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Eye for change

Sherrylyn A. Toppin

Eye for change

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To the avid local track and field fan, the names Peltier, Louis, Edwards and Forde should be instantly recognized as the Barbados 4×400 metres team from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
But if Clyde Edwards had to do it all again, and the decision was his to make, there would have been a different quartet making that historic final.
David Peltier, 20, Richard Louis ,20, Edwards, 26, Elvis Forde, 25, Hamil Grimes and Charles Jones were the six competitors for the event, but the final two were eliminated after training sessions in Kentucky.
The team went on to set the national record of 3 minutes 01.60 seconds, a mark that is still standing 16 years later. It was the first time they had run together.
After 21 years in the United States, Edwards, now 42, returned to Barbados last week for the Alleyne School’s millennium reunion, and he recounted the Olympic experience for NATIONSPORT.
“If we had to do it all again; if I had to make my team up, I don’t think those four guys would have run,” he said.
“We trained in Kentucky for a while and you get a feel of the others. I don’t want to call any names, but one guy that didn’t make the final cut, I thought if he was on the team, I guarantee we probably would have had a medal,” Edwards said.
In the splits, Peltier led off with 46.67 seconds, Louis was next with 44.97, Edwards clocked 45.04 seconds and Forde anchored with the best time of 44.92 seconds.
Edwards said the qualifying rounds were tougher than the final because they did not know the opponents and had to run each race like a final to qualify.
“I thought we had a good chance of getting a medal; I really thought we could be in the first three,” he said, with conviction. “The lead-off leg was our weakest leg and that is why I made the point if I had to change.
“Hamil was in the team but he never ran. Sometimes, we practised and it was real tough, but no time I looked around and he wasn’t next to me or a step ahead of me. I never had to look back for him.
“He was just as good as me or better at that time. Looking at him, he looked kind of heavy, and I think the perception was that he was out of shape, but that was just his physical structure.”
At the start of the second leg, Barbados were second to last, trailing by a fairly wide margin. Louis closed the gap a bit, passing one or two runners.
Edwards said he should have run his leg differently. He tried too hard to catch the pack, sat back on the turn and then had nothing left to get past them.
“Looking back, it was a bad move. When I caught them, I should have just kept going. But I eased up for a while to clear the corner, got stuck in the bunch and I couldn’t make a move,” he recalled.
Forde maintained the sixth position. At the end of the race, there were mixed feelings, but that time has always stayed with him.
“It is one of those things that you never forget,” he said, of the Olympics. “It is like your wedding, you never forget that as long as you live. The best way to describe it was electrifying.
“In [1980] when I was chosen, I was much younger then and I was looking forward to it, but there was not much anxiety. In [1984], I knew it was probably going to be my last Olympics.”
He also spoke highly of former coach Jerston Clarke, who encouraged him to stick with track and not basketball.
“I got where I am because of him; he was my coach, my mentor.”
He has a gold medal from the 1977 Carifta Games held here and a silver with a 4×400 team from the 1981 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Puerto Rico.
The former Hillaby, St Andrew resident now makes his home in Poconos, Pennsylvania, where he is assistant plant manager with Folex Film Systems. He has been there since leaving the Fairleigh Dickinson University with a Bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering.
It is there he met his wife Donna and they have three children: Aiesha (16), Shari (13) and Shane (7). He also had a short stint coaching at the local high school.
Edwards enjoyed his first Kadooment and promises that another 21 years won’t pass before he returns to see his father Samuel, brother Eustace and sister Glendeen Doughlin.
He urged budding athletes to always give their best.
“Don’t be scared of looking bad at the end of a race. When you work out, put everything into it. You may think you are cheating the coach but you are cheating yourself. Give it 100 per cent and after that you will get good results,” Edwards advised.
• This is a reprint of an article which first appeared on August 13, 2000.