More recognition for Deon?

July 31, 2020

A growing tide of public sentiment has steadily pressed for more recognition for Deon Hemmings-McCatty, OJ, Jamaica's first Olympic gold medallist. The sentiment has been voiced in letters to newspapers, columnists and lively discussion on the internet.

One February 18 letter to the Gleaner complained as follows: "I can't understand why this young lady was overlooked when the country started framing out sculptures. Our first female Olympic gold medallist ever! This will never change! No one can out do what she did, because first will always be first!"

In a November 6, 2019 column entitled 'The Deon Hemmings Oversight', veteran journalist Laurie Foster ended with the pointed query, 'Surely, this can only be an oversight.'

Dr Paul Auden, who recruited Deon from York Castle High School in St Ann to Vere Technical High agrees but ascribes the 'oversight' to our love of the sprints. "We got lost in the glamour of the sprint events, Merlene Ottey coming up to Juliet Cuthbert, Ottey coming down, Ethlyn Tate, you know, the sprinters. Then on comes Grace Jackson," he said, with reference to an era that started before Hemmings-McCatty reached the final in her first Olympics in 1992.

Lots of hard work

Auden remembers meeting her for the first time, as he sought recruits for Vere. "There was humility, lots of hard work. I mean, it wasn't the star talent Vere had, but what I saw was character, honesty, discipline, intelligence too, high intelligence", he recalled.

Hemmings- McCatty found the going tough at Vere Technical. The juggernaut located at Hayes, Clarendon was flush with many who would become Olympians. Moreover, the event in which she would become world class wasn't contested at Girls Championships until after her days as a schoolgirl were long gone. "If we had the event around and she had been a star at Girls Champs, Carifta, you know, if her name had been in the papers, maybe you'd have more people saying, what about Deon Hemmings?", guessed Auden who also helped young Deon's entrance to Alcan Jamaica where she received great support from the late Pat Anderson.

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