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T&T loses an icon in Mc Donald Bailey

By Mark Pouchet

Former top Trinidad and Tobago-born sprinter Emmanuel Mc Donald Bailey has died.

Bailey, who would have been 93 on Sunday, died peacefully on Wednesday night with his family at his side.

Mc Donald Bailey was born on December 8, 1920, and his biggest international achievement was as an Olympic bronze medallist in the Men’s 100 metres event, earned at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.

In 1946, he created history by winning both the 100 and 220 yards at the British Open Amateur Athletics Association (AAA) Championships and amassing 15 AAA national titles, including seven sprint doubles and one relay between 1946-1953.

Bailey is the only Trinidad and Tobago athlete to appear in the Guinness Book of World Records from its inception, for holding the greatest number of national athletics titles.

Bailey is also the only Trinidadian sprinter to hold a world record in the 100m (10.2 seconds), which he blazed in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1951, and which stood until 1956.

Bailey held the British All Comers record for the 100 yards (9.6) as well as the European 100 metres mark (10.20) between 1946 -1953.

On his return to Trinidad in 1963, Bailey worked at both the National Energy Corporation (NEC), as well as the Shell Oil company. But he continued to be involved in athletics and was the coach of the outstanding Trinidad and Tobago track team that won three medals at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Bailey was awarded the Chaconia Gold Medal in 1977 in recognition of his contribution to sport. 

He was an associate member of the Institute of Journalists, London, and worked for the BBC during the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960, and the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

He also worked as a journalist, with columns in the Trinidad Express and Catholic News.

Bailey also wrote the book If it’s Speed You’re After and the booklet Building Blocks, before penning “Starting Blocks”, a training guidance manual that also recognises his colleagues in Trinidad and Tobago sport.

His daughter, Christine Tanker, who was the wife of late T&T musician and composer Andre Tanker, said some of her fondest memories of Bailey were of him dancing.

“He (Bailey) was a dancer, and we would peep from his room to see him dancing with mom at night time.

“He also loved music, the pan; when he came to live in Trinidad he and mom, they would take us to parties and pan yards. We got to experience a lot; we were always liming with our parents,” she said.

Tanker said Bailey was one of those persons way ahead of his time.

“He was constantly thinking about things... even when he went blind he was still writing for the Catholic News and he produced a booklet entitled “Athletic Milestones”, documenting some of the top T&T athletes,” she said.

She said he never really retired, and was very interested in the news and athletic training and how to make it better.

He leaves to mourn his wife Doris; children Christine, Robert, Joan, Richard and Rachael; grandchildren, Justin, Zo-Mari, Jessica, Jade, Sasha, Dominic, Jonathan, Jacqui, Tanya and Izzy; and great grandchildren, Kane, Jacob, Tai, Michael, Anya, Dennis and Harlo.

Yesterday the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC), National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) and Ministry of Sport all paid tribute to Bailey.

“The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee extends sincerest condolences to the family of Emmanuel McDonald Bailey,” the TTOC said via media release. “Mr Bailey’s contribution to sport and sport history  in Trinidad and Tobago is significant and a testimony to his dedication and passion. His dignity, determination and courage in triumph and adversity  served as a worthy example.”

The NAAA, in expressing their sympathise to his family, said: “the world of track and field has lost another great one”.

And Minister of Sport Anil Roberts also contributed through a release from the Ministry.

“Bailey was a champion of excellence, not just on the track but in his family life as well,” Roberts said.

“The Ministry honoured him in 2012 at the Spirit of Sport Awards, bestowing a Lifetime Achievement Award on him. Although his failing health did not permit him to attend, his spirit was certainly present as his grandson-in-law accepted the award on his behalf.

“Even though we have lost a great son of the soil, his legacy will live on through the thousands of persons who have benefitted from his efforts and endeavours, both on and off the track. Bailey was a man who will be remembered as a consummate athlete, respected administrator, devoted husband, father and grandfather.”

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