Click here to print page

Michael Fray remembered as track talent that never truly self-actualise

By Howard Walker
Observer senior reporter

Friday, November 08, 2019

A talent “that went to waste” was how Michael Fray was described by a renowned sportscaster, Allie McNab.

But close family friend Stratton Palmer said Fray epitomised the typical Jamaican sportsman.

Palmer, a noted sports analyst, media personality, football and hockey coach, said Fray came at a time when Jamaica was not yet conquering the world, but he certainly played his part in putting Jamaica on the map.

“He would have come up with the class of Lennox Miller and company and made it to two Olympics. But he was a man of solid character who believed in certain things.

“He was a revolutionary. He would buck the system, but in a manner looking at the right and wrong which was consistent with his Rastafarian faith and he lived that throughout his life,” said Palmer.

Fray died on Wednesday and his death was deemed a suicide by the police communication arm – Constabulary Communication Unit – after his body was discovered in his friend's business office on East Street.

He was 72.

Meanwhile McNab, who lined up against Fray in the 1965 Champs Class One 100m final with the likes of Miller and Tony Keyes, said he had fond memories of Fray, but was saddened by his passing.

“There are so many things you can say about Michael Fray. One of the most important aspects is a talent that went to waste,” McNab told the Jamaica Observer.

“He came along at a time when there was the phenomenal Lennox Miller, who went on to win silver and bronze in successive Olympics. Fray was the next best thing. But just after that Don Quarrie came and stole the headline,” added McNab, who is special advisor to the Minister of Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange.

“Unfortunately Michael had other issues off the field, but those things could have been avoided had we assisted him with caring people to look at talent and guide them so that they become what it ought to be,” he said.

Fray, who is the brother of noted sport journalist Bobby Fray, attended St Andrew Technical High School (STATHS) and did athletics as well as played Manning Cup.

He went on to represent Jamaica at the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games.

In the 1968 Olympics, he ran the second leg of the 4x100m relay which had the individual silver medallist Lennox Miller, Clifton Forbes and schoolboy Errol Stewart who set the world record of 38.6 seconds in the heats. They would return to break the record again in the semi-finals with a time of 38.3 seconds.

Fray was seventh with 20.6 in that famous 200m final of the 1968 Olympic in which American bronze medallist John Carlos and Tommie Smith, who won gold, controversially made the clenched fist symbol on the podium in solidarity with the black power movement at the height of racism in America.

Fray would go on to capture 100m bronze at the 1970 Commonwealth Games and was fifth at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, West Germany, where he ran 10.40 from lane eight. His teammate Miller was third in 10.33. Valeriy Borzov of the Soviet Union won in 10.14.

He set a US national Junior College 200m record in 1967, while competing for Odessa Junior College, then later enrolled at University of Texas at El Paso in 1968 and was ranked 10th in the world by US Track and Field news.

“This country has always been full of talent and Michael Fray was one of those outstanding talents that could have gone on to have done even greater things,” added McNab.

“He was another lost cause, another one who fell through the cracks. It's so unfortunate but it was my privilege to know Mikey Fray, who he was and the talent that he possessed,” said the former Jamaica footballer.