Not really on-topic for my recent book, but thought this might be of interest to you
Michael Frater Visits the Big Island of Hawaii
I got a call from my friend, Coach Bowden. “Hey Don, I am up here at the Holualoa Gallery with one of the fastest men in the world, Michael Frater from Jamaica. Would you like to meet him?
I doubt that Coach Bowden had hung up the phone before I showed up in the gallery.
Michael is, indeed, one of the fastest men who has ever lived. He has two Olympic gold metals in the 4×100 meter relay and a silver medal from the 100 meters finals of the World Championship to prove it. His best time in the 100 meters…9.88 seconds. Hard to even imagine.
I’m not sure what brought Michael to our island, other than his relationship with Coach Bowden. However, let me tell you how he spent his time here. He spent his time encouraging young people to dream big and to do the hard work needed to become excellent at whatever they choose to do.
One evening during his time here, he was booked to speak to some lucky young folks at the Hawaii Preparatory Academy. I tagged along to see what he had to say. He told them a bit about his life and the competitive track environment in his home country, Jamaica. You might recall the name of one of his teammates and competitors there…Usain Bolt. How would you like to wake up everyday and have to deal with Usain…arguably the fastest man ever on this earth. He pointed out how having to compete against Usain made him stronger, tougher and made him work harder than he would have if he were competing against mere mortals. Rather than giving up and accepting that he would run in Usain’s shadow…he NEVER thought that race was over. He was and is determined to end up even faster than Usain…and is extremely happy to have him as a teammate on their world record holding 4×100 meter relay team.
At one point in the talk, Michael asked those in the room if any of them had won an Olympic gold metal. A bit of laughter ran through the room. At that, Michael reached into a bag and pulled out his two Olympic gold metals. He passed them around the room and let everyone hold them, get their photos taken with them…see what it felt like to have an Olympic metal around their neck. (By the way…it feels terrific).
What I liked best about this wonderful sharing of something so special as his Olympic awards was that the ribbons on each metal were very well worn. You could instantly see that we were not the first group with whom he had shared his prize. In fact, he told me later that ALL of his mom’s friends have worn those metals…as have people everywhere he goes.
Back when I was a kid, I got to run against a Jamaican in, I think, his first ever college race. The Jamaican was Lennox Miller. I knew of his reputation, but I was pretty fast myself in those days. I was eager to hand him his first beating on American soil. My plan did not work out so well. Although I got the handoff for the anchor leg of the 4×100 meter relay a bit ahead of Lennox…and had the advantage of the inside lane…he just plain whipped my butt. Enough so that now, some 50 years later, one of my buddies who was at that track meet just told me how shocked he was to see me beaten…badly. I’m thankful he didn’t bring it up sooner, as I am just now getting over it. Lennox Miller did well for himself and his country…winning the silver medal at the 1968 Olympics in the 100 meters and the bronze medal at the 1972 Olympics, also in the 100 meters. He was also a member of the University of Southern California’s great 4×110 yard relay team that set the world record…a world record that still stands…since that distance is now run in meters and not yards.
I’m thankful to have met Michael and to have run against his great countryman, Lennox. What a wonderful experience to hear Michael speak…hear his message…wear his medals. As I sneak up on age 70, I am trying to figure a way to make a comeback in my track career. He makes me want to feel that speed that only sprinters know. I thought it would last forever…and I was right. All I have to do is close my eyes and put myself right back on the track. Thanks Coach Bowden and thanks Michael Frater for bringing back memories of my youth…and for inspiring the youth of today to strive for excellence.