Letter from London – Guyana and the Olympics

Letter from London – Guyana and the Olympics

By Bruce-Malcolm Nobrega – July 24, 2012

London is buzzing, anxiously awaiting the arrival of all our Olympian guests, as well as the commencement of this great cavalcade of sport. We the Guyanese Diaspora in London and the U.K generally, are hoping to beam with pride at the sight of our own flag the golden arrowhead fluttering in the breeze, distinct from all others, even that of South Africa, which closely resembles ours.    London is a city that now claims that ‘We are the World’ on account of every community on the planet being a part of this land, and we the Guyanese are here and want to cheer, not only for Team GB, our adopted land, nor for the athletes of other lands like Jamaica, because we don’t have the representatives out there, but for our own.

I remember, and not many people know this, is that Guyana in 1959, won the West Indies Athletic Championships. Yes we did … MacDonald Bailey, a great Trinidadian Olympian was our coach, and Guyana did not win the men’s sprints or/nor men’s middle distance races, although the talent was there, but where we dominated was in the women’s events. Guyanese women totally dominated 1-2-3- in almost every event. Track stars like Myrna Fawcett, Yvonne Smith, Claudette Maasdammer, Brenda Archer, Wilma Paris. It is believed that the female athletes owed their success to the talented coach Bertie Mc Dougall, who trained many of these outstanding athletes in the 1950’s and 1960’s.           

Jamaica was nowhere at that time. Today they are world beaters. Where are we???  Why have they grown and why have we shrunk??  It is not for the lack of talent, but I suppose, there are problems with our training and organisation and methods to encourage our athletes. In those days we also had distance runners, like the barefooted Moses Dwarka, Harry Powell, George DePeana, Tony Seth, also helped us to victory in 1959.

It must be our lack of proper tracks and facilities, coaches and trainers and general encouragement and sponsorships, governmental and otherwise, BUT NOT A LACK OF TALENT, that has led to our decline. Talented athletes from Guyana have performed and won Olympic medals for other countries. Like Mark McCoy, gold medal hurdler for Canada in 1992, Phil Edwards won medals for Canada, and was very respected by the great athletes of his day like Jesse Owens, Jimmy Gilkes, who could have won us a medal, but was a victim of the Montreal boycott in 1976.

Alianne Pompey, our gold and bronze medallist at the Commonwealth Games and of  course Michal Anthony the boxer, who is our only medallist (bronze) at the Olympics won under  for Guyana Flag… Good for them. Great for Guyana!

One may ask: Why should one worry about OLYMPIANS, while there are so many other pressing issues of survival in the land? One reason and the best reason is PRIDE. This pride is not false and set for a fall. Pride helps prevent the hemorrhaging of our population of its richest resource, —its PEOPLE—and the loss of focus on our Destiny.

One looks begrudgingly at the other communities in the Diaspora who burst with pride for their home countries. I site the Jamaicans, who send back much more help than we do, return home to spend their money, build retirement homes there, & never ever want to be anything else.

So let’s hope we too can burst with pride in London 2012, and if not, let us plan to nurture our talented ones, to get the Golden Arrowhead rising and fluttering proudly in the breeze,

Guyana Forever!

Bruce-Malcolm Nobrega —- nobbybee@yahoo.com

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  • Slingshot  On 07/24/2012 at 5:28 pm

    Nobby… with an emotional choke, I just want to say “Thank you” for your insightful open letter …
    Best regards…

  • Deen  On 07/24/2012 at 8:29 pm

    Bruce, you are certainly a prideful Guyanese. Your hopeful sentiments are shared. Guyana had great talents in the past based on the interest and emphasis we placed on sports. We amply demonstrated our athletic talents and skills back in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. We had superior skills cricket, and were very competitive in volleyball, boxing, etc. We used to have great inter-primary-school competitions in cricket and athletics. Since then there has been a de-emphasis and decline of sports activities in schools. Today, the educational program in Guyana needs to include sports and athletic activities to create healthy minds in healthy bodies among children. That will certainly resuscitate the competitive spirit in sports we once had. The potential talent is there, but the programs, training, and spirit are not.

  • Bridgit A Sam-Bailey  On 07/26/2012 at 12:06 am

    Bruce, where does Bill Guy fit into this?

