Tokyo Olympics evoke special memories

Last week, the organizing committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (TOCOG) announced that plans are going ahead, full speed for sports largest platform despite the coronavirus threat. In Japan, football matches and other sports/entertainment events have been cancelled or delayed and the government has endorsed a “scaled-back” approach.

However, organizers are moving right along with the schedules for both the mainstream Summer Olympics slated to start July 24, and the Paralympics which has an August 25 start date. The famed aspect of the Olympics, the torch relay, is scheduled to begin in the city of Fukushima, Japan, on March 26. So, unless the brewing pandemic coronavirus becomes more significantly a factor, all signs are go.

The prospect of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo brings to the surface, once again for many, some very pleasant memories. The last time the Olympics took place in Japan (Tokyo), in 1964, The Bahamas had some of its greatest moments in national sports history.

Those special happenings were etched in history by three gallant and talented Bahamian men who hailed from the middle eastern section of New Providence. I refer to Durward Knowles (later knighted), Cecil Cooke and Tommy Robinson.

The former two captured the second Olympic medal for The Bahamas (the first was a bronze in star class sailing by Knowles and Sloane Farrington in 1956), and the first gold in the star class of the sailing competition.

Robinson made history of his own by becoming the first Bahamian to reach a final in the sport of track and field (100 meters).

We were still a colony (Independence did not come until 1973), but there was joy in Bahamaland when Knowles and Cooke achieved the Olympic gold medal breakthrough for the country. They outclassed a star-studded field pushing the United States’ team of Richard Sterns and Lynn Williams into second place, and the Swedish pair, Pelle Petterson and Holger Sundstrom, into third.

Robinson went into the final of the 100 meters considered a strong medal threat. It was generally felt that the three medals would come from the foursome inclusive of Robinson, “Bullett” Bob Hayes of the United States, Enrique Figuerola of Cuba and Canadian Harry Jerome. A medal was not to be for the Bahamian, however, as Robinson pulled a muscle and limped across the finish line in eighth place. Hayes won the gold, Figuerola was second and the bronze went to Jerome.

There were no world championships in track and field at the time so the Olympics represented officially the best in the world. Robinson, though disappointed because of his injury, nevertheless left Tokyo as a finalist and the No. 8 rank in the world for the 100 meters.

Here we are 56 years later, and Bahamians will be on the Olympic stage in Tokyo once more. This time around, at last two representatives (sprinters Steven Gardiner and Shaunae Miller-Uibo) will be favored to be finalists and medalists as well.

There are high expectations for Gardiner and Miller-Uibo, but whether they are realized or not, the Olympic memories of 1964 in Tokyo will remain very pleasant ones forever.

• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.

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