FORTY-THREE years after becoming the country’s first Olympic gold medallist in 1976, Hasely Crawford was finally honoured by his hometown of San Fernando.
Crawford beamed with pride, as he along with San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello unveiled one of two commemorative plaques on the Band Stand at Harris Promenade, last Wednesday, immortalising him and another sporting icon, TT’s first Olympic medallist the late Rodney Wilkes.
“I am deeply honoured,” Crawford said in an interview following the unveiling. He has received the country’s highest honour, The Trinity Cross now known as the Order of the Republic of TT, for that his outstanding achievement at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games, Montreal. The National Stadium has been named after him and he has earned the title of Athlete of the Millennium (1900-2000), but there is no greater honour than to be recognised by you own, he said.
“Since winning the Olympic gold medal, it is the first time I have been honoured in San Fernando. I was born in San Fernando, at 10 Sutton Street. I looked at my first television programme right here (on the band stand) and I used to run around here. I am really excited to know I am honoured in my hometown.”
He was not fazed by the timing, saying “Everything happens in its own time. It happened. I am happy and I thank the mayor for inviting me and making me the first person to be honoured here, while I am alive.”
Regrello said when the band stand was rebuilt, a space was left to highlight people who contributed significantly and shaped the landscape of San Fernando.
“I can think of none other than these two distinguished San Fernandians as the first to bestow that honour,” Regrello said.
He said the profiles of other eminent citizens will also grace the wall of fame. A committee has been formed to undertake that selection process. Regrello said he hopes by highlighting the achievement of outstanding people, young people who are unfamiliar with their history will become aware.
“We have a short memory and a lot of people are not familiar with our history. I think it is important for people to know the history of Hasely’s achievement, what he has done for this country and San Fernando by extension and on an international level.” Crawford said he too believes young people are not as aware of those who have gone before and paved the way for them.
He said he wants people who have dreams of becoming an Olympian to know what it entails. “Follow your dream, work hard, study hard, but most of all you have to be disciplined.” Patrick Lawrence, the stepson of Wilkes who brought fame to TT during 1946 to 1958, at the Olympic Games in London, Finland, Australia and also at the British Commonwealth Games in Wales and Canada, said it was a historic moment and one which his family revered.
Lawrence who grew up with Wilkes from age six, said the commemorative plaque as well as the nearby bust of the featherweight lifting champion, will ensure that his name and his feat will never be forgotten.