Herb McKenley

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Herb McKenley
Herb McKenley 1948.jpg
Herb McKenley in 1948
Personal information
BornJuly 10, 1922
Pleasant Valley, Clarendon, Jamaica
DiedNovember 26, 2007 (aged 85)
Kingston, Jamaica
Height1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight72 kg (159 lb)
CountryFlag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica
SportSprint running
ClubIllinois Fighting Illini

The Hon. Herbert Henry McKenley OM (July 10, 1922 – November 26, 2007) was a Jamaican track and field sprinter. He competed at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics in six events in total, and won one gold and three silver medals. [1]


Born in Pleasant Valley, Clarendon, Jamaica, Herb McKenley enrolled at the University of Illinois and won the NCAA championships in 220 yd (200 m) and 440 yd (400 m) in 1946 and 1947. He was also the AAU champion in the 440-yard dash in 1945, 1947 and 1948, and was also the head of the list of world best times in 100 m (10.3), 200 m (20.4) and 400 m (46.2) in 1947. He is the only person to ever have achieved this feat.

Just before the 1948 London Olympics, McKenley ran the new world record in 440 yd (400 m) of 46.0, a record he broke again a month later, clocking 45.9. But at the Olympics itself, McKenley finished only second in 400 m, behind teammate Arthur Wint and was fourth in 200 m. He probably lost a gold medal in the 4 × 400 m relay when Wint pulled his muscle in the final. He is the only person to have made the final in all three sprinting events, the 100 m, 200 m and 400 m in the Olympics. [1]

Perhaps because of his success across the wide variation of distances, McKenley was known to have an uneven pace, blasting out to an early lead, but slowing towards the end of a 400 meters. August 23, 1947, on a wind-aided straight, boardwalk at Long Branch, New Jersey, McKenley was timed in 45.0 for 440 yards, a claimant to being the first person to break the 45 second barrier at 400 meters. [2]

At the first 1951 Pan-American Games in Buenos Aires, McKenley was third in 100 m, 200 m and 400 m, the only person to ever perform this feat.

At the Helsinki Olympics, McKenley was second in 100 m (the first four clocked 10.4 in a very close race) and also second in 400 m. He finally got his Olympic gold, when he helped the Jamaican 4 × 400 m relay team to win the race with a new world record of 3.03.9. His remarkable 44.6 leg is credited with pulling Jamaica into contention. It is considered one of the greatest relay legs in history. [3]

After retiring from sports, McKenley was a coach of the Jamaica national team from 1954 to 1973 and served also as a president of Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association. For his contributions in track and field, he was awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 2004. [4]

McKenley died at the University Hospital of the West Indies, according to Howard Aris, president of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association, who was speaking for the family. The cause of death was complications of pneumonia. [5] [6]

Competition record

Representing Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica
1948 Olympic Games London, United Kingdom4th200 m 21.3
400 m 46.4
1950 Central American and Caribbean Games Guatemala City, Guatemala2nd100 m 10.4Aw
1st200 m 20.9Aw
1st400 m 47.8A
1951 Pan American Games Buenos Aires, Argentina3rd100 m 11.0
3rd200 m 21.5

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  1. 1 2 "Herb McKenley Biography and Olympic Results". Sports-reference.com. November 26, 2007. Archived from the original on January 17, 2012. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
  2. Clouder, Justin. The First Ever Sub-45 sec 400m, run-down.com
  3. http://www.iaaf.org/news/news/world-relays-fastest-4x400m-splits
  4. Davidson, Taneisha. "Honour to whom honour is due. Archived November 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine ", The Jamaica Observer, October 17, 2004.
  5. Track great Herb McKinley dead. sportsmax.tv. November 27, 2007
  6. Litsky, Frank (November 28, 2007). "Herb McKenley, 85, Top Jamaican Runner, Is Dead". Nytimes.com. Jamaica. Retrieved November 12, 2011.