Jehue Gordon is part of a tradition of athletic excellence—a Royal tradition.
Way back in the 1930s, McDonald Bailey attended Queen’s Royal College. He went on to become an Olympic medallist, earning men’s 100 metres bronze for Great Britain at the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Finland.
Wendell Mottley and Edwin Skinner were students at QRC a couple decades after Bailey. They too went on to climb an Olympic podium. Mottley seized men’s 400m silver at the 1964 Games in Tokyo, Japan. And in the 4x400m, Mottley and Skinner were part of the Trinidad and Tobago quartet that earned bronze, teaming up with Kent Bernard and Edwin Roberts.
Skinner, who finished eighth in the Tokyo Games 400m final, is now part of the Jehue Gordon team. Skinner is Gordon’s local manager, and has played a key role in the young athlete’s rise to stardom.
Following his elementary schooling at Maraval RC, Gordon attended Belmont Boys’ Secondary for five years. He then moved on to QRC.
“Jehue as an individual,” Skinner explains, “considers education extremely important. He’s one of the few professional athletes that’s still full-time at university and training to be a world-class athlete. He places importance on both of them. That is why he came to QRC. He had that opportunity to do his A Levels, and also the tradition in track and field. While at QRC, he ran at the Penn Relays.”
Gordon was in fine form at the 2010 Penn Relays in Pennsylvania, USA. Just 18 at the time, he produced a 46.03 seconds split to anchor QRC to fourth spot in the High School Boys’ 4x400m Championship of America.
Three months later, Gordon struck gold in the men’s 400m hurdles at the World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada.
“Attending QRC,” says Skinner, “was like the finishing school for Jehue. It really gave him that experience in track and field and education-wise. And this is why he had that good foundation to move on to be a world-class athlete.”
A visit to the QRC hall for an interview with a group of international journalists brings back many memories for Skinner.
“Track and field has always been a major part of the Queen’s Royal tradition. Years ago when we had our athletic meet, it was a big social event which would be held on weekends. Guys would be dressed up in their best Sunday outfit, and the girls the same way.
“QRC,” Skinner continues, “was also one of the few schools that participated in all the track and field meets in the country, be it Southern Games, Eastern Games...That’s part of the reason we produced a number of world-class athletes.
“Even before our time, we had McDonald Bailey. He ran for England, but we consider him one of our first medallists at the Olympics. He was co-holder of the (100m) world record, and had the world record for most individual British championships, so QRC goes back a long, long way in producing world-class champions.”
Skinner says being part of the QRC Olympic tradition is very special.
“Wendell Mottley, my schoolmate, we were both there at the Olympics, in the finals, so it was a very proud moment for Trinidad and Tobago and for QRC.”
The tradition continued at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, where Richard “Torpedo” Thompson claimed silver in the men’s 100m, and then teamed up with fellow-Royalian Marc Burns—as well as Keston Bledman and Emmanuel Callender—for silver in the 4x100m relay.
Four years later, at the London Games, there was more precious metal for QRC, Thompson and Burns combining with Bledman and Callender for sprint relay bronze. And in the men’s 4x400m relay, Royalian Deon Lendore anchored T&T to bronze.
At the 1964 Games, T&T just missed out on 4x400m silver, Great Britain snatching the runner-up spot from Skinner and company.
Forty-eight years later, at the London Games, Skinner was one of Team T&T’s coaches.
“When I went up to England for the Olympics, I told them I came for my revenge after all those years. And lo and behold, if you remember the race, we were running third, and there was Britain bearing down on us. I said ‘oh no, it’s not going to happen again’. But Deon Lendore held him out and we won the bronze medal. It was a very satisfying moment for me.”
The fact that Lendore is a QRC old boy made revenge doubly sweet for Skinner.
And there was more satisfaction to come, Jehue Gordon becoming QRC’s first senior global athletics gold medallist when he won the 400m hurdles final at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia.
The Royal tradition continues.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Trinidad Express writer Kwame Laurence is among a select group of sports journalists chosen to be part of the latest IAAF Day in the Life series, a project featuring some of the Caribbean’s best athletes as well as other major players in the sport of track and field. Next Friday, Athletics Rising.