Herb McKenley

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Herb McKenley
Medal record
Men's athletics

Competitor for Jamaica Jamaica

Olympic Games
Gold 1952 Helsinki 4x400 m relay
Silver 1948 London 400 metres
Silver 1952 Helsinki 100 metres
Silver 1952 Helsinki 400 metres
Pan American Games
Bronze 1951 Buenos Aires 100 metres
Bronze 1951 Buenos Aires 200 metres
Bronze 1951 Buenos Aires 400 metres
Central American and Caribbean Games
Gold 1950 Guatemala City 200 metres
Gold 1950 Guatemala City 400 metres

Herbert Henry "Herb" McKenley OM (July 10, 1922 – November 26, 2007) was a Jamaican athlete, winner of a gold medal in the 4x400 m relay at the 1952 Summer Olympics.

Born in Pleasant Valley, Clarendon, Jamaica, Herb McKenley enrolled at the University of Illinois and won the NCAA championships in 220 yd (200 m) and 440 yd (400 m) in 1946 and 1947. He was also the AAU champion in the 440-yard dash in 1945, 1947 and 1948, and was also the head of the list of world best times in 100 m (10.3), 200 m (20.4) and 400 m (46.2) in 1947. He is the only person to ever have achieved this feat.

Just before the 1948 London Olympics, McKenley ran the new world record in 440 yd (400 m) of 46.0, a record he broke again a month later, clocking 45.9. But at the Olympics itself, McKenley finished only second in 400 m, behind teammate Arthur Wint and was fourth in 200 m. He probably lost a gold medal in the 4x400 m relay when Wint pulled his muscle in the final. He is the only person to have made the final in all three sprinting events, the 100 metres, 200 metres and 400 metres in the same Olympics.[1]

Perhaps because of his success across the wide variation of distances, McKenley was known to have an uneven pace, blasting out to an early lead, but slowing towards the end of a 400 meters. August 23, 1947, on a wind-aided straight, boardwalk at Long Branch, New Jersey, McKenley was timed in 45.0 for 440 yards, a claimant to being the first person to break the 45 second barrier at 400 metres.[2]

At the first 1951 Pan-American Games in Buenos Aires, McKenley was third in 100 m, 200 m and 400 m, the only person to ever perform this feat.

At the Helsinki Olympics, McKenley was second in 100 m (the first four clocked 10.4 in a very close race) and also second in 400 m. He finally got his Olympic gold, when he helped the Jamaican 4x400 m relay team to win the race with a new world record of 3.03.9.

After retiring from sports, McKenley was a coach of the Jamaican national team from 1954 to 1973 and served also as a president of Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association. For his contributions in track and field, he was awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 2004.[3]

McKenley died at the University Hospital of the West Indies, according to Howard Aris, president of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association, who was speaking for the family. The cause of death was complications of pneumonia.[4][5]


  1. ^ "Herb McKenley Biography and Olympic Results". Sports-reference.com. November 26, 2007. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  2. ^ http://run-down.com/guests/jc_sub45.php
  3. ^ Davidson, Taneisha. "Honour to whom honour is due.", The Jamaica Observer, October 17, 2004.
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ Litsky, Frank (November 28, 2007). "Herb McKenley, 85, Top Jamaican Runner, Is Dead". Jamaica: Nytimes.com. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 

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