World renowned former national sprinter, James Wren-Gilkes is “on a mission to help Guyanese athletes in Guyana and overseas.”
This was disclosed by the 200m Pan American gold and silver medalist at Olympic House yesterday during a courtesy call on the top brass of the Guyana Olympic Association (GOA).
The US-based Wren-Gilkes, who sprinted to gold in the 200m in Mexico City during the 1975 Pan Am Games, is currently here vacationing, but took the time out to relay his intentions to the GOA and media operatives.
“In 1976, we had the best athletes in the Caribbean. We have declined and we want to find our way back,” said Wren-Gilkes who was the favorite to win the 200m at the 1976 Montreal Olympics had Guyana not infamously boycotted the games.
Wren-Gilkes, who coached at the University of Southern California for 12 years, said that along with other US-based former athletes, he is.. “hoping to be able to sponsor local and foreign-based athletes and to also bring overseas athletes to compete in Guyana to raise the standard here on home soil.”
Wren-Gilkes, 53, said that he is pleased that Guyana finally has an all-weather track (National Track and Field Centre at Leonora) despite it being out of the city and said that he hoped..“more venues like that one can be constructed to keep the wheel of development turning.
“It’s way in Leonora but we are pleased with the start. One can only hope that the development continues since we will be here for guidance and financial support.”
Meanwhile, president of the GOA, K Juman-Yassin presented a plaque to Wren-Gilkes in honour and recognition of his outstanding achievements in Track and Field and his historic significance and contribution to the development of sports both locally and internationally.
Juman-Yassin stated that the expenses of accommodation and meals will be undertaken by the GOA for Wren-Gilkes and any other overseas-based Guyanese who returns on stints to work along with Track and Field athletes and clubs.
Notes: Gilkes also won a silver medal in the 200m at the 1979 Pan Am Games and would have been a medal favorite in the 200m (which Don Quarrie won) at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, but Guyana supported the African nation’s boycott of the games over New Zealand’s rugby team’s tour of apartheid South Africa.
Wren-Gilkes then applied to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for permission to run as an individual under their flag but was denied the request. He also went to the 1980 Olympic Games where he reached the semi-finals of both the 100 and 200 metres before he was eliminated.
His personal best time for the 200 metres was 20.14 seconds, achieved in September 1978 in Ingelheim, Germany. (Emmerson Campbell)