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Trinidad & Tobago’s first Olympic medallist passes away

Trinidad & Tobago’s first Olympic medallist passes away

Posted by Shanelle Weir on March 25, 2014

The national sporting fraternity was plunged into mourning early yesterday afternoon after it was revealed that Trinidad and Tobago’s first-ever Olympic medallist, Rodney Wilkes, passed away at the San Fernando General Hospital at approximately 2pm.

Wilkes, a former national weightlifter and Hummingbird Gold medallist, died at the age of 89. According to reports, the veteran athlete had been ailing for the last couple months and sadly succumbed to his illness at the southern medical institution. Popularly known as “The Mighty Atom”, Wilkes’ received international recognition after he copped gold at the 1946 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Barranquilla, Colombia. However, Wilkes shot to global stardom and athletic success when he bagged silver at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. Here, he competed in the featherweight division and immediately became the first TT athlete to ever step-foot on the coveted Olympic podium. In his historic performance, Wilkes lifted a combined weight of 700lbs finishing behind eventual winner, Egyptian Mahmoud Fayad, who hoisted 733lbs.

The national weightlifter continued to strive and went on to win featherweight gold at the first Pan American Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1951. The following year, Wilkes was again selected to represent TT at the Summer Games in Helsinki.

He continued to prove his worth to the national and global population as he recorded a bronze medal finish. Wilkes opted to sit out of competition for two years and announced his return to the world circuit when he emerged victorious at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. Following this, he snatched bronze at the Games in Cardiff. Wilkes’ final Olympic appearance came at the 1956 Melbourne Games. He finished fourth with a combined lift of 730 lbs, missing out on a medal by one place and 5 kg. Speaking to Mayor of San Fernando, Kazim Hosein, yesterday, he revealed the nation, especially the south-land, had lost an icon. “This man was a role model and an iconic athlete for Trinidad and Tobago. Rodney Wilkes was so humble and this is indeed a great loss for San Fernando and the people of South. However, I do not think enough was done to publicly recognise what Mr Wilkes had achieved in his life-time. Recognition was certainly due and now it’s too late. I send condolences to his family and friends,” said Hosein.

Interesting Facts

- Became the first national to have attended three Olympic Games in a row, when he represented TT at the Melbourne Games.

- First national, along with Mike Agostini, to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games (hosted in Vancouver, Canada) after winning the featherweight class

- A member of TT’s first team at the Pan American Games hosted in Buenos Aires, Argentina

- A member of TT’s first team at the Olympics hosted in London, and won the country’s first Olympic medal after earning a silver medal

- Represented TT at the World Championships hosted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

- Crowned the national featherweight champion at the age of 17.

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