This article was guest blogged by Philippe Neron of Incrediblesteps Records
Today is the one year anniversary of the passing of Jamaica’s Herb McKenley.
Sometimes, you get better with age. Michael Johnson repeated his Gold medal victory in the 400m in the 2000 Sydney Olympics at the age of 33. Mike Larrabee was 30 years old when he won the gold in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Although Herb McKenley of Jamaica didn’t win an individual Gold medal in the Olympics, he, too, was 30 years old at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics where finished second to 25 year old teammate George Rhoden. Both ran 45.9.
McKenley had just lost to a photo finish in the 100m four days prior to the 400m final!
With the exception of Xavier Carter at the NCAA, doubling up in the 100m and 400m is a rare double.
If Herb McKenley raced on today’s synthetic lightening fast tracks instead of cinder, Jeremy Wariner and LaShawn Merritt would have a hard time catching this speedster in the first 200m, as McKenley normally went out fast and “hung on” as he did in the 1948 Olympic final. In the 1952 Olympic final, he ran a more conservative race trying to run even splits but ran out of real estate. The margin of 18 inches or 46 centimeters separated the two.
McKenley became the only man to ever to compete in the 100, 200 and 400m Olympic finals.
It took six tries in Olympic Finals to eventually win a Gold medal:
- 1948 Olympics London 200 meters – 4th in 21.2
- 1948 Olympics London 400 meters – Silver behind teammate Arthur Wint
- 1948 Olympics London 4×400 meters – DNF (Jamaica’s anchor leg pulled a hamstring)
- 1952 Olympics Helsinki 100 meters – Silver in a photo finish loss to Lindy Remigino. The first 4 finishers were credited with a time of 10.4 seconds
- 1952 Olympics Helsinki 400 meters – Silver behind teammate George Rhoden who also ran 45.9
- 1952 Olympics Helsinki 4×400 meters – Gold in a new world record of 3.03.9. It was McKenleys amazing 3rd leg that caught the Americans on the final exchange.
An interesting side note is McKenley was third in 100m, 200m and 400m at the 1951 Pan-American Games