    • Bridgit A Sam-Bailey  On 08/01/2012 at 9:03 pm

      Hi Bridgit!
      Sorry we couldn’t speak much the other night, as I said I did not know of Bill Guy, but would love to know of him, can you arrange a meeting??

  • Ron. Persaud  On 07/28/2012 at 3:43 pm

    Is the last name of the long distance runner from LBI estate “Powell” or “Prowell”?

    • Ron Persaud  On 08/01/2012 at 9:00 pm

      I remember him as Powell, I may be wrong, I was just a kid at the time,& I’m sure I read Powell, & heard B.L.Crombie call him Powell, but I stand corrected if I’m incorrect.—Its the same person anyway.

    • Ron Persaud  On 08/01/2012 at 9:10 pm

      Thought I’d replied to you before Ron! I thought his name was Powell, I was just a kid & my memory may be unreliable but I’m sure I read Powell, & heard B.L. Crombie call him Powell on the sports news.

  • Rust Brown  On 07/30/2012 at 6:06 am

    I tend to agree with you that it was PROWELL

  • Brian walker  On 08/06/2012 at 9:32 pm

    Mr. Norbrega… That was very interesting… Please contact me about further information… Wilma Paris is my mother…

    • Bruce-Malcolm Nobrega  On 08/24/2012 at 5:40 pm

      Hi Brian,
      Apologies for the late reply, I was too engrossed in the Olympics, & didn’t realise anyone was bothering with this article.Where is Wilma your mother now?Still in Chicago? I presumed she stayed there after the Pan Am Games of ’59.The last time I saw her was about 20yrs ago–or more. I was in a Carnival Band @ Caribana in Toronto. I looked up & recognised her looking on the sidelines.
      , & shouted her name questioningly, she smiled & acknowledged that she was. We actually took a picture together—can’t find it now. Would be great to be in touch with those Guyana stars of old—Your mother, apart from being a quality athlete, always had great looks & star quality.—My email address is=== nobbybee@yahoo.com=== ===please stay in touch pass it to your mum. Give her my regards as well.
      Bruce Nobrega,

  • leonard Joseph Punambolam  On 08/12/2012 at 8:46 pm

    Sew Etwaroon, the long distance champion from Letter Kenny Village was also with Moses and Powell. Sew represented Guyana in 1959 at the commonwealth Games in London; bare-footed.

    • Bruce-Malcolm Nobrega  On 08/24/2012 at 5:42 pm

      yes I remember him now ===Thanks for the reminder,

  • Cyril Balkaran  On 08/13/2012 at 7:29 am

    We can continue to dream more about the Guyana 50 and 40 yeras ago. The environment and the teachers promoted a very different love for sports and athletics in schools. We developed healthy minds in healthy bodies and so the games were a fitting avenue to let the steam of natural energy flow into the healthy minds of our wards.
    Look at the new environment of today where students carry guns in their book bags, drugs that the pusherman gives them to sell in schols, and students beating up teachers and teachers having sex with their students, and parents going to school to beat up the Principals and there are no parent teachers meeting. So this is a chaotic situation that cannot be easily remedied. So the big question is Where can the sporting Heroes of the Future be Born! In which school of the Commonwealth, Let’s find the answer and put the remedy in place if we know what is so inherently wrong with sports and games in our Academia, schools primary and secondary included.

  • Bruce-Malcolm Nobrega  On 08/24/2012 at 5:45 pm

    I know Cyril, but we can’t let these bad tidings overwhelm us,lets do something to stop this before it becomes a tsunami—The worst thing to do is to do NOTHING.

  • Alyson Stewart-Flowers  On 02/15/2013 at 4:45 pm

    Dear Mr. Nobrega I was very pleased with your article,about the 1959 athletes. I am Wilma’s daughter I see that my younger brother Brian also contacted you about her. My mother often talks about this and about the Pam Am games that were held in Chicago, where she came second to Wilma Rudolph. No she didn’t stay in Chicago after the games she returned to Guyana, she did how ever returned to the states in the early sixties. She now resides in Florida, also do you have any information on James Edgar Stewart he was also an athlete at the same time. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

  • mustafaa  On 03/03/2014 at 1:05 am

    Moses Dwarka in his time was the best and harry prowell was definitely his challenger. Moses had the fastest time for the half marathon in the west indies. in those days they hadn’t competition for these guys so they took turn beating themselves.

