Today we are scarcely a month away from the start of the London Olympic Games 2012 and this event, above all other Olympics, symbolizes a remarkable milestone for the Silver People of Panama. It was exactly sixty four years ago that our native son, Lloyd LaBeach, brought home two Bronze medals- the first Olympic medals ever in Panama’s history in its participation in a worldwide Olympic competition.
The London Summer Olympic Games will take place from 27 July to 12 August and its motto is “Inspire a Generation.” Lloyd La Beach, with his awesome sprinting achievements, inspired several generations. We know since our blog articles here on The Silver People Chronicle attract hundreds of searches for Lloyd LaBeach and not a week goes by without us receiving an inquiry as to images, sprinting records etc. in regards to LaBeach.
These searches, by the way, come from all over the world, particularly Europe and the Scandinavian countries. For these sprinting enthusiasts, Lloyd LaBeach is still very much alive and very much an awesome record setter, someone to emulate. We’ve been told, in addition, that Lloyd LaBeach appears in history books in many schools in North America and Europe. He does not appear, however, in any history books in Panama. We hope to change that, however.
We found a good article recently published by the University of Wisconsin which, as you might remember from our article here, was the University into which he was first admitted from Panama in 1945 on scholarship. Below we post a fragment of the article that reflects the enduring enthusiasm and admiration for this remarkable man.
“Today we honor Lloyd LaBeach, the “Jamaican Flash” who was a UW track star that went on to win two bronze medals at the 1948 Olympics… After completing his secondary education, he earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Wisconsin and enrolled in the Agricultural School. LaBeach arrived on campus as a freshman in the 1945-46 school year, and veteran track coach Tom Jones predicted that he “was destined to become one of the Badger all-time greats and possibly one of the nation’s top performers.” Coach Jones and UW fans would not be disappointed.
In the spring of 1946, LaBeach set University of Wisconsin records in the broad jump, the 100-yard dash, and the 220-yard dash, in leading the Badgers to victories over Marquette, Iowa, and Northwestern. At the Drake Relays he captured first place in the broad jump, and, at the Big Ten championships in Chicago, he won the 100-yard dash and finished second in both the 220-yard dash and the broad jump. He repeated all three performances at the Central Collegiate Championships as UW finished second in the region.
A few weeks later at the NCAA championship meet in Minneapolis, LaBeach captured sixth place in the broad jump and finished second in both the 100-yard and 220-yard dashes. His performances earned 17 of UW’s 18 3/4 points, as the Wisconsin team finished fifth in the country. In honor of his accomplishments, the Badger yearbook staff called “the sensational Jamaican sprinter and jumper… perhaps the greatest track star ever to perform in Cardinal toggery.
In May, he traveled to London, under the tutelage of UCLA Coach Drake, and represented his native country at the games of the XIV Olympiad. Time magazine called him “Panama’s one-man Olympic team,” and, once again, he did not disappoint his fans. LaBeach made the finals of both of his short sprint specialties, and he captured bronze medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes. His two medals were the first by a Panamanian athlete – and the country’s only medals until Irving Saladino’s gold medal in the long jump at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. LaBeach was also the first black Badger to capture Olympic medals since George Poage had also won two bronze medals at the 1904 games.”
Except for Alonso Edward who, at age 19 brought home a Silver medal in the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin- a record that shocked the world and earned the awesome title of “Faster than Bolt”- no Panamanian sprinter has yet to make Olympic medal history like Lloyd LaBeach.
This story continues.