Memories by the score — Mike Ollivierre


Sunday, July 01, 2018

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Jamaica is famous for many things — its natural beauty, its people and their achievements.

We have produced some of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen or will ever see. But let's not fool ourselves into believing that these achievers just fell from the sky or emerged from the ground. In order to have raised such achievers, we must have had great coaches, and we do. Names like Glen Mills and Stephen Francis immediately come to mind. Interestingly, one of the leading coaches is not Jamaican-born, but his achievements rank up there with the cream of the crop.

He is a level 5 IAAF coach and produced the following athletes: Mark Senior, Anthony Wallace, Denis Blake, Winthrop Graham, Ian Weakly, Dinsdale Morgan, Aston Morgan, Julian Dunkley, Linval Laird, Leford Green, Javere Bell and Oshane Bailey. He also worked with Marvin and Mario Watts for two years. Add to this list Dian Guthrie, Brigitte Foster, Peta-Gaye Gayle, Jenice Daley and from St Vincent, Pamenos Ballantyne, Brandon Parrs, Kimorie Shearman and Kasique Oliver.

He was born in a place called Firebun, Park Hill, in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Like many of his West Indian counterparts, he developed an early affinity for sports. He was an avid youth cricketer and claims to have been a talented spin bowler at primary school. He enjoyed helping his father reap and pack bananas which he grew on the slopes of the relatively mountainous hinterland.

He represented Boys Grammar School at cricket, football and track and field and at Steeland School he was Inter School Victor Ludorum in 1970.

He also played club cricket and represented St Vincent at youth cricket actually playing in a game against an Australian schoolboy team which included the likes of Gary Cozier and Trevor Chapel. He is actually a qualified WICB junior coach.

He graduated from high school and left his homeland for Barbados where he attended the Cave Hill campus of UWI. There he represented the University at football, cricket, and track and field. He also won the Calypso King crown in 1976 under the name Lord Have Mercy. He won his pet event, the 400 metres, at the annual inter campus games every year he competed.

Mike Ollivierre then packed up and journeyed to Jamaica armed with a degree in Economics and a passion for sports in general and track and field in particular. He taught Economics at Wolmer's Boys' School and then became sportsmaster. On his arrival, the school won the Walker Cup under coach Frank Lawrence.

In 1978 he represented St Vincent at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada, competing in the 400 metres.

In 1979 he moved to UWI, Mona Campus, where he became a student advisor for Irvine and Taylor halls. That year he won the Calypso King title. He returned to St Vincent for a teaching job that year but was fired within two weeks for a Calypso song that he recorded. But he stayed and moved to another teaching job, this time at Bishops College.

In the meantime he served as president of the St Vincent and Grenadines Athletic Association up to 1981 during which time he captured the country's Calypso King title.

But there remained an attraction somewhere in Jamaica so by 1981 he was back in Jamaica, this time at St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS), where he spent some 16 years as coach for track and field. During his tenure, the school won 21 Penn Relay Championship titles (10 boys relays, three girls, and eight individual titles). He also coached some 35 Carifta Champions and started the STETHS Invitational.

Coach Ollivierre boasts that 91 of his charges won scholarships in the USA over a 13-year span.

Ollivierre then travelled to St Lucia and took up the job of sports co-ordinator for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. In 2001 he moved back to Mona Campus where he became sports co-ordinator. During this time he started the UWI Invitational.

During the period 2006-2010 he worked for the Social Development Commission in Spanish Town and took the opportunity to coach at Papine High, Mona High, Vauxhall High, Excelsior High and José Marti High.

In case you are wondering where to find this roaming Caribbean man these days, he is back home in St Vincent on contract with the Government there to develop track and field. So far he has established an academy called DAT which was crowned national champions over the past four years and voted the best sports organization in St Vincent and the Grenadines for 2016.

So far Ollivierre claims that the programme is just blossoming and already seven athletes have won scholarships overseas.

He was married to singer/attorney Lorna “Breakfast in Bed” Bennett and together they had two children, one of whom happens to be dance hall superstar Protégé and a daughter, LeeAnn, who has followed in her mother's footsteps and is an entertainment lawyer, Meanwhile, Lord Have Mercy still enjoys writing and singing calypsos on social commentary and about our region's sporting heroes having done tributes to Clive Lloyd, Merlene Ottey, Herb McKenley and the Reggae Boyz.

He lists his hobbies as farming and manicuring trees.

When asked to name the highpoint of his sporting career, Mikey Ollivierre quickly replied “the first Penn Relays title in 1987. We won three that year, one with a record!”

His low point…the death of Paul Bryan in the USA. Bryan was a very promising distance runner over 1500 and 5000 metres and while on a scholarship in the USA died from heat exhaustion.

Mike Ollivierre can truly be described as a Caribbean Man; a man with a passion for sports and a love for Calypso. His son Protégé has even co-opted some of his father's lyrics into his own dancehall rhythms.

He refuses to be restricted by the system and this has made him some enemies but he remains determined to “change up the structure” with the intention of helping to make Caribbean athletes the best.


Editor's note: Robbie Robinson is an attorney-at-law, public speaker, sports journalist, sports enthusiast and singer.

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