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MC DONALD BAILEY – PIONEER T&T SPRINTER by Rae Samuel

posted 6 Dec 2013, 04:35 by Gerry Kangalee
Even as the world media dutifully mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, remixed into a "freedom fighter, great humanitarian, anti-apartheid opponent, icon of the century'' we in Trinbago mourn the passing on the same day, with much less fanfare, of Mc Donald Bailey. 
 
Bailey was the pioneer 100 yards sprinter to emerge from the Caribbean in an era when track and field was just developing in our region. Bailey shared the world record for five years as a British athlete. 
 
One has heard so many stories of why he did not wear the Trinidad/Tobago colours. The most common story was that there was some contradiction between him and the then local governing body. He was always seen however as a Trinidadian who ran in British colours. In its early editions Bailey was probably the only individual Trinidadian mentioned in the Guinness book of records for the number of national sprint titles, British, held by one athlete in a country. His lone Olympic success was a bronze medal in Helsinki 1952. 
 
I remember seeing him around track and field in the late '70s and early '80s. He was clearly an arrogant man in the way that all champions must be, overtly or covertly. One cannot be a winner without such an attitude. Some hide it, others display but all must have it. He seemed not to think much of the local administration..He was contracted by a local state company to promote track and field as a consultant but it did not seem to work out. 
 
He was knowledgeable about the sport though. For example, he would insist that the then administration develop an "off-season" cross country programme, something he probably had seen assist in the strength and conditioning of British athletes. While his vision is accepted and respected now, we still do not have one. 

A chain smoking 'sharp dresser'', Bailey faded from the scene in the '80s. My information is that he went back to England for a while and returned in the mid 90s and settled quietly. By that time the younger generation hardly knew or had heard of his achievements, in much the same way they have not been told of the courage of a Rodney Wilkes or Lennox Kilgour, Trinbago's first two Olympic silver medallists. 
 
Mc Donald Bailey had been ailing for a long time before he died. Tragically, he had gone blind: not in the same way as our local sporting authorities. One evening I ended up on a street in Tarouba named after him: one of the men after whom a stadium should have been named. 
 
I had occasion to visit the Ato Boldon stadium where athletes were training in darkness. The late Ian Goddard, founder of Neon Trackers, a dedicated coach who sacrificed so much for young athletes, must be weeping out there that this is still happening. It has been going on for years. What an irony on the day a sprint icon passes. Yet many a night when I am coming down the highway the very stadium is ablaze with light.. 
 
I have always argued it is cheaper to put on the lights, whatever the cost. Is it not a lot cheaper to encourage more young athletes by providing proper conditions, than to end up paying the police, the lawyer, the magistrate and the jailer? The greater irony is that all the corrective institutions have various ongoing sports programmes. Prevention is cheaper than detention! But then there is capitalism. Somebody has to fill the courts, prisons, remand yards, asylums and of course our cemeteries and crematoriums 
 
So follow this weather advisory. Wear tallboots and carry an umbrella. The Met office advises that there will be a flood of crocodile tears this weekend. The stadia that should help the next generation of Mc Donald Baileys await or are under repairs...in time for Soca monarch! \
 
Meanwhile, peace and 'nuff respect to you. Mr. Bailey, sir!
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