Saturday, February 17, 2018

T&T’s first Olympic medallist dies


Andrew Manswell

TRINIDAD and Tobago’s first ever Olympic medallist, Rodney Adolphus Wilkes, has died.

Wilkes, who was battling prostate cancer, passed away at the San Fernando General Hospital at 11.30 a.m yesterday. He was 89.

Wilkes was a former weight-lifter who was nicknamed the “Mighty Midget”. He participated in three Olympic Games, winning a silver medal in London, England in 1948, when he participated in the  featherweight division of the weight-lifting event. Four years later he won an Olympic bronze medal at the games in Helsinki, Finland. 

And after his retirement, Wilkes returned to his job as an electrician at the San Fernando City Corporation.

He lived at Bertrand Street, San Fernando, with his wife Alma and their five children. His wife died eight months ago.

Wilkes’ stepson, Patrick Laurence, said his stepfather was ailing for some time. He said Wilkes celebrated his birthday on March 11, surrounded by his children and grandchildren.

Laurence said his stepfather fell ill on Sunday night and was taken to hospital.

“Even at that time he was communicating with us. He was telling his daughter that he didn’t want to go to the hospital. But he was not well and she didn’t know what else to do,” he said.

Laurence said he was disappointed that his stepfather was never recognised for his achievements. “I wrote numerous letters trying to get someone to recognise him, but it never happened. I really wanted something done when he was alive,” he said.

Wilkes was awarded the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) for sport in 1972. 

He first won gold at the 1946 Central American and Caribbean Games and in 1951 added another gold, winning at the Pan American Games. In 1954 he won the featherweight title at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, and won bronze at that tournament in 1958 in Cardiff, Wales. 

His final Olympic appearance came at the 1956 Melbourne Games where he finished in fourth position with a combined lift of 330 kilogrammes (730 lb). 

Wilkes continued competing until 1960 when he retired after failing to make the West Indies team for the Olympics in Rome.

He is survived by his five children Patrick Laurence, Grace Wilkes, Rodney Wilkes Jr, Dave Wilkes and Marlene Wilkes. (See Page 70)

Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalised.


Wilkes’ career included the 

following significant 



1946 - Central American and Caribbean Games, Barranquilla, Colombia - 1st (312.9 kg)

1947 - World Championships, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA 

1948 - Olympics, London, England - 2nd (317.5 kg)

1950 - Central American and Caribbean Games, Guatemala City, Guatemala - 1st (310.7 kg)

1951 - Pan American Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina - 1st (325 kg)

1952 - Olympics, Helsinki, Finland - 3rd (322.5 kg)

1954 - British Commonwealth Games, Vancouver, Canada - 1st (313 kg)

1956 - Olympics, Melbourne, Australia - 4th (330 kg)

1958  - British Commonwealth Games, Cardiff, Wales - 3rd (304kg)