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Pain and Grief

Outpouring of sorrow for Olympic high jumper Mason

Thursday, April 20, 2017




Jamaica and the international track and field community yesterday reacted with shock and pain to the early morning death of retired athlete Germaine Mason, whose exploits as a high jumper won him a silver medal at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.


Mason, who was born in Jamaica, matched his personal best of 2.34m to claim the medal competing for Britain to which he had switched allegiance in 2006.


As news of the 34-year-old’s death, in a motorcycle crash on the Norman Manley Highway in Kingston about 4:20 am, started spreading throughout the island, his former coach at MVP Track Club Stephen Francis, as well as Olympian and former MVP sprinter Michael Frater, expressed the pain and hurt felt by many at the tragedy.


"I don’t think reality is upon me yet, getting the phone call nobody wants to get," Frater, who like Mason attended Wolmer’s Boys’ School, posted on Instagram.


"Almost 25 years now we have been making waves on the earth together. You conquered the world my friend, you were among the very best. We have done things people in this world many have dreamed of and you were still making moves. Many times your back was against the wall and you were able to overcome. Words can’t describe the hurt and pain I am feeling now but I have to accept that you are in a better place with the almighty, my brother," added Frater, an Olympic Gold medallist and World Champion.


"Keep on living life to the fullest. No one could dim your light, the life of the party putting a smile on everyone’s face you came in contact with.


"Rest in peace, my brother and keep on making those miraculous jumps in the hearts of many. #germainemason # friendsforlife #dayone."


When the Jamaica Observer visited MVP Track Club at Stadium East in Kingston, Francis, who appeared subdued, said Mason was in Jamaica for this week’s Carnival celebrations.


Francis, who had coached Mason since he was 13 years old, said they were both present at the I Love Soca party in downtown Kingston Wednesday night.


"It is quite sad that he came back to Jamaica to have fun. The fun ended up costing him his life, and what can one say?" Francis said. "We went through a lot together. The difficulty I had with him when he just came to Wolmer’s was his maturity. I mean, winning a medal at the Olympics, injuries that set him back badly, it is all a jumble of things at the moment."


Added Francis: "It is too late to turn back time, but I wish he and other youngsters would understand the danger of those motorcycles, that they are not professional riders and it is difficult to control them... at high speed."


According to the head of the Police Traffic Division, Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen, Mason lost control of his motorcycle on reaching the vicinity of the gypsum plant. He was taken to hospital where he succumbed to injuries to his upper body.


When the
Observer visited the crash site, blood stains, a few pieces of the motorcycle, and a torn wristband from the I Love Soca party were seen on the soft shoulder of the highway.


People on the scene said Mason was travelling towards the Harbour View roundabout when the crash occurred.


Allen, while noting that the investigation was ongoing, said that Mason was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. He also said that the damage to the motorcycle suggested that Mason may have been speeding.


Road Safety Unit data released yesterday showed that 103 persons have been killed in 96 crashes since the start of this year. Motorcyclists account for 30 per cent of the road users killed since January 1.


Yesterday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness expressed "sincere condolences to the entire sporting fraternity" in a message on
Twitter.


Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips offered sincere condolences to Mason’s family, friends, fans and the entire sporting industry in a
Facebook post.


Sport Minister Olivia "Babsy" Grange, in a statement, described Mason as "an outstanding product of Jamaica, and said: "There are no words to adequately express the sadness, the pain, the grief that we all share."


Numerous expressions of grief were posted on social media by people in the athletics fraternity locally and overseas.


Fuzz Caan, a senior high jump coach at British Athletics who worked with Mason during his time as Olympic champion, stated: "Germaine was an outstanding athlete and a truly lovely man. He had a wry sense of humour and was a pleasure to be around. He was a great ambassador of British high jumping. It is an honour for us to have him as part of our sporting history."


British Olympic Association (BOA) Chief Executive Bill Sweeney said the entire BOA was sad to hear of Mason’s passing.


"Germaine was a great athlete, an Olympian and a silver medal-winning part of Team GB who made history at Beijing 2008. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends at this difficult time," Sweeney wrote.


"This is just awful. Such sad news," tweeted 2012 London Olympic and three-time world heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill.


"Heart goes out to friends and family of Germaine Mason on this sad day," tweeted 1992 Barcelona Olympic 100m champion Linford Christie. "RIP Germaine. Never forgotten."


Denise Lewis, the 2000 Sydney Olympics heptathlon champion, tweeted, "My condolences and deepest sympathy go out to Germaine Mason’s family & friends. A tragic loss of such fun & loving person."


The European Athletic Association said in its Facebook message that it "is very saddened to learn of the death of British high jumper Germaine Mason at the age of 34. Rest in peace."


In a Facebook post, Jamaican Olympian Sandie Richards described Mason as an awesome person, saying: "Had to drop the tears this morning! Someone who lived with me for a year."


"My heart aches," wrote World Championship triple jump gold medallist and Olympian Trecia-Kaye Smith.