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Former Olympian, Byron LaBeach, an alternate member of Jamaica’s 4x400m relay team that won gold at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, is encouraging Jamaicans to remember, appreciate, and pay tribute to the trailblazers, who paved the way for the successes attained at the Beijing Olympics.
Mr. LaBeach was speaking at a handing over ceremony on September 15, at the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ), where he donated a number of sporting photographs to the entity’s collection.
“My concern now is not only to bring glory to the athletes of today, but also glory for those that went before us. That is very important to history because if you don’t write your history, someone else will. It did not start in Beijing. Beijing was the icing on the cake. What you see today is that our athletes have brought track and field to another level,” he said.
Mr. LaBeach donated some 35 pictures and six laminated newspaper articles with items from as early as the 1930s. These photographs capture athletes representing Jamaica at various meets, and the Olympics. Included are photos of the early stalwarts of track and field, including: Herb McKenley, Dr. Arthur Wint, and Dr. Cynthia Thompson, who was the first Jamaican woman to qualify for a final at an Olympic Games.
Mr. LaBeach informed that the donation is only the tip of the iceberg, as he will be contributing many more photographs to the NLJ’s collection.
“These are just a partial amount. I have boxes of pictures, and the rest I will be sending through [courier services]. There will be more coming, of the Spence brothers, George Kerr, Donald Quarry, etc,” he said, adding that he is also willing to use Air Jamaica to transport any other sports articles or memorabilia that he might have.
Mr. LaBeach hopes that Jamaicans, especially children, will fully utilise, his photographs as a source for research and study.
“I hope a lot of the schools will bring their children to the library when they are doing papers on different greats, as in history you have people like Marcus Garvey and the different leaders who have brought our country to where it is. I feel that track and field has done the same, and there is nothing that is more needed than to know exactly where it started,” he asserted passionately.
“These are things that we (Jamaicans), who are glorifying track and field, should know, that it just didn’t start today; the seed was sown from the 1930s,” he added.
Byron LaBeach is a member of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service to Jamaica.