In tribute to Messrs Dennis Johnson and Neville MytonFriday, May 21, 2021
On occasion this newspaper has had reason to remind our readers that the platform for the celebrated Jamaican track and field stars of the last 20 years was set decades ago.
This week, and also in late April, news of the passing of Messrs Dennis Johnson and Neville Myton reminded us yet again of the early work done in building that platform we are all so proud of today.
Messrs Johnson and Myton were not only outstanding track athletes in their own right, but gave of themselves through thick and thin in later life for the greater glory of their country and their sport.
Mr Johnson, who died on April 22 at age 81 from complications associated with COVID-19, equalled the then World Record 9.3 seconds for the 100 yards, three times in 1961. He competed at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and again in Tokyo, four years later, assisting the 4x100m relay team to fourth in the latter Games.
As coach/administrator, Mr Johnson gained acclaim for his role in establishing Jamaica as a credible base from which athletes could operate on an equal footing with those in the United States and elsewhere.
He showed the way with his work in setting up coaching programmes at the College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), later to become the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), and is credited for the accommodation of the highly successful MVP Track Club at that university.
Track and field leaders have hailed Mr Johnson for his revolutionary role as “architect” of modern Jamaican track athletics.
“There can be no discussion on the development and success of [Jamaica's home-based track and field programme] without acknowledging the pioneering work by Dennis “DJ” Johnson,” says Mr Anthony Davis, who until recently held the position of director of sports at UTech.
Mr Myton, who died on Wednesday in the United States at age 74, was not a sprinter. Indeed, he is considered by many as the last of the great Jamaican 800-metre runners in the tradition of Messrs Arthur Wint and George Kerr.
Mr Myton's World Junior Record over 800 metres of one minute 47.2 seconds set in 1964 still stands as Jamaica's national junior record.
He was part of Jamaica's team at the 1964 Olympics while still a teenager, and was also a member of the contingent at the 1968 Olympics. He was at his very best in the 1966 Central American and Caribbean Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, winning gold in the 800 metres and the 4x400 metres relay.
A charming, highly approachable man, Mr Myton was among those transforming track and field at Vere Technical High School decades ago. He earned kudos for the development of the legendary Mrs Veronica Campbell Brown and others such as Ms Simone Facey.
Says Mrs Campbell Brown of Mr Myton: “He took so many young women and men, like myself, under his wings and pushed us to achieve greatness. He was a selfless man, a father to many, and a true lover of people and sports.”
All Jamaicans should take note and honour the work and memory of Messrs Dennis Johnson and Neville Myton.
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