By 1952 the Republic of Panama’s official population had been disclosed as 801,982- not quite one million. Most of the athletic triumphs, however, were coming from the townships of the Silver People and from the cities of Panama and Colon.
By 1951 and 1952 names like Carlota Gooden (1951 Athlete of the Year), Frank Prince (track), Frank Austin (pro-baseball), Reinaldo Grenald (amateur baseball), Alfonzo Frazer (basketball), Federico Plummer (boxing), and, of course, Lloyd LaBeach who brought home to Panama Olympic bronze in the London Olympic Games of 1948, were making headlines both in Panama and abroad. An incredible wealth of talent was wrapped up in the Silver Roll communities and terminal cities of Panama and Colon despite the many hurdles placed before them.
The track and field champions alone have seen very few changes from the days of Carlota Gooden who, by the tender age of fifteen, was already named Athlete of the Year by La Hora newspaper for winning the 50 and 100 meter championship in the III Bolivarian Games in Caracas, Venezuela.
An interesting article in a recent issue of La Prensa’s Ellas magazine reveals the cruel reality of the adverse conditions many of these gifted children have to train under and still be expected to outshine their rivals in international competitions.
Ricardo Sasso, president of the Panamanian Athletic Federation remarked sadly, “Our athletes, primarily in the interior of the country, have to train in improvised dust covered running tracks composed of sand, some of which look more like horse pastures than real track fields. To this you might add the lack of adequate trainers and equipment which is a problem that has been coming for years.”
These terrible hurdles, however, have not dampened the spirit of our athletes somehow. On the contrary, they seem to glow with enthusiasm and a fine sense of patriotism to do their utmost and bring home the glory for their homeland, Panama. Not even the shenanigans of Pandeporte, which, until recently, has seemed to be on a mission of sabotage against its own children putting all types of impediments in their way and making life generally much harder as they attempt to prepare themselves for Olympic competition, has held them back from shining.
Not only Carlota Gooden but Loraine Dunn, Jean Holmes and Marcela Daniels would, seven years later in 1959, win the 4×100 relay in Chicago, Ill., bringing home the Silver medal to a jubilant Silver community.
We will catch up later with Carlota Gooden who eventually went on to become Carlota Gooden de Phillips and dedicate herself to training young women in Rainbow City High School.
This story continues.