… 41 years ago, Jamaican cyclist David Weller won historic Olympic medal in MoscowWednesday, August 04, 2021
By Howard Walker
One of the most iconic and magical moments in Jamaica's Olympic history occurred 41 years ago, when David Weller won a bronze medal in cycling at the 1980 Moscow Games.
The then 23-year-old Weller achieved that feat in the 1000 metres Time Trial and became the first and only Jamaican to win an Olympic medal in a sport other than athletics.
Jamaica has won 80 medals at the Olympic Games since 1948 – highlighting the magnitude of Weller's achievement.
In 1980, Jamaica won only three medals, courtesy of Don Quarrie in the 200; Merlene Ottey also in the 200m and Weller in the cycling. The island had sent a team of 18 competitors comprising 11 men and seven women in two sports – athletics and cycling.
Weller, who is now in the aviation business as a commercial aircraft technical and engineering advisor, reminisced with the Jamaica Observer about his historic feat.
“It was probably one of the proudest moments of my life and for Jamaican sports,” said Weller, who now lives in Atlanta.
“It proved that Jamaica has more medal potential beyond athletics. I have grown to appreciate my medal even more over the years, especially considering the limited resources, equipment and funding available at that time,” he noted.
Weller did not get to hear the Jamaican anthem play but it was just as emotional for him on the podium inside the stadium, knowing he had done something special. Something that has not been replicated in 41 years. Something that might never be replicated.
“My eyes were filled with so much tears of pride and joy for my country and family. My ears may not have been fully tuned in. But it was a joyous moment,” he pointed out.
Jamaica's three-medal feat in 1980 was actually a step up from 1976 when Don Quarrie's gold and silver provided the only two medals. Weller was the talk of the town.
“I think everyone on the team was surprised, especially those officials who withheld support funding for the cycling team at that time,” he pointed out.
“But I've often said I dedicate my medal and my all to my mother as I recall in 1972, as a junior, just having started cycling, she voluntarily spearheaded fundraisers for the Jamaican Olympic Cycling Team saying, 'I am hoping that one day my son will represent Jamaica in the Olympics and the history speaks for itself, I give all glory to her and God,” said Weller.
But what has gone wrong with Jamaica's cycling 41 years after that historic moment, Weller was asked.
“I would not characterise it as something gone wrong especially since there are many more recreational cycling enthusiasts today than 40 years ago, as well as other fairly successful cyclists who have represented Jamaica in recent history,” Weller responded.
He continued: “As is often said about our wonderful country, leadership, vision, and experience collectively are often sometimes lacking a bit as are suitable cycling facilities and infrastructure”.
“Consider that the National Stadium Cycling track is in disrepair, outdated and used for more than just cycling. Also, cycling as a sport generally survives from community and cultural roots in most countries and in my young days in Jamaica, I had the benefit of old-timers from “Townmore” where cycle racing was held weekly. The place where people from all walks of Jamaican life converged for fun,” he explained.
Weller competed at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles where he finished sixth while recovering from an injury he sustained in a crash in Colombia two month earlier. He called it a day that same year.
“I retired from cycling in 1984 because we could not financially compete with other nations spending immense sums of money on equipment technology,” he explained. “The rumoured issue of institutional doping begs the question of what may have been possible on a level playing field at Moscow,” he pointed out.
Weller had a very good cycling career and will forever be in the annals of Jamaica's Olympic history.
He also won bronze at the 1978 Commonwealth Games and at the 1983 Pan American Games. Before that he won silver at the 1975 and 1979 Pan American Games.
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