Raw talent not enough
Months before Barbados celebrated the first Independence Day, a young Hadley Hinds was at Kensington Oval, joining his victorious colleagues from the Coleridge & Parry School who had just won a second consecutive title at Inter-School Sports.
He was part of the senior division comprising the late Ezra Burnham, Pedro Hinds, Anthony Cadogan and several others when the older grammar schools competed.
They combined to come first and second in the 100, 200 and 400 metres; were first, second and third in the 800 and mile, and also won the 4x100m relay.
“The atmosphere was electrifying,” he recalled, and some claimed that the old double-decker stand was vibrating.
The boys walked from Bridgetown to Ashton Hall celebrating and presented the trophy to then headmaster J.S. Yearwood.
Two years later, Hinds was an excited 22-year-old waiting to compete in the 200 metres as part of the first ever Barbados team to the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City.
He and Burnham had left Barbados in 1966 on scholarship to Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. Although he did relays and ran the 100 metres (10.1 to 10.3 seconds) his specialty was the 200 metres. In 1968, he did the qualifying time of 20.9 seconds in that event.
“I received correspondence via our track coach at the time, Raphael Lynch, a Jamaican, and he told us we were selected to represent Barbados at the Olympics. This came as a surprise to me and also a surprise to . . . Burnham. After receiving the good news, we felt happy, overjoyed,” he recalled.
But neither of them was assigned a coach when school ended. They went to New York to work, trying to offset costs for the next semester.
“We took it upon ourselves to do a little training. We were working and I had the night shift. I was working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. during the week and that really didn’t give me personally much time to put in any training.
“Whatever time we had, we trained with an American guy in Brooklyn. Looking back at it now, it really wasn’t enough,” he said.
Although they were assigned to train at a specific ground in Mexico City, Hinds said “this did not really materialize to our benefit, because most of the time the officials went sight-seeing and we did not have the benefit of training in preparation for the big day”.
Then the most telling blow was struck, when he was introduced to chef de mission, the late Louis Lynch.
“He shook Ezra’s hand and when I approached to shake his hand, he refused. Up to this day, I never knew why he refused to shake my hand. I discussed it with coach [Jim] Wedderburn and Ezra and they too were surprised and that was the end of that,” he said.
“We never filed any report or anything that I am aware of; but this to me was not right at that point in time. Here was I about to compete for Barbados; he too was a Barbadian.
“It left me feeling a bit disappointed in that he shook the late Ezra Burnham’s hand, but why couldn’t he shake mine? Was I in any way less than Ezra Burnham? I don’t know. Up to this day, we don’t know the reason for that.”
Then, Hinds was drawn in the same heat as American John Carlos, who went on to win the bronze medal and made one of the boldest statements at the games.
“Competition was quite keen, but for me it was a baptism of fire,” he said.
“At the beginning of the race, he [Carlos] was walking around looking at each and every individual athlete. I remember that very well, I guess [it was] an effort to intimidate, and it did work. I became very nervous. He was loud-mouthed at that particular point in time, calling on the starter to start the race.
“I got a bit of the jitters. I do not recall running the 200 metres at that point in time. I did not actually hear the gun. I tried my best but I was eliminated in the first round.
“That was it; nothing I could do at that point in time. But I believe that had I been adequately prepared for the Olympics, I would have done much better for myself and for my country Barbados.”
Hinds witnessed the Black Power salute by Carlos and gold medal winner Tommy Smith on the medal podium.
He finished college and returned home to work. There was not enough time to train and he eventually quit.
Hinds spent 35 years in teaching, mainly at CP and for a short time at Combermere School.
He rose to head of the English Department and acting deputy principal.
He continues to officiate at Inter-School Sports and gets his joy from seeing his son Andrew follow in his footsteps.
Andrew competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and trains in Jamaica alongside Asafa Powell with coach Stephen Francis.
Hinds’ daughter Kira also had a brief career as a sprinter while at Combermere School.
He is very proud of both.
“There is no one thing that stands out above all others [about the 1968 Olympic Games]. The mere fact that I was there – it opened my eyes to a number of things.
“It showed me how ill-prepared I was at that point in time, inadequately prepared, but if I had to do it again I would have been a world beater, I’ll tell you that,” Hinds said.