  • Chandra Paul Sharma  On 09/20/2014 at 9:39 pm

    Boyo Changur from Letter Kenny has the record for the fastest half marathon.His time 1hour 5 minutes.Chandra Paul Sharma is the winner of four marathon in Guyana.In fact he was the most outstanding marathon runner Guyana ever had.

  • Chandra Paul Sharma  On 09/26/2014 at 11:43 pm

    Sheikh Hassan ran the fastest six mile in 28 minutes in 1968,from Cornelia Ida.to Uitvlught in 1968.

  • Chill  On 03/20/2015 at 8:35 pm

    Guysuco,produced the best distance runners in Guyana. John Joseph, Budhindranath Persaud, Munilall, Pooran Katabali,R.D. Singh, Nasson Warnerand Chandra Paul Sharma.The Sugar Boys.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 03/21/2015 at 3:47 am

    I was just looking up the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, hoping to find the name George de Peana, a giant at 5 & 10-thousand metres [3 & 6-miles]; if I recall correctly he was fourth in the 5K at Cardiff – No Africans to touch him back then. I believe there were three white men on the podium ahead of him. British Guiana was tops in Athletics back then. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHwPnvEf6as

  • Thinker  On 03/21/2015 at 11:25 am

    There would have been a whole lot of East Africans able to touch him back then. It’s just that sports weren’t properly organised in those countries. But notice the Kenyan Whites being represented playing bowls.

  • Peter Ramrayka  On 08/06/2016 at 11:23 am

    I have just seen this. Can anyone remember Sewsankar? As I recall he and George DePena ran from the then Atkinson Field to Georgetown in the 1950s. I interested to receive comments either on this or to my email pramrayka@compuserve.com

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/29/2021 at 8:06 pm

    There are a couple of Guyana-born, male sprinters that deserve honourable mention – Clifford Murray and Rocky MacPherson. These two guys had more photo finish – dead-heat finishes than any others that I could recall.

    The main difference between the two is Rocky had a Beard – same height and same stature at the finish line – made judging a sprint in Guiana, back then – a tough challenge..

  • geoffburrowes  On 08/14/2021 at 12:24 pm

    Totally agree Bruce!

  • Chris  On 08/14/2021 at 11:56 pm

    The government of Guyana should make a concerted effort to invest in our athletes and Olympics program. We can do as well as Jamaica, if not better.

    We have the talent, the climate, the resources and ability to do well at the Summer Games. All we need is the will and vision to get it done. No more sending of seven people to represent us. That’s embarrassing.

    The Guyana government should include track and field and other summer events on their development list. It’s time to stop the infighting and start to build a bigger and brighter future for all Guyanese.

    Let’s have a sixty or more athletes to the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Paris is out of the question. It’s only 3 years away. We can do it. If not now, when?

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/15/2021 at 12:33 am

    Chris: It is possible for Guyana to raise its game, BUT ……

    The population of Jamaica is 3-Million-People

    The population of Guyana is LESS than 800,000-People

    That does have a bearing on the Level of competition ….

    I believe we should have a West Indies football team!

    Guyana has exported its talent .. Canada’s first Olympic Gold Medal in 60-Years
    was won by Guyana-born, Mark McKoy, for example – at the 1992 Olympics.

    When we were dominating Track and Field in the 1950s, I believe our national pride was way higher than it is today – We are Navel-Gazing as a nation …..

    • Chris  On 08/15/2021 at 10:28 pm

      Clyde writes: “The population of Jamaica is 3-Million-People.” And Guyana’s is less than 800,000.

      But all we need is 60/70 well-trained athletes, Clyde, and we take the numbers out of the equation.

      China and India have 1.4 billion people each. Yet, India won 7 medals at Tokyo compared to China’s 88.

      Guyana can be a leader in the Caribbean. We need to set a goal and work toward accomplishing it.

      A US president, at the beginning of the 1960s, challenged his scientists to build a spaceship to reach the Moon and back before the end of the decade.

      That goal was successfully achieved. Similarly, we can become a leader and the best in the Caribbean. All we need is the will to do it!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/15/2021 at 11:35 pm

    Chris: I agree it can be done ….

    “All we need is the will to do it!”

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