Leslie “Les” Laing, a member of the 4×400 metre gold medal winning team from the 1952 Helsinki Olympics died on Feb 7.
The Linstead, St Catherine, Jamaica native was days away from his 97th birthday. Sources differ on his age, but according to the Olympic.org website, he was born on Feb. 19, 1924.
Details of Laing’s death were not released, but his advanced age is considered a factor.
In the 1952 Olympics, Laing ran the second leg of the 4×400 metre relay team that won the race in a then world record time of three minutes, 03.9 seconds.
Other members of the team included Herb McKenley, George Rhoden, and Arthur Wint.
Sadly, only Rhoden remains alive with Wint passing in 1992 and McKenley in 2007.
Upon his death, tributes poured in for Laing from across the Jamaican sports world.
Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) President Christopher Samuda said in a statement,
“Leslie Alphonso Laing’s feats as an Olympian are well documented, and we salute him with grateful hands. … In a world where recorded statistics of sporting achievements are understandably cited in praise of men, the JOA reflects deeply and respectfully on Laing’s self-sacrificial service to his country and the soul of his ground-breaking feet.”
Garth Gayle, the president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, said Laing was “a giant of a man” of whose kindness many were the beneficiaries.
The Olympians Association of Jamaica President Marvin Anderson said Laing’s, “accomplishments paved the way for Jamaica in the sprints. In fact, no other Jamaican would reach back-to-back Olympic 200 finals until Don Quarrie did it in 1976 and 1980. Mr Laing was a pioneer who showed us what was possible for us in the 200m.”
Anderson noted that it was an injury to Wint at the London Games in 1948 which prompted “Laing and his teammates to vow to return and win four years later in Helsinki, Finland.”
In London the 4×400 metre quartet were set to beat the Americans in the final until Wint, running the third leg, suffered his injury.
SOURCES: BUZZ-CARIBBEAN.COM, JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM, OLYMPIC.ORG, TRACKALERTS.COM