Last leg - Athletics legend ‘Teddy’ McCook diesTuesday, February 12, 2013
BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large firstname.lastname@example.org
LEGEND of Jamaican athletics administration, Neville 'Teddy' McCook ran his last leg of life's relay yesterday when he died at the Tony Thwaites Wing of the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew, following a long battle with prostate cancer and diverticulitis.
McCook, who was 73, had suffered paralysis in recent weeks, but remained in high spirits and maintained an elevated level of confidence that he would get back on track with the running of his favourite sport.
McCook at the time of his death was president of the North American, Central American and the Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC). Professionally, he was a marketing consultant.
He was also secretary general of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and served as a council member of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), attending his last IAAF meeting in the Spanish city of Barcelona last November, a day after he dined with members of his alma mater Kingston College at the annual reunion dinner of the Old Boys' Association last November 17, of wich he was a life member..
McCook also served as president of the then Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association for 12 years from 1984 to 1996. The organisation is now called the Jamaica Administrative Athletic Association.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said that McCook's death came as a shock, although it was well known that he was ailing.
"Teddy was a virtual icon in the track and field fraternity locally, regionally and internationally. He spent almost all of his life working on ways and means to improve the management of the sport structurally and organisationally. This made him one of the most clinical, efficient and technically sound sport administrators globally," Simpson Miller said in a statement to the media.
She described McCook as a nation-builder who was diligent and disciplined in executing his responsibilities.
Simpson Miller remembered McCook as a person who would not give up on any issue he considered to be just, especially if it had to do with the advancement of the sport of track and field.
"Teddy conceptualised and had implemented the Gibson Relays, in remembrance of his mentor the late Bishop Gibson, the first principal of his alma mater, Kingston College. The Gibson Relays is now a staple on the local athletics calendar and is regarded worldwide as one of the most prestigious athletic meets for high school students," the prime minister said.
Former sports minister and the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party's spokesperson on Youth, Sports, Gender Affairs, Entertainment, and Culture, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, described McCook as a "very kind, thoughtful and very humble individual.
"I have always been impressed by his dedication and commitment to track and field. He was a truly loyal Jamaican who was highly respected worldwide," Grange said.
McCook is highly regarded as one of Jamaica's foremost sports administrators of all time.
Although he believed in free speech and mass participation in national issues surrounding sport, McCook was more comfortable working with small groups of people in whom he had confidence to do a good job.
He once told this writer: "An ideal committee meeting should comprise three people and two should be absent."
McCook was one of the leading figures behind the last election of officers of the JAAA. He campaigned with the slate led by attorney-at-law Lincoln Eatmon, which lost to that led by Dr Warren Blake, but in the end both parties settled their differences that developed in the lead-up to the vote.
Blake and his executive spent several hours visiting McCook at home weeks before he died and patched things up.
"Teddy has been responsible for the tranformation of track and field," Dr Blake told the Jamaica Observer. He was one of the architects of putting in the National Trials and insisted that the trials run on time. He contributed a lot to track and field, both locally and internationally," Dr Blake added.
McCook, who wore the purple and white outfit for KC in Manning Cup football and athletics, also represented Jamaica at football, playing as a diminutive centre forward under Brazilian coach Jorge Penna during the 1960s. McCook often joked that when he was axed from the squad, along with friend Alva Anderson, he knew of it first when he saw it published in the afternoon tabloid, The Star.
The KC fraternity also reacted with surprise. President of the KC Old Boys Association, Dr Ray Fraser, described McCook as a stalwart of the 87-year-old school.
"We have indeed lost one of the men who has contributed most to KC," Dr Fraser said. "Mr McCook was indeed an institution. The work that he did in uplifting KC was remarkable, and the school is still benefitting from it, not just in athletics, but all round. He is one of the true Fortis giants and can never be replaced," Dr Fraser said.
McCook is the recipient of the national honour, Commander of the Order of Distinction (CD) for sports in 1987, and was later conferred with the Order of Jamaica in 2006, also for sports.
He leaves behind widow Sonia and four daughters.