Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 25th 2014 Contents A61
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
T&T s greatest weightlifter and
first Olympic medallist, Rodney
Wilkes, has died.
Wilkes, who lived in poverty,
after putting T&T in the interna-
tional sporting hall of fame, passed
away at the San Fernando General
Hospital around 11.30 am on Mon-
day from prostate cancer.
He was 89. At age 23, Wilkes
lifted a combined 700 pounds and
won a silver medal at the 1948
London Games and the bronze four
years later at Helsinki, in 1952.
His grandson, Mario Wilkes, was
at his side when he died. He leaves
to mourn his children, Grace, Rod-
ney Jr, Dave and Marlene and step-
son Patrick Laurence.
His eldest daughter Grace, said
her father, who is still considered
this country s greatest weightlifter
was rushed to the hospital on Sun-
day night by ambulance after com-
plaining that he could not breathe.
She said Wilkes, who turned 89
on March 11, wanted to die at his
Bertrand Street, San Fernando
home, but when he had problems
breathing, she had no choice but
to take him to the hospital.
Grace spent the night with him,
as doctors successfully resusciated
him. She praised the medical team
at the Accident and Emergency
department, saying they did every-
thing to save him.
"I want to thank Dr Edward Hai
Ting, Dr Boodram, Dr Cummings
and all the other doctors who made
sure daddy was well taken care of.
They fought with him and brought
him back, when he got there last
night. Because of their excellent
care, I am not crying today," she
While thankful for the care
afforded him, Grace said she was
saddened that over the years, they
were not able to give him the kind
of care he deserved.
She said she always had to hold
back, because the money was never
enough, especially in the past eight
months when his wife died and he
was diagnosed with prostate can-
"We wanted to take him abroad
for further treatment, but we did
not have the money to do so. I
always felt I was short changing
him and it hurt.
"People knew my dad was ailing,
but no one came to visit him. All
of the upper echelons stayed away."
Grace said some help came from
the Sportt Company, First Citizens
and Mark Mungal, an individual
who provided a bed and washing
machine for Wilkes.
"We are very grateful for all of
these people who reached out,"
She recalled that as a child, she
always wanted to be famous like
"He was my hero. As a girl,
growing up, every morning when
he would leave to go to work in the
oilfields in Point Fortin, I would
stand by the door and say, bye-
bye daddy, and he would say,
good-bye. And he would rub my
back and my chest when I had the
cold, until I got better"
When he got ill, she was the one,
at his bedside, trying to nurse him
back to health.
"In the final analysis, I was a
little estranged from him, because
I was a little own way and he tried
to keep me in line. But in the end,
his illness brought us closer togeth-
good-bye to him"
Wilkes stepson Patrick Lau-
rence, credited the former
Olympian for the man he had
become. He said the job he held
as an electrical foreman at the San
Fernando City Corporation was
due to Wilkes, who also held the
same position after the Olympics.
"After my father died, my moth-
er met him, and then I went to live
with them. My mother had two
other children with him. He was
not my biological father, but he
was my father in every other way."
Laurence said he believed a man
of Wilkes stature, who put this
country on the world map,
T&T's first Olympian
dies in poverty
Family members of the late Rodney Wilkes, visited the Guardian's
South office yesterday, to inform the public that the former T&T
Olmypic weightlifter, died while waiting to be warded at San Fernando
General Hospital, yesterday. In photo are Patrick Laurence, stepson,
from left, daughter, Grace Wilkes, and Marion Wilkes, grandson.
Wilkes nicknamed the "Mighty
Midget" or "Midget Atom" for his
strength feats in the
featherweight division, first
came to international notice
when he won gold at the 1946
Central American and Caribbean
He followed that with his silver
medal at the London Olympics,
and then defended his title at the
1950 CAC Games. In 1951 Wilkes
added another gold, winning at
the Pan American Games, before
adding an Olympic bronze medal
in 1952 at Helsinki.
In 1954, he won the
featherweight title at the British
Empire and Commonwealth
Games, and would win bronze at
that tournament in 1958 in
Cardiff, Wales. He was injured in
1955 and unable to defend his
title at the Pan Americans and
he just missed the podium at his
third Olympics in Melbourne,
placing fourth. He continued
competing through 1960 but
was not chosen for the West
Indies Federation team for the
Rome Olympics and then retired.
Wilkes was named to the
National Sports Hall of Fame in
1984 and was also awarded the
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