By Carlena Knight
Before stamping his legacy on the political arena, Sir Lester Bird was one of Antigua and Barbuda’s brightest track and field stars and it was because of his great skill in long jump that he was selected to represent the then British West Indies or West Indies Federation at the 1960 Rome Olympics. But the former national athlete revealed that an injury plagued him from attending and competing at the world event.
While speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports show last Friday, Bird went into detail about the painful moment at the West Indies Championships in Sabina Park, Jamaica.
“I pulled a muscle at the last minute. I was selected but I pulled a muscle and had to go down to the Bahamas to recuperate. It was terrible. I never speak about it. When I pulled the muscle, I dropped down on the field in Sabina Park and Keith Gardener who won the Commonwealth hurdles came over and I was crying, I was crying.”
The former athlete turned politician believes that he would have been a top competitor from the region having beaten several international athletes in the event.
“I had already beaten Henk Visser who was the Dutch guy and I had already beaten Ralph Boston at the United States Championship in Berkley, California. I don’t even like to talk about it because I pulled a muscle, but I was already selected to go to Rome,” he said.
Despite that painful moment Bird spoke about several achievements he attained during his athletic career.
He was the first Antiguan to not only gain an athletic scholarship to a division one university in the US but was also the first Antiguan to be selected for the West Indies Federation team.
It was during that time that Bird won a bronze medal at the Pan American Games in Chicago in 1959 but, of all the accolades Bird spoke highly of, was his historic feat while attending the University of Michigan.
“I broke the Michigan record and you know who had the record? A man by the name of DeHart Hubbard. He won the gold medal before the 1936 Olympics. He won the gold medal for the United States. He went to Michigan and I broke his record down in Illinois.”
William DeHart Hubbard was a track and field athlete who was the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event: the running long jump at the 1924 Paris Summer games.
Bird was named as an All American and Big Ten champion jumper while attending the university.