Sport

Winning Champs gold like pulling a tooth

But Dr Jon Jones rallies at ‘79 Carifta Games with 4-gold feat

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer senior reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 25, 2014    

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HE sat there quietly among the thousands of spectators immersed in the enthralling action of the prestigious Gibson Relays.

Knox Junior School had just won the boys' Under-10 4x100m relay, then suddenly one solitary hand waved in celebration. It was that of dental surgeon Dr Jon Jones.

Relaxed in a red t-shirt with his son in his lap, Dr Jones was clearly a happy man. But his celebration could have been two-fold. It could have been that he was pleased with the young, raw talent he saw at the National Stadium, or it could have been because of the name Knox, which is dear to Jones' heart.

Since 1973, Dr Jones had Knox College in the spotlight at the Boys' Championships, but it was in 1979 that he put Knox College on the map with a sterling performance in winning four gold medals at the Carifta Games held in Kingston.

He had won the sprint double (100m and 200m), plus the long and triple jumps, a performance that still lingers on, some 35 years later, as one of the best ever in Jamaica's history.

"It is more memorable now because you are older and can look back and you can hear how others viewed what you did. But at the time, sports for me was a lot of fun, I enjoyed what I did despite the hard work. Each time I went out to run or play any other sport it was to have fun," Jones told the Jamaica Observer on Saturday during the running of the 38th Gibson Relays.

What makes Dr Jones' Carifta performance so remarkable was that he lost all four events at Champs, but was able to reverse those positions on the bigger stage.

Dr Jones placed second in the 200m and the long jump in Class Two, was fourth in the 100m, and finished fifth in the triple jump open at Champs.

Jones with 10.8 was fourth in the 100m to Calabar's Kenneth 'Killer' Thompson in a record 10.6. He was again behind Thompson's record run of 21.3 for the 200m. He finished second in 21.4 seconds. He had behind him names such as Chris Thelwell of St George's College and Leroy Reid of Camperdown.

But an unfortunate situation at the Carifta Games allowed Dr Jones the opportunity to participate in four events. And the rest was history.

"So the story behind that is that I was only down to do two events, the long (jump) and triple (jump) the night before we were to compete. Mr Mills (Glen) was the head coach at the time and he made an announcement that one of our hurdlers Chris Thelwell from Georges — based on I think an age misunderstanding — he could not run in the Under-17s anymore," said Dr Jones.

"They made a decision that Thelwell would move up to the Under-20s and do the hurdles there. Thelwell was down to run with Kenneth Thompson in the 100 and 200.

"So the jumpers who were in the back of the room were having a wonderful time in the meeting because we knew what we had to do. Then the announcement was that, 'Jon, you have to go and do the 100 and the 200'," he reminisced.

"So for a while, I said, I came to do long and triple now I have to do 100 and 200. But again I said it was for the team and they felt I could do it.

"It was something I had done before because I had done the same four events at Champs, so I said all right, no problem.

"We were staying at Mico and it so happened that all our competitors from Champs were on different floors. So we had this uptown versus downtown rivalry in which floor would get the most medals.

"But in the final, I was against the people who beat me at Champs and I just ran. I can't see myself saying there was a plan to win. I just got up ran and I was closed to Thommo at the finish line and I just out leaned him at the finish in both the 100 and the 200," he revealed.

Jones won the 100m in 10.97 seconds and the 200m in 22.15. He won both jumps in record fashion. The triple jump or what they used to call the "hop, step and jump" in a record 48 ft 5 inches, and the long jump with a leap of 23 ft 1/2 inch, to capture the Austin Sealy Award for being the most outstanding athlete at the meet.

"Competing for Jamaica usually gets us up another notch because this is not your school but your country and even though you are an individual you have to learn to look at the bigger picture. It's not about you, it's about the team and we needed to retain our trophy to be the champion country in the Caribbean," he noted.

Dr Jones, who is now married to radio personality Paula-Ann Porter, believed his school's policy of balancing schoolwork with sport did wonders for him.

"Knox was a school that believed that sport was a part of education. We always had a balance between sports and academics. We had to have a certain number of subjects and PE was one of them. PE was a subject that we had to threat with respect as to all the other sports," said

Dr Jones.

According to him, if a student didn't get the required amount of subjects they could not advance to an higher grade.

"From day one, all the Knox athletes had this balance. The lesson that I have learnt is that it's a lot of hard work and life is about a lot of hard work," he reiterated.

"In life you learn that a lot of times you have to put in a lot of work just to get some just rewards and track and field was an avenue.

"Track is very individual and you have to learn how to push yourself in order to compete with the best. But at the end of the day you will end up competing for a team. So you learn, if you can do your part and do it well, then the team will benefit and that is what has helped me going forward," he added.

"I have been involved in other teams, other sports, other working environment sand it's the same principle. Just do your part and we will all benefit," said Dr Jones.

After four years the dentist said he did not get the chance to finish his Champs career because at the time ISSA ruled that Community Colleges were barred from competing.

He had the choice of transferring to another school, but went overseas to the University of Nebraska for four years, where he became track captain in his senior year.

He completed his Bachelor of Science and fulfilled his boyhood dream of becoming a dentist with four years at Howard University.

He was back in Jamaica in 1987 and actually played Premier League football for Los Perfectos from Mandeville and worked with the Ministry of Health for nearly 24 years.

He taught at the Ministry's dental auxiliary school on Arthur Wint Drive beside the National Stadium and in 2011 the school was closed so he was asked to help set up a dentistry programme at the University of the West Indies.

Dr Jones, who said he still remembers all the lessons learnt from sports, was quick to advise current student athletes.

"They have to remember that they are first a student and that's something that we were taught. Tomorrow, you can have a sprained angle, a broken hand and what do you do?

"The old adage of a good education never decays, is still applicable now. For me, do the work that needs to get you a good education because track and field will carry you so far, but what happens after, and it really goes back to your school. The schools really have to put in place the programmes to support the athletes who are doing sports," concluded Dr Jones.

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