Sport

‘An honour to represent Jamaica’

Ja’s first female Olympian reflects on 1948

BY DANIA BOGLE Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, July 24, 2012    

Print this page Email A Friend!


DR Cynthia Thompson holds many firsts: First Jamaican female athlete to make an Olympic Games 100m final; first Jamaican female to break an Olympic record.

And her trip to the 1948 Olympic Games in London was her first time that far away from home. Five women made that trip by boat to England and Thompson is one of three who is still alive today.

A few months shy of her 90th birthday on November 29 — and a few days away from the anniversary of those Games, when another batch of Jamaicans are in the British capital for another Olympics — Thompson reflects on what it meant to compete for her country all those years ago.

While the now-retired paediatrician can sit at home and relax in the comfort of her sitting room and watch the likes of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce compete, Jamaicans in 1948 had to listen to the commentary of Thompson's 100m sprint on short-wave radio.

"We didn't know much about the Olympics, because it wasn't like now. Any little child now can see the Games and hear Jamaicans expressing delight and actually witness an Olympics, but in those days we didn't have that facility," Thompson shared.

It was a rough journey across the Atlantic for Thompson who had taken previous trips outside of Jamaica by air.

The voyage to London, however, was entirely by boat — two weeks of being tossed to and fro by waves, exposed to salt-tinged air.

"I kept down nothing the whole trip; 14 days out at sea. I lost a lot of weight and I was not in the best of condition to compete."

"I was the champion for Jamaica at that time and my times compared favourably with the people that we were leading at that time, and I was expected to get a medal, but I was considerably weakened. I didn't medal."

The Olympics, which had been cancelled twice because of the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939, were the first post-war, and three years after London had been 'blitzed' by German forces.

Thompson recalls that supplies were limited.

"They still had a lot of rationing, even to buy sweets. We had to have a coupon to buy them. Everything was by coupon. It was a resumption of the Games, so we didn't know what to expect."

She also remembered the famous English weather, which is again expected to be a factor when Jamaican athletes compete this summer.

"The rain in England. We always had to have umbrella and Mac (raincoat). We just had to be prepared. Although it was summer it was quite cool."

While in London, the Jamaicans, who were then British subjects, were invited to a special reception at Buckingham Palace.

Following the Games they were part of a team which competed in several races in a British Empire versus United States contest.

"I had a little plaque that I got. I don't know what has happened to it. The Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Phillip) handed out the plaques."

After her return, Thompson shared that she still did not understand the magnitude of the feat the team had accomplished.

Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley claimed gold and silver, respectively, in the Men's 400m, while Wint won a silver in the 800m.

"To me the importance of it didn't dawn on me at that time — in retrospect, but not at that time. I didn't feel anything. I didn't see anything. I didn't even know it (200m) was an Olympic record until some time after I came back."

She added, however: "To represent the country was an honour and a privilege and we hold that dear."

ADVERTISEMENT

POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

 

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper – email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

If you found $10 million in the street would you return it to the owner?
Yes
No


View Results »


ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT