinidad in 1955 as this country’s 220 yards champion, scored points for Tufts University at United States universities and colleges athletic meetings and, in the process, set a Tufts record (1.10.1) in the 600 yards Indoors in 1959 which remained standing for at least 50 years.
He also broke the IC4A’s 27-year old record by winning the 440 yards in 46.9 seconds in 1959, following which, his name began to appear in the world rankings in ‘Track and Field News”, the Bible of Sport.
His most outstanding achievements were the winning of a Silver medal in the 400 m and being part of the West Indian Team which won the Gold medal in the 4x400m Relay in the Pan Am Games in Chicago in 1959.
The record of Dr Ince’s life path bears testimony to the one man’s capacity for fulfilling massive personal potential in a number of different areas.
This world class athlete earned his bachelor and Doctoral degrees at Tufts and New York Universities and, even during the twenty five years that he worked on “Olympian”, he also worked as a University lecturer, and served his country as Minister of Foreign Affairs, then Minister Sport and Youth Affairs, and Trinidad and Tobago High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
Between 1974 and 2005, Dr Ince also published five other books: four of which dealt with issues of International Relations, Race, Economics and Politics in the Caribbean, and one entitled “ Trinidad and Tobago at the Olympic Games.” He and his wife his wife Laurel, brought up two sons who are now highly qualified, successful professionals.
Basil A. Ince had the distinction of his book being introduced by Trinidad and Tobago’s President George Maxwell Richards who described it as “a welcome contribution to the treasure trove of reading material relating to our history”.
In describing his record-breaking win in the 440 yards at the IC4A Games of 1959 –a win which he considered “my crowning achievement” – Ince explains how, after rounding the first turn, he knew the race was over for the other seven competitors.
“I felt so relaxed that I felt like humming a tune”, he wrote. Against the background of his high-performance career path crowned with “Olympian” as his latest achievement, Basil A. Ince may once again relax with deep satisfaction, even as he hums a new tune.
Port of Spain – April 2012
About the Writer
Rudolph (Rudy) Williams is a veteran Marketing Communications Specialist and Creative Entrepreneur. He is the Publisher of ttinsider.com and CEO of Williams Marketing. Rudolph is the Author of “If I Die Tonight” He can be contacted at (868)-687-0289 and Email : firstname.lastname@example.org