Former national sprint champion Elton Jefford lost his most important race yesterday morning when he died in the Intensive Care Unit at the Georgetown Public Hospital after suffering from medical complications.
Jefford, who was 48 years old at the time leaves to mourn his wife Paula and seven children Emmerson of St. Maarten, Edison of Kaieteur News, Elton jnr., Erica, Kiswana, Elvern and Ezra and would have celebrated 25 years of marital bliss yesterday.
At the time of his death, Jefford was employed with the Ministry of Education as a Senior Superintendent of Works and this was before being previously employed at GUYMINE, SIMAP and the City’s Engineers Department at the Mayor and City Council.
The well respected former athlete was born on April 8, 1960 at St. Lust in the Berbice River where he attended Mount Hermon Lutheran School, before going on to the New Amsterdam Presbyterian School and then Kwakwani Secondary School.
It was during his young days in Berbice that he showed an interest in athletics and produced some outstanding performances at the Inter-House Meets which caught the eyes of his teachers.
However, it was during his working stint at GUYMINE, the bauxite Company in Linden that Jefford sprung to prominence and represented the town with much success against the bitter rivals GUYSTAC in their annual confrontation, leaving the likes of Vigil Lewis, Winston Pearson, George Barry, Clarence Bancroft and Basil Bradshaw in his wake.
It was such dominating performances that made him quickly become one of the country’s premier sprinters, a title he would enjoy for quite a while.
The affable Jefford also took his excellence to the academic field and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Guyana shortly after leaving the Government Technical Institute and even returned to successfully read for an Associate Degree in Management Studies.
Jefford’s dominance on the track was of such that he toured extensively all over the Caribbean competing in countries such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Lucia, Cuba, Suriname, French Guiana and Barbados.
Among his famous victories was one against Olympic gold medalist Hasley Crawford of T&T who was beaten into third place in a race won by the great USA athlete Carl Lewis.
He was then chosen to represent Guyana at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and at that time was in prime form to win a medal, before the then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham ordered that Guyana boycott the Games in solidarity with many African countries that had protested the tour of South Africa (which was still mired in apartheid) by New Zealand.
That was a real disappointment for Jefford, who never got the opportunity to attend the Games after suffering a serious injury that prevented him from participating in the following Olympics in Moscow.
He subsequently made several attempts at a full return, but consistent dismal results due to the injury forced him to eventually quit around 1984.
With an insatiable thirst for competition, the strongly built Jefford got involved in other disciplines such as cricket, but his love for athletics saw him become a coach, but that vocation did not last very long.
Jefford also represented the Guyana Defence Force and recently Transport in the Over-40 competition and it was during a match that he damaged a muscle in his Achilles tendon that subsequently necessitated medical attention and hospitalisation.
He was well loved by his relatives, especially his only sister Zenita who recalled during an interview yesterday a particular race when she was pregnant with her third daughter, but still went to see him run and placed a wager on him that he would win the race which he did.
“I won three bottles of whiskey and that same night I delivered my baby,” she remembered.
He will be sadly missed. May he rest in peace.
Kaieteur News extends heartfelt condolences to staff member Edison and the immediate family and relatives.
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