The Jamaica Olympic Association and the Olympians Association of Jamaica have paid tribute to Olympian Les Laing, who died on the weekend.

Laing, who was born in Linstead, St Catherine on February 19, 1925, represented Jamaica at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics was a member of the famed 4x400m relay team that won gold in Helsinki. He is the third member of the iconic quartet to have died leaving behind George Rhoden as the only surviving member.

Arthur Wint died in 1992 while Herb McKenley passed in 2007.

“The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) mourns the loss of a member of our household but celebrates the life he lived inspiringly on the track which mirrored the personality of this son of Linstead,” the JOA said in a statement released on Sunday.

“Leslie Alphonso Laing's feats as an Olympian are well documented and we salute him with grateful hands. But more importantly, it is the spirit of the gentlemen which has inspirited generations of athletes and earned the abiding respect of a nation.

“In a world where recorded statistics of sporting achievements are understandably cited in praise of men, the JOA reflects deeply and respectfully on Laing's self-sacrificial service to his country and the soul of his ground-breaking feet.”

Meanwhile, the OAJ described Laing as a hero.

OAJ President Marvin Anderson said he one of the nation's Olympic pioneers.

“Arthur Wint, Laing, Herb McKenley and George Rhoden set a world record 3 minutes 03.9 seconds to defeat a top-class US team at the Games in London,” Anderson said. "His heroic relay run of 47 seconds flat was all the more remarkable because he was a specialist 200-metres man."

Laing, Anderson said, leaves behind a substantial legacy from his days on the track.

“While many Jamaican track stars emerged from the US college circuit, the Linstead-native rose to prominence in Britain as a member of the Polytechnic Harriers Club in London. Fittingly, he made his Olympic debut in that city in 1948, placing sixth in the 200 metres final with McKenley fourth.

 “An injury to Wint in the 4x400 final prompted Laing and his teammates to vow to return and win four years later in Helsinki, Finland. Running faster in every round, Laing became the first Jamaican to reach an Olympic sprint final twice and improved his finish to fifth place. Despite his short stature, he delivered a stout-hearted second leg run to help Jamaica to fulfil the promise made in London.”

 Laing retired after a 1954 season when he narrowly missed taking the sprint double at the CAC Games in Mexico City where he won the 200 and took silver in the 100m.

Laing was recognized by the respected US publication TRACK AND FIELD NEWS, which listed him in its annual world rankings three times - at number 9 in 1948, number 10 in 1949 and at number 9 once more in 1953.

"His accomplishments paved the way for Jamaica in the sprints," Anderson said.

 “In fact, no other Jamaican would reach back-to-back Olympic 200m finals until Don Quarrie did it in 1976 and 1980. Mr Laing was a pioneer who showed us what was possible for us in the 200 and thanks to the start he provided, Jamaica has excelled in that event."

Laing was married to 1948 high jump finalist Carmen Phipps.

 

Structures to advance the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) agenda for education and sport have been bolstered by a Protocol of Cooperation between the country’s apex body for sports, the Jamaica Paralympic Association (JPA) and the United State Sports Academy (USSA).

Under terms of the agreement, the Academy will utilize the institution’s expertise and resources to aid Jamaica’s national sporting effort, which is already being upgraded with the JOA Scholarship and JOA Internship Programs that were launched last year.

Due to COVID-19, the recent historic signing ceremony was – for the USSA first-time - held virtually with the Academy faculty and staff on the institution’s campus in Daphne, Alabama, while the JOA and JPA partners signed in Jamaica.

The JOA and JPA team was led by President of both associations, Christopher Samuda and JPA Director and JOA Secretary-General and CEO, Ryan Foster.

“This partnership places the JOA and JPA and USSA at the epicentre of sport and sports development, which is education,” said JOA President, Christopher Samuda.

“Education is indeed at the heart of this partnership as the JOA, JPA and the Academy work together for those who will be the beneficiaries of knowledge and understanding in the various disciplines in sport; disciplines such as sports management and studies, exercise science, sports coaching and recreation management,” added Samuda.

Within a 24-hour span, it was the second occasion marking an agreement with an international partner that was signed off by the JOA, adding to the 10-year historic Memorandum of Strategic Alliance with World Eleven Inc./Argentina Football Association (AFA), which will provide advantages offered by the AFA’s Technology Institute to the benefit of Jamaica’s football.

The USSA traditionally holds face-to-face signings with its international partners and until COVID-19 cases have declined to a safe level, the Academy’s programs will also be delivered online to students and athletes in Jamaica.

“In many ways, the event being conducted virtually is emblematic of the world of sports in 2020,” said Dr Thomas ‘TJ’ Rosandich, Academy President and CEO. “Before this past February, a signing ceremony for a Protocol for Cooperation between the Jamaica Olympic Association and Jamaica Paralympic Association and the Academy would have been conducted in Kingston (Jamaica) amidst sessions on program planning.

“We’ve all seen the changes to the sports profession at the local, regional, continental and global levels this year. However, I view this step today in signing this protocol as an affirmation of the belief that sports will recover and continue to play a major role in society in the days to come,” Dr Rosandich expressed.

 The Protocol of Cooperation marks the return of the institution’s post-secondary, non-degree programs to Jamaica for the first time in a decade.

 Samuda commented: “Cross fertilisation you may call it, cross-pollination, transfer of knowledge, however you may characterise this partnership that has come into being, what is clear is that sport has not only won the battle but the war and that we, the JOA, the JPA and the USSA are transforming qualitatively the game through education and giving sports a defining perspective of multilateral cooperation. Multilateral for this partnership will birth others in education as we here in Jamaica continue to build out the infrastructure in sport on a solid and secure foundation and create synergies across physical borders which cannot deny us the bond, which today has been established.”

Foster, the main driver behind the JOA’s Scholarship and Internship programmes, noted the JOA and JPA’s belief in empowerment through education and training and the legacy it creates for athletes, administrators and other professionals in sports.

“The opportunities that are being made available through this partnership are pioneering - never witnessed before. Members and indeed the wider local fraternity of sport will have more options to expand and broaden their capabilities through the various programmes that will be offered at the bachelor, post-graduate and doctoral levels. With trademark vision and purpose, the JOA and JPA will unite with the USSA, which has a 40-year track record in the delivery of sports education across 65 countries, in creating an enviable model of sports collaboration and development,” said Foster.

“The signal work of Dr T.J. Rosandich, President and CEO of the USSA and his team in facilitating this historic partnership; the stewardship and foresight of President Samuda in identifying and negotiating opportunities for the benefit of our membership and stakeholders; and my own passion to build viable partnerships within and beyond Jamaica that give meaning to lives in sport are motivated by service, an opportunity for which our colleagues and ourselves are grateful,” Foster added.

The Academy has delivered post-secondary, non-degree sport education programs in some 67 countries over nearly half a century. Once COVID-19 cases decline to a safe level, the institution plans to teach its programs on the ground in Jamaica.

Dr Rosandich said: “Fortunately, the Academy is well prepared to provide the quality sports education and workforce development programs that the JOA and JPA are seeking.

“The Academy is already an acknowledged leader in providing online distance education programs. As conditions change and travel restrictions in Jamaica ease, the Academy is prepared to revert to onsite, face-to-face instruction,” said Dr Rosandich.

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