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Farewell Marvelous Mal Whitfield

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first_imgWhenever we sit to tell the legends of our pioneer Olympians, there is one American name that always pops up. In the midst of our legendary Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, Herb McKenley and Leslie Laing was the American Mal Whitfield.Classy and competitive, Whitfield pushed our superheroes to the limit and earned for himself a place in track and field history.Whitfield passed on last week at 91 and left behind an enormous legacy of success in the sport.When Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley sprinted to gold and silver medals in Jamaica’s maiden voyage to the Olympics in 1948, the 23-year-old Whitfield was third. He and Wint, as the premier 800-metre men of the era, went one-two in the two-lap event. Wint was in great shape, but the American produced an Olympic record to prevail.He and Wint were down the field when George Rhoden and McKenley went one-two in the 1952 Olympics over 400 metres, but he again bettereed Wint in the 800. That was his better distance and he set world records in it and its imperial equivalent, the 880 yards.Through the end of 1954, he won 66 of his 69 races in the two-lap run, collecting two National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) titles for Ohio State University and five US national titles along the way.In fact, only Alberto Juantorena of Cuba and Wint have better Olympic 400-800 performances than Whitfield’s 1948 bronze-gold performance. The Jamaican took gold and silver in 1948 and that stood as the high bar combination until the big Cuban won both events at the 1976 Olympics. It’s a combination that few even attempt these days.Whenever we tell the story of what was for ages Jamaica’s greatest sporting triumph, Whitfield’s name will appear again. In the last race of the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Wint, two-time 200-metre finalist Les Laing and McKenley gave Rhoden a one-step lead in the 4×400-metre relay final.Battle of championsMcKenley was spectacular, running an unprecedented 44.6-second leg to close a 15-metre lead. The anchor leg pitted Rhoden, Olympic champion at 400 metres, against Whitfield, Olympic champion at 800 metres.Chanting exhortations to himself, Rhoden summoned a 45-flat stint from his leg, but couldn’t shake the man called ‘Marvellous Mal’. With neither anchorman yielding, the one-step margin remained and both Jamaica and the United States broke the world record.To put those splits in perspective, recall this was long before synthetic tracks and featherweight sports attire and footwear. Instead, McKenley, Rhoden and Whitfield ran on cinder tracks weighing several pounds.Whitfield kept on winning gold medals through to the 1955 Pan-Am Games. He was a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, travelled the world as a sports ambassador, and later helped many worthy causes though the Mal Whitfield Foundation.He maintained a long friendship with our Helsinki Heroes and visited Jamaica from time to time. Just like them, he was class personified.n Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.last_img read more

GM unloads health costs, promises jobs

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first_imgDETROIT – As the ink dries on the new four-year contract between General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers, retirees, workers, Ford and Chrysler are all anxious to see the details of what could be a watershed pact for the industry. For retirees, there’s uncertainty about how the union will manage their health care. To the rank-and-file, there’s the hope that a two-day strike was enough to bring promises from GM to build new vehicles at their factories, keeping them employed for years. Even GM executives must be wondering whether there’s enough cost savings to make them competitive with the Japanese. “There is a lot of relief, but that’s coupled with anxiety to see details of the agreement,” auto worker Tom Brune said Wednesday as he stood next to a pile of strike placards at the union hall near a GM plant in Wentzville, Mo. Union and company bargainers struck the tentative deal just after 3 a.m. Wednesday after bargaining for about 18 hours, but they gave few details. It still must undergo the scrutiny of local union presidents and a vote of GM’s UAW members, which is likely to happen this weekend. AGREEMENT: Both sides are anxious to see how the new four-year contract will play out. By Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin THE ASSOCIATED PRESS But the big detail that the company and union confirmed was that the union will take money from the nation’s largest automaker to form a trust that would handle payments for retiree health care. Several industry analysts said the agreement would shape contracts with GM’s Detroit-area competitors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. It’s also likely that the deal will frame other U.S. labor contracts, the analysts said. “We view the tentative agreement and its apparent terms as a historic milestone toward the long-term improvement in fundamentals and survival at the North American automakers,” KeyBanc analyst Brett Hoselton wrote in a note to investors. GM and the union praised the agreement, with the company saying it goes a long way toward cutting about a $25-per-hour labor cost gap between GM and Japanese automakers with U.S. factories. GM has said it pays workers $73.26 an hour in wages and benefits. The company lost $2billion last year and is in the midst of a restructuring. “This agreement helps us close the fundamental competitive gaps that exist in our business,” GM Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said. The deal allows GM to move its roughly $51 billion in unfunded retiree health care costs into an independent trust administered by the UAW. The union also agreed to lower wages for some workers. In exchange, the UAW won commitments from GM to invest in U.S. plants, bonuses and an agreement to hire thousands of temporary workers which will boost UAW membership, according to a person who was briefed on the contract. The person requested anonymity because the details haven’t been publicly released. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more