Jamaican Olympian and coach Pablo McNeil dies aged 71

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Image: Celeste.

Jamaican Olympic athlete and coach Pablo McNeil has died at the age of 71. The cause of death was a long illness he suffered since a stroke in December 2007.

A sprinter since childhood, McNeil competed at two Olympic Games. In the 1964 Tokyo Games he reached the semi-final of the 100 meters, finishing sixth. He also appeared in the 100 meters at the 1968 Games in Mexico City, but failed to make it past the first round. He was part of the relay team that won a silver medal at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica.

After a career of competing in athletics, McNeil turned his attention to coaching. He became the sprint coach at the William Knibb High School where he met Usain Bolt. He convinced Bolt to make the switch from cricket to track and trained him up until the age of 16, when Bolt joined the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association-administered High Performance Training Centre in Kingston.

Bolt, through his publicist, said that "Coach McNeil was a part of my early track and field life. I appreciate all he sought to pass on to me. I would like to offer my condolences and sympathies to his family and close friends."

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Olivia Grange paid tribute to McNeil in a statement saying “Pablo McNeil has left a mark on Jamaican and world sports. He was a good competitor for Jamaica and went on to nurture, mentor, inspire and coach some of our fine young athletes at William Knibb High School - including Usain Bolt who has been such a success and inspiration. On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I offer sincerely condolences to Pablo McNeil’s family, friends, and the entire Track and Field fraternity who will be saddened by his passing."