Don Quarrie - Jamaica - International athletics career.

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 26 July 1976

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      Sunday, 25 February 1951
      Kingston, Jamaica
  • Jamaica
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Don QUARRIE - Jamaica - International athletics career.

                                      Sprint double at 1970 Commonwealth Games.


Don Quarrie was consistently amongst the world's top sprinters during the whole of the 1970's, reviving memories of the heyday of Jamaican sprinting in the decade following World War II. As a 17 year-old, Quarrie had produced a personal best time of 10.3sec for 100m at Kingston on 23 August, and had gained selection to represent his country at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. However, he sustained an injury during training just prior to the Games, and was forced to withdraw. By 1970, although still only 19, Quarrie had matured into one of the top sprinters in the world. Nevertheless, he faced a formidable task in front of him in his quest to win the sprint double at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. In the 100m at Edinburgh, his main opposition appeared to be compatriot Lennox Miller, who had won the silver medal at the 1968 Olympics.


This presumption was borne out when Miller and Quarrie each won their respective semi-finals, but in the final, it was the younger Quarrie who prevailed, winning the gold medal in a time of 10.2sec. In the 200m, Quarrie was up against two more Olympic finalists, silver medallist Peter Norman (Australia) and fourth placegetter Edwin Roberts (Trinidad and Tobago). In the final, held on 22 July, Quarrie again proved too strong for his more experienced opponents, winning his second gold medal  from Roberts (No. 356) in 20.5sec. With Quarrie and Miller in their team as well as 100m finalist Errol Stewart, the Jamaican 4 x 100m relay team easily outclassed their opposition at Edinburgh, with Quarrie anchoring the team home in 39.4sec to capture his third gold medal, to equal the record for the most golds won by a male athlete at a single Commonwealth Games. (Ron Casey)


                                      Commonwealth sprint titles retained.


After establishing his sprinting prowess at the 1970 Commonwealth Games, where he won three gold medals, Don Quarrie's career continued to flourish in the years that followed. At the 1971 Pan-American Games in Cali, Colombia, Quarrie set a personal best of 10.1sec when he won his heat of the 100m, and then on the following day, he won the gold medal from compatriot Lennox Miller in 10.2sec. This however, was a mere prelude to his performance in the 200m held two days later, where he won by 5 metres in a time of 19.8sec, which tied the world record. Quarrie was involved in another flirtation with a world record on 13 May 1972, when he anchored a University of Southern California team that bettered the world record for the 4 x 220yd relay. Unfortunately this mark was not accepted as a world record as the team was comprised of athletes from more than one country.


Later that year, at the Olympic Games in Munich, Quarrie didn't fare much better than he had at the 1968 Olympics, when he had withdrawn prior to the start of competition after sustaining an injury. Due to a nagging injury to the ligaments of his right knee, Quarrie opted to concentrate solely on the 200m at Munich. Don easily advanced through the preliminary rounds, but in his semi-final, he pulled a muscle in his left leg at the 80m mark, and had to be stretchered from the track. Quarrie was on much more familiar ground at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch where he became the first male sprinter to successfully defend both the 100yd/100m title and the 220yd/200m title. Unfortunately he could not emulate his triple gold medal performance at the previous Commonwealth Games, when Jamaica could only finish fourth in the 4 x 100m relay. (Ron Casey)


                                     1976 Olympic 200m Champion.

After retaining both his 100m and 200m titles at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, Don Quarrie entered the best period of his long sprinting career. On 7 June 1975, at Eugene, Quarrie beat Steve Williams (USA) by inches in a 220yd race, in which both athletes were timed in a new world record of 19.9sec. In addition, Quarrie was timed at the 200m mark in 19.8sec, which equalled the world record he already held jointly with Tommie Smith (USA). Just less than a year later, on 22 May 1976, Quarrie won a 100m race at Modesto in 9.9sec, equalling the world record that was jointly held by a number of athletes. Despite Quarrie's world record, the 100m at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal was considered to be an open affair, with several runners having a strong chance to win, including Quarrie and defending champion Valeriy Borzov (Soviet Union).


In the final, on 24 July, Quarrie hit the lead at 75m and seemed destined for victory, until Hasley Crawford (Trinidad and Tobago) edged past him in the closing stages to just win the gold medal from Quarrie, whose silver medal-winning time of 10.07sec was the fastest electronic time of his career. In the 200m, Quarrie was again one of a number of athletes considered to have winning chances, although the fastest two times of the year had been set by teammates Millard Hampton, and Dwayne Evans, at the USA Olympic Trials. In the final at Montreal, on 26 July, Quarrie led the field off the curve, and although Hampton mounted a challenge in the straight, Quarrie held his lead to eventually win the gold medal (see photo above, lane 2) from Hampton (lane 4) in a time of 20.22sec. Following the Olympics, Quarrie won the 100m/200m double at the British AAA championships in London. (Ron Casey)




Photograph by George Herringshaw. ©


                             Sixth Commonwealth gold, Olympic bronze in 1980.


Don Quarrie reached the highest point of his long career at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, where he won the 200m, and finished second, by only 0.01sec, in the 100m. Quarrie arrived at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton as the only male athlete to have won two 100yd/100m titles, and also the only one to have won two 220yd/200m titles. At Edmonton, Quarrie attempted an unprecedented third victory in each of these events. Quarrie achieved his goal in the 100m, when he won the gold medal in a wind-assisted time of 10.03sec, to become the first male athlete to win six gold medals in Commonwealth Games competition. Don seemed set to repeat this performance in the 200m when he breezed through the first two rounds, but he suffered a mid-race attack of cramp in his semi-final, and finished a disappointing fifth.


Quarrie's next major championships was the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, where he set his season's best time of 10.29sec when he finished second in his quarter-final. However, he was eliminated in his semi-final when he could finish no better than fifth. Don fared much better in the 200m, at which he was the defending titleholder, finishing third to earn a bronze medal to go with the gold and silver medals he had won in 1976. Four years later, Quarrie was selected for his fifth Olympic team to compete at Los Angeles. In the 200m (see photo above), it appeared that the years had finally caught up with the seemingly ageless Quarrie, as he was eliminated when he finished 7th in his semi-final. However, in the 4 x 100m relay, the 33 year-old Quarrie ran the third leg on the Jamaican squad which won the silver medal, to give Don his fourth and final Olympic medal. (Ron Casey)