A new book, Fifty Days Afire: Inside Jamaica’s Long Sprint to Freedom, will feature the fifty greatest performances by Jamaican sprinters on the international stage. The project, which researched more than a century of events on the track through 2022, begins with a specially illustrated chapter detailing G.C. Foster’s tour of the United Kingdom in 1908.
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Foster, who later became one of Jamaica’s most celebrated coaches, sailed alone to the first London Olympics that year and used his own funds to sustain himself. Unable to register as a Jamaican, West Indian or British athlete, he was excluded from the Games. While there, however, Foster was able to challenge and defeat several of the sprinters who competed in the Olympic 100 meters.
For the first time ever, Fifty Days Afire offers readers excerpts from a 1908 interview with the young Foster as well as images of him competing in England during that year and following his tour to Trinidad in 1909.
The work is the brainchild of communications specialist Michael A. Grant and top track and field analyst Hubert Lawrence, the two writers who produced Champs 100: A History of Jamaican High School Athletics, 1910-2010 (Great House, 2010) and The Power & The Glory: Jamaica in World Athletics from WWII to the Diamond League Era (Great House, 2012). It is the first time that these 50 events have been catalogued together, focusing on first-person and eyewitness accounts of these historic days on the track.
Every chapter of the book includes thoughts and comments from the featured athletes. There are also the words of significant participants who lend their insights, such as coaches, rivals and others. Included, of course, are Usain Bolt’s world-record performances, Elaine Thompson-Herah’s Olympic double-double, several Jamaican sweeps of sprint medals, plus the exploits of Jamaicans in the Olympics, World Championships and many other top competitions.
“The book is the result of nearly a year of research in local and international archives,” Mr. Grant explained, “following clues found in contemporaneous news and using the athletes’ own words as a guide. G.C. Foster’s competition details, in particular, were a significant find and can now be seen as the genesis of Jamaica’s fascination with – and legendary success at – sprinting.” Commenting on the completed work, Hubert Lawrence spoke of his satisfaction with the result. “Fifty Days Afire is a labour of love,” he said. “Too often, history gets forgotten and heroes of the past, with lessons for us in the present, slip away into the abyss. This book fills the void. It covers big moments in the lives of pivotal athletes ranging from G.C. Foster and Marilyn Neufville to Usain Bolt, presenting hard-to-find facts of their days on the track as examples of how good Jamaica can be.”
Many of the photographs and the exclusive interview details in the book have never before been seen by the public. Readers will be able to discover the truth about Marilyn Neufville’s defection from British Athletics to Jamaica before breaking the world 400-meter record in 1970; the inside story of the Jamaican team protest at the 1968 Mexico Games; Bert Cameron’s do-or-die run at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, as well as rare and exclusive interviews with Deon Hemmings, Winthrop Graham, Errol Stewart, American sprint king Steve Williams and many others.
Fifty Days Afire (Great House Books 2022, 308 pages), which has been endorsed by the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) is available in both
e-book and paperback formats on the internet at kingstoncomm.com and bookfusion.com, as well as from leading bookstores.
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