In the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, Jamaica's Herb McKenley placed second in the 100m and 400m individual races and won gold in the mile relay. With the likes of Donald Quarrie, Merlene Ottey and Deon Hemmings, the island of 1.6 million staked their claim as a deserving contender on the sprint circuit.
Running is an important part of Jamaican life. By default, running became the sport of choice from kindergarten to high schools due to the ease of organizing competitions between students even with bare minimum facilities. Lack of proper sporting facilities in most schools meant that activities were usually restricted to a few, like running, which could always be done an open field.
Barring a medical issue or physical challenge, nearly every Jamaican student participates in some competitive running activity with their peers from their earliest years in basic school (kindergarten), to the primary and high school levels. Those who show promise are usually selected to represent their schools and hone their athletic abilities in parish, national and regional competitions.
Thanks to the tremendous success of Jamaican athletes especially in the past decade, more corporate sponsors are stepping in to help schools construct adequate facilities to develop athletic talent.
There are now a number of organized sporting activities all over the island to identify athletic potential from an early age. Among the more popular competitions is the annual Inter Secondary School Association (ISSA) Boys and Girls Champs which has become a popular scouting ground for the next Usain Bolt or Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce.
Jamaican students also compete regionally at the CARIFTA Games, and internationally at the Penn Relays in the United States.