Famous Faces, Jamaican Roots


Lennox Lewis (left) and late business tycoon Maurice Facey at a private screening of the boxing-focused film ‘Ghett’a Life’ in 2010.

Donovan Bailey – Bailey was born in Manchester, Jamaica but emigrated to Canada at the age of 13. He is regarded as one of the world’s all-time greatest sprinters and was named sprinter of the decade by sport bible Track and Field News in the 1990s. Bailey was the first Canadian to legally break the 10-second barrier in the 100m, when he clocked 9.84s to win gold and break the world record at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The two-time Olympic and three-time world champion, still holds the indoor 50m world record time of 5.56 seconds, set in Reno, Nevada in 1996. He once achieved the former fastest top speed ever recorded in history at 27.07 mph, only surpassed by Usain Bolt.

Ato Boldon – The successful Olympian and World Champion competed for Trinidad and Tobago, the land of his birth, but his mother is Jamaican. Retired after the 2004 Athens Olympics, Boldon remains the Trinidad and Tobago national record holder in the 50m, 60m and 200m indoor events with times of 5.64, 6.49 and 20.35 seconds, respectively. His outdoor 200m record of 19.77 seconds also remains intact. He briefly entered politics in February 2006 as a Senator, representing the Opposition United National Congress, but resigned just 14 months later. Boldon is currently an NBC and ESPN television broadcaster, analyst and commentator. He became the first and only track and field broadcaster in US history to be nominated for a Sports Emmy Award in 2013, for his 2012 London Olympic commentary.

Linford Christie – Christie, who is perhaps England’s most revered sprinter, was born in St Andrew, where he was raised by his grandmother. At the age of seven, he emigrated to London, joining his parents who had left Jamaica five year before. Christie, who tool up athletics at the age of 19, is the only British man to have won gold medals in the 100m event at all four major competitions open to British athletes – the Olympics, World Championships, European Championships and the Commonwealth Games. He was the first European to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 m and still holds the British record in the event. With 24 major championship medals including 10 gold, he is Britain’s most decorated male athlete.

Jessica Ennis-Hill – Ennis-Hill is a British track and field athlete, specialising in the multi-event disciplines and the 100m hurdles. She is the current Olympic heptathlon champion and current British national record holder for the heptathlon, the indoor pentathlon and the 100m hurdles. Ennis-Hill was born in Sheffield, England, to a British mother and Jamaican father – from Linstead, St Catherine. She missed the Beijing Olympics because of a fractured ankle, but came back to claim the gold medal at the World Championships in Berlin, Germany a year later.

Kelly Holmes – Holmes, a retired 800m and 1500m Olympic gold medallist, was born in Pembury, Kent, to a Jamaican-born father and an English mother. She began athletic training at 12, before turning her back on sports at 18, when she joined the British Army. However, her interest was rekindled while watching the 1992 Olympics and she eventually became a full-time athlete in 1997. Holmes won her 800m and 1500m medals at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2005, the same year she retired from athletics.

Lennox Lewis – Lewis, “the last undisputed world heavyweight champion,” was born in West Ham, London to Jamaican parents. He holds dual British and Canadian citizenship, having moved to the latter country at age 12. Lewis represented Canada as an amateur boxer, winning a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Lewis, who has been hailed by both Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, retired in 2004 after defeating Vitali Klitschko a year earlier. At retirement, his record was 41 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw, with 32 wins by knockout. In 2002, Lewis was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), after being an MBE since 1999. He also received the Order of Canada (CM) in 1988.

Sanya Richards-Ross – Born in Kingston, Richards-Ross attended Vaz Preparatory School and Immaculate Conception High School before migrating to the United States. She completed her secondary education in Fort Lauderdale, before moving on to the University of Texas at Austin. Richards-Ross first competed for the US at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston, winning a silver medal in the 400m event and bronze in the 200m. A year later, she featured in the US women’s 400m relay victory at the Paris World Championships and has gone on to stamp her class on the 400m event ever since. She has won 13 medals at world events. At the 2012 London Olympics, she became the first American woman in 28 years and only the second in history to win the 400m gold.