Faces of Black Excellence

The inspiring life of Jamaica’s first gold medalist Arthur Wint who had three careers

He was 28 years old when he became the first Jamaican to win a gold medal in the 400-meter dash at the 1948 London Olympics. But, this is not a feat his family wants Dr. Arthur Wint to be remembered for any time his name is mentioned. He was an avid learner and a social justice campaigner. He excelled as a surgeon and diplomat and was a World War II pilot, according to the BBC.

His daughter, Dr. Alison Wint, remarked that she does not want her father to be defined by his gold medal, but as a man who gave his all and tapped into opportunities that made him better positioned to impact society.

Arthur Wint was born in May 1920 in Jamaica. He was 1.95 meters tall. History will remember him for equaling the world record of 46.2 seconds in the 400-meter race at the Olympics. His daughter recounts that, because Jamaica was under British rule up until 1962, the anthem that was played when he picked this laurel was ‘God Save the Queen’. There is no doubt Arthur Wint is a national hero in Jamaica.

There is a statue that has been erected in his honor at the national stadium with streets named after him as well. Dr. Alison Wint indicated that her father always looked out for becoming a better person and capitalized on that to improve the lives of those around him.

She recounted that during the 1940s, her father was a household name in Jamaica. She is not too certain about today but added that before her father took to the tracks at the Olympics, he had witnessed active combat as a Royal Air Force pilot during World War II. He fought with two of his brothers in World War II flying spitfires. They are celebrated as pilots of the Caribbean.

Dr. Alison Winston said she recalls the difficulties her father had to encounter to fit into the small cockpit of the planes because of his size. She said Arthur Wint showed character and competence in the face of the challenges he encountered during the war.

In 1973, Arthur Wint was appointed to the position of Jamaican High Commission to the UK shortly after he relocated his family. He was High Commissioner to Jamaica in London from 1974 to 1978. Dr. Alison Wint recounted that one of the instances her father championed social justice was when he was an officer in the army and his brothers were not. It was irregular in the military for an officer to engage with someone who had not been enlisted into the army.

He insisted that being an officer of higher rank should not erect barriers between him and his family. He was queried by the military high command, but, he still went ahead to speak with his brothers. He also turned down the offer to be ushered into knighthood as was the tradition when one assumes the role of high commissioner to the court of St. James.

Dr. Alison Wint said that the value of not bowing to the establishment because it is the tradition has been instilled in her and it guides all her actions. Arthur Wint died in Jamaica in 1992, at the age of 72.

Stephen Nartey

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