Time flies! The year is 1958; the place is the Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. The occasion is the Second West Indies Federation Track & Field Championships. It was Day Two of the Championships. The first day I won the 200m in record time. I was the 200 metres champion. The final day I travelled 18 miles on the bus from Arima to challenge for the 400 metres crown. I wanted it. It was my fifth attempt at running the distance. I entered the Oval one hour before the start of the event since I did not want to interact with anyone before the race. I sat under a distant salmon tree in George V Park. I was waiting for the time call. My friend Mel was my watch. I got the call. I appeared cool, calm and filled with adrenaline. I was in lane five. My plan, catch the man in lane seven before the back stretch. Stay with him into the final turn. Kick in the middle of the turn to the tape. I executed. I won in record time. Within one hour, I anchored the T&T 4x400 relay team to victory over Jamaica. This brought the house down. Later, a lean, slender, statuesque, unanticipated stranger came looking for me. “You ran a hell of a race,” he said. “Give me your address; Do you have Senior Cambridge Certificate?”
“Yes I have a Senior Cambridge certificate and London University GCE full pass certificate.” “My name is Herb McKenley, You will hear from me. I want you to go to school in America.” He shook my hand. I did not wash them for two days. In less than one month, I had offers from Villanova, UCLA, Michigan, and North Carolina at Durham, Nebraska, San Jose State, and Illinois Universities. Through Herb’s influence, they took an interest in me. I had the talent, academic qualifications, and a burning desire to move to the next level. Herb was my fairy godfather. He opened the doors for me. A new life loomed. Dreams took a different direction. Through the late George Lewis former T&T sprint champion, I discovered the stranger was the legendary Herb McKenley of Jamaica. The man who came looking for me. I was flabbergasted. After hearing of his exploits, I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I had no way of knowing whether we would ever meet again. Herb saw something in me I did not see in myself. New aspirations surfaced. Track had now become a vehicle where I could transform my life. My applications were sent to these universities. New York University sent me a plane ticket, letter of acceptance, an I-20 form. I was in New York two days later. Herb kept a tab on me through Track & Field News. The summer of 1959, Herb sent me a ticket to join the West Indies team to the Pan American Games in Chicago. I got a bronze in the 4x100 relay.
As destiny would have it; I was to meet my hero again. It all started one morning of July 1960. This time in Kingston, Jamaica. I was not selected to represent T&T at the Olympic trials. Herb questioned their decision. Track & Field News Magazine had just reported my clocking of 29.9 secs for the 300 yards and 20.5 for the 220 yards that month in Michigan and Rye, New York respectively. Herb was not pleased. He sent me a ticket to Kingston, Jamaica. Herb met me at the airport. I felt honored. I could see in his eyes a sense of pride in my accomplishment. I just had to make that team. If not for me but for Herb. I could never have known that meeting was going to change my life from a mere runner into a global competitor, and that my hero was going to make my dream a reality. He single handedly brought me to Jamaica to take part in the Olympic trials. Being part of my hero was such an amazing honor. It really showed me that one person can make a difference in the world. There are so many role models out there for children to look up to, Herb was mine. Not only did Herb help me grow as a person, but it also gave me the ability to see the potential the world has to offer. I was a member the first and only West Indies Federation Track & Field Team to the 1960 Olympic Games. This was done because Herb McKenley believed in me. He supported me and inspired me to do more. His vision and dedication meant a great deal. The impact he had on my career was inspiring. Today people like Herb McKenley are called role models. In my day as a youngster, they were either Godmother or Godfather.