Hail the man, Mottley

THE EDITOR: Wendell Mottley richly deserves the nation’s highest award – the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago – for his contribution to politics and achievements in sport. And while it would be stretching it a bit to say his ministerial appointments gave me goosebumps, his accomplishments on the track, especially at the 1966 British Commonwealth Games in Jamaica, certainly did (and still do after 52 years).

The engaging voice of the BBC commentator begins, “The last track event of these eighth Commonwealth Games, the 4 by 440 yards relay... In lane 7, Trinidad, the favourites...”

The TT team comprised Lennox Yearwood, Kent Bernard, Edwin Roberts and Mottley (running in that order). In the individual 440 yards, Mottley had won gold, breaking the games record, with Bernard coming second, Roberts was second in the 220 yards and Yearwood was a finalist in the 880 yards, hence our billing as favourites.

Despite sterling runs from Yearwood and Bernard, after two legs, the Jamaicans (cheered on by the partisan home crowd) were leading with TT second. But Roberts ran a breathtaking third leg and handed over to Mottley (“and next to go, the great Wendell Mottley”) with a significant lead. With that beautiful, effortless, gliding stride, Mottley romped home an easy winner, beating second-placed Canada by more than 20 yards.

The time was 3:02.8, smashing the then world record by nearly two seconds. Jamaica faded to fourth. Fifty-two years on, that record still stands since, in the 1970s, the race became the 4x400 metres.

You can watch the race here: https://youtu.be/dTYCGsTI56g. Or you can search for “1966 4x440 relay” on YouTube. If that does not make your heart swell with national pride, I daresay nothing will.


P.S. Hail the Man was a popular reggae hit in the early 1970s when I was a student at UWI in Jamaica. Written by Ernie Smith (of Pitta Patta fame), it was popularised by Ken Lazarus. It seems appropriate since Jamaica was, arguably, the scene of Mottley’s finest moment.


"Hail the man, Mottley"

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