Herb McKenley
Herb McKenley 1948.jpg
Herb McKenley in 1948
Personal information
Born10 July 1922
Pleasant Valley, Clarendon, Jamaica
Died26 November 2007 (aged 85)
Kingston, Jamaica
Height1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight72 kg (159 lb)
Country Jamaica
SportSprint running
ClubIllinois Fighting Illini

The Hon. Herbert Henry McKenley OM (10 July 1922 – 26 November 2007) was a Jamaican track and field sprinter. He competed at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics in six events in total, and won one gold and three silver medals.[1]

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 4 × 400 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 m, 200 m and 400 m in the 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. 23 August 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 meters.[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 4 × 400 m relay team to win the race with a new world record of 3.03.9. His remarkable 44.6 leg is credited with pulling Jamaica into contention. It is considered one of the greatest relay legs in history.[3]

After retiring from sports, McKenley was a coach of the Jamaica 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.[4]

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.[5][6]

Competition record

Representing  Jamaica
Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
1948 Olympic Games London, United Kingdom 4th 200 m 21.3
400 m 46.4
1950 Central American and Caribbean Games Guatemala City, Guatemala 2nd 100 m 10.4Aw
1st 200 m 20.9Aw
1st 400 m 47.8A
1951 Pan American Games Buenos Aires, Argentina 3rd 100 m 11.0
3rd 200 m 21.5


  1. ^ a b "Herb McKenley Biography and Olympic Results". Sports-reference.com. 26 November 2007. Archived from the original on 17 January 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  2. ^ Clouder, Justin. The First Ever Sub-45 sec 400m, run-down.com
  3. ^ "Greatest 4x400m hits and splits – IAAF/BTC World Relays, Bahamas 2015 | NEWS | World Athletics".
  4. ^ Davidson, Taneisha. "Honour to whom honour is due. Archived November 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine", The Jamaica Observer, 17 October 2004.
  5. ^ Track great Herb McKinley dead. sportsmax.tv. 27 November 2007
  6. ^ Litsky, Frank (28 November 2007). "Herb McKenley, 85, Top Jamaican Runner, Is Dead". Nytimes.com. Jamaica. Retrieved 12 November 2011.