- 04 Aug 1948
- London 1948
Arthur Wint - Athletics
Favourites don't always win. Just ask Jamaica's Herb McKenley, who most people considered a definite for gold in the 400m in 1948. Most people, that is, except for McKenley himself. Whenever he was asked for his opinion, he would announce that the real favourite was, yes, a Jamaican – but not him - Arthur Wint, he said, was the man to beat.
Wint was 28 years old at the time of the Games, a towering figure known as the Gentle Giant. He was also something of a favourite with the home crowd, thanks to a mass of connections with Britain. His mother was a Scot, and he had joined the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, trained in Canada (where he set the 400m record) and was later based in Britain as a fighter pilot, rising to the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
After the war was over, he stayed on in England and was, at the time of the Olympics Games, enrolled as a medical student at St Bartholemew's Hospital. But he continued to train and compete, joining clubs in London during his studies, and his performances remained outstanding. At the London Games, he was appointed captain of the Jamaican team.
He was entered in both the 400m and 800m. In the latter, he lost out to America's Mal Whitfield, and had to settle for Silver, something that made him determined not to finish behind Whitfield over the single-lap race. He thought McKenley might beat him, but nobody else.
As it was, McKenley was leading on the home straight after his trademark flying start but began to fade. Wint saw this and pushed himself to catch his friend and rival. With 20 metres to go, he overtook McKenley and won the race by a comfortable margin. It was Jamaica's first Olympic gold medal.
A second might have followed in the 4x400m, but for the cruellest of luck. Running the third leg, and desperate to beat the American team, Wint pulled a muscle and the Jamaicans had to pull out. It would take another four years before they’d get the success they so craved.