I recall the period very well. It was the turn of the decade of the 1960s.
Elaine Thompson grew up in that out east community anchored by the cross section of Shirley and Mackey Streets. The families were close knit. The children for the most part went either to Sacred Heart School and Eastern Junior on Shirley Street, St. Matthew's through Church Street or Eastern Secondary on Mackey Street.
Most families attended services at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, St. Matthew's Anglican Church or Ebenezer Methodist Church, all on Shirley Street.
The familiarity was profound and everybody rejoiced in the instances when one or more from the community would excel and make good headlines. Thompson was in her early teens when she evolved as the fastest female at Eastern Secondary. She was the talk of the community for weeks after her picture appeared in the newspapers because of her sprint exploits during a government secondary schools meet.
She was a jet in the short sprints. Ironically up that point, Thompson quietly went about the normal routines that we had then, church, school, home chores and play, almost invisibly. From the point when her picture first appeared in print however, she became a community celebrity.
The Pioneers Sporting Club attracted her and she went on to craft a splendid era of
female sprinting along with Gail North, Christine Jones and Althea Rolle. The school meets were exciting. The club meets were at another level. At those meets with the Pioneers and St. Bernard's as the chief rival groups, the female sprint events were high profile and drew considerable attention.
Those of us (like yours truly) who were not allowed to venture out often to the big club meets, would be on pins, hoping for the hours to go by quickly and that news of the meet would reach us in the community. We eagerly awaited the return to the area of those who had gone to watch the action. The big names at the time from the out east area were Tommy Robinson, George Collie, Basil Butterfield and Les Strachan. We wanted to know what they did, but in particular, because we felt closer to Elaine, our priority was news about her.
Did she beat Christine, Althea and Gail? Did she win the 100 and the 200? What did Elaine do?
Mostly, the news was good because while they were all speed burners, the view here is that Elaine had the edge in the short sprints. It was a good group, the country's female fantastic four. Christine was speedy like Elaine out of the blocks. Rolle, when she got a head of steam and started to 'roll', was sheer excitement. Gail was the durable one, dangerous from the 100 to the 400.
However, the pride and joy of out east, was Elaine. We were all ecstatic when the news came that she had been selected to travel with the national team to the 1962 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games. There was our 17-year-old sensation, helping to blaze the trail for the future Bahamian female sprint stars who would captivate the world decades later.
The quartet finished in fifth place, out of the medal count. Nevertheless, they established a trend, which gradually but surely, blossomed into glorious accomplishments for The Bahamas. Today, the achievements of the Golden Girls collectively are the high water mark for Bahamian success. It all began back in 1962 at the 9th Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, held in Kingston, Jamaica.
Elaine Patricia Thompson, the out east sprint princess, was one of those trailblazing athletes.
To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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