Sport

Lap of honour for Olympian Kerr

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer senior reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 08, 2012    

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SOME three weeks before the London Olympic Games, athletic legend George Kerr was laid to rest yesterday. And although he won't be a part of Jamaica's team this time around, his presence is bound to be felt.

"God is happy to have you on his team," said his daughter Candice Kerr, in her remembrance of her dad.

Kerr, 74, who died on June 15 following a heart attack suffered two weeks earlier, joins Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint and Keith Gardner who passed away after establishing a rich legacy in the sport for Jamaica.

Candice quoted from an American newspaper that described George as a sprinter running long-distance races, as they tried in vain to figure out how to beat him during his years at the University of Illinois.

George, a double bronze medallist in the 800m and 4x400m at the 1960 Rome Olympics, was described as quiet, confident, very competitive and a sharp dresser by his daughter.

His son, William, read a few of his father's memoirs in which he penned his triple gold medal exploits at the 1962 Central American and Caribbean Games in front of his home fans in Kingston as one of the highlights of his career.

It was an Independence gift for the new nation and Kerr, who was named team captain, became the first Jamaican athlete to have the flag flown in recognition of winning the 400m, 800m and the 4x400m relay. All three wins were achieved in record times.

That year, Kerr also won gold in the 440 yards at the Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia and silver in the 880 yards.

With Jamaica celebrating 50 years as an independent nation, Kerr was given an official funeral at Meadowbrook United Church before been whisked away under police escort to Meadowrest Memorial Gardens.

Dignitaries were on hand to bid their final farewell to a beloved son of Jamaica. Prime Minister, the Hon Portia Simpson Miller, was absent, but her scripture reading was done by Natalie Neita-Headley.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness also read a scripture, while former Prime Minister, PJ Patterson was "unavoidably absent" and his message was read by George's son, Roger.

The Honourable Mike Fennell, president of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), in his message, said Kerr was an outstanding Jamaican who performed with distinction for his country.

"For many of us it is a sad day and it is never easy to say goodbye, but at the same time we can celebrate in a very genuine way some of the high points of his illustrious career," said Fennell.

"He always exemplified the true spirit of sport and practised those values of fair play, sportsmanship and dedication that a lot of our present-day athletes would be well advised to emulate," Fennell added.

Olympian Lyndie Headley read a citation and highlighted his early exploits and how he got into track and field.

"His potential came to light through a quirk of fate. One day young George chased a bus containing the Knockalva track team. The passengers included a cousin of his and Ben Francis, a young PE teacher. Francis, later the founding headmaster of Vere Technical, was amazed that the youngster kept pace for a mile. Soon George was enrolled at Knockalva and he began the road to the top," said Headley.

Kerr left behind wife Fay, children Karyn, Margaret, Roger, Candice and William, and seven grandchildren.

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