TRELAWNY, Jamaica: Pablo McNeil, a two-time Olympic sprinter who later coached Usain Bolt in high school, has died at the age of 71.
McNeil died at the Falmouth Hospital on Monday after a long illness.
Born on September 12, 1939, McNeil represented Jamaica in the 100-metres at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo and Mexico City in 1968.
In 1964, he reached the semifinals of the 100-metres, where he placed sixth in a time of 10.39 seconds. He also ran on the Jamaican 4×100-metre relay team, which placed fourth in the final in 39.4 seconds.
In 1968, McNeil was eliminated at the first round of the 100-metres, placing sixth in his heat in 10.62 seconds.
McNeil also represented Jamaica at the British West Indies Championships. His best result came in 1965 when he won gold in the 200-metres. He also competed at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston.
In later years, McNeil became the sprint coach at the William Knibb High School in Falmouth, where he was credited with getting Bolt to make the successful switch from cricket to track.
McNeil coached Bolt up to age 16 before the sprint prodigy made the move to Kingston and enrolled at the then Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association-administered High Performance Training Centre.
McNeil, who suffered a stroke in December 2007, did not watch Bolt win Olympic gold medals in the 100-metres and 200-metres in 2008. He said his eyes, following the stroke, were too bad to stare at a television screen.
Bolt expressed sadness at McNeil’s passing.
“I am saddened by the passing of one of my first coaches in high school, Pablo McNeil. Coach McNeil was a part of my early track and field life. I appreciate all he sought to pass on to me. I would like to offer my condolences and sympathies to his family and close friends,” Bolt said in a statement.