Deon Marie Hemmings-McCatty, by virtue of being the first Jamaican woman to win an Olympic Games gold medal, has well and truly cemented her place in the nation’s sporting history.
The St. Ann native who was born October 9, 1968, achieved the feat when she overcame all adversity to win the women’s 400m hurdles in Atlanta in 1996 in an Olympic Games record 52.82 seconds.
Not only did she succeed where many had failed, but she also became the first-ever woman from the English-speaking Caribbean to top the podium at the Olympics.
She returned four years later at the Sydney Games to finish second in her pet event, and second as part of the 4x400m relays team which comprised Sandie Richards, Catherine Scott-Pomales and Lorraine Graham.
That gold medal was also significant as it was Jamaica’s first in 20 years since Donald Quarrie finished first in the 200m in 1976.
Hemmings-McCatty attended York Castle High School but later switched to Vere Technical where she started realizing her potential.
But with moderate success on the track at that time, she joined a club for a year to enhance her abilities in order to gain a scholarship, which she did as part of a package to Central State University in Ohio.
Within a few years, she made gradual progress and by 1992 at the Barcelona Games, she was good enough to make the Jamaican team.
In the women’s 400m hurdles semi-finals, she came within 0.2 seconds of the Jamaican record with a 54.70-second clocking, but in the final, she could fare no better than seventh in 55.58 seconds.
Seven months later she ran the first leg on the Jamaican team’s 4x400m relay at the World Indoor Championships in Toronto, Canada.
With continued progress, she finished third at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg. A year later everything fell into place at the Olympics where she defeated American Kim Batten to win the historic gold medal.
The 176cm hurdler had won silver at the Commonwealth Games in 1994 and was the flag bearer at the 2000 Olympics.
Hemmings-McCatty retired in 2003 and became part of the IAAF Athletes’ Commission, the IAAF Women’s Committee, as well as an executive member of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association.
In addition to her exploits at the Olympics, Hemmings-McCatty also won silver and bronze medals at the 1997 Athens World Championships in the 400m hurdles and the 4x400m relay, respectively, bronze at the 1995 Gothenburg World Championships in the 400m hurdles; bronze at the 1999 Seville World Championships in the 400m hurdles.
At the 1993 World Indoor Championships in Toronto, Deon Hemmings claimed a gold medal as part of the women’s 4x400m relay team.