Former T&T Olympian and founder of Arima-based Abilene Wildcats Track Club, Clifton Bertrand, was inducted into the New York University (NYU) Athletics Hall Of Fame (class of 1962) at a posh ceremony, on Saturday. Bertrand, 79, is renowned as one of the institution’s most successful sprinters, particularly for his tenacity, commitment and prowess on the track, which had a significant impact on the success of the 1960s NYU track team.
With Bertrand heavily involved during one of those years, NYU Athletics achieved one of its most proud feats by winning every US track meet it competed in. Seated in the function, looking on proudly was Kenneth Ransome, a Trinidadian, who shared his experience on Saturday, a day he described as a proud moment for the university and for T&T.
“As I sat in the tenth floor grand room of the NYU Kimmel building, tastefully decorated for the affair, I was delightfully astonished at the ease with which he interacted with his former track teammates, and reasoned that character was another key reason he was an essential contributor to NYU track prowess in the 1960s, his charismatic leadership,” said Ransome.
Famously, Bertrand was the first man of African descent to coach the NYU track team “with heavily burdened responsibilities not just as a coach but also one of West Indian and African indigeneity,” according to Ransome. He is also believed to have been the first man of African descent to take become head coach of a major institution in New York and the first West Indian to take the job as a head coach of a major University team in the US.
“Dr Cliff Bertrand accepted his award honorably and humbly. His family and friends, many of whom were from T&T, were filled with pride and ineffable joy,” Ransome added. Bertrand represented T&T at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan and at the 1960 Olympic Games in Italy with the British West Indian Federation (the lone T&T athlete). He won four gold medals and one silver at the British West Indies Championships from 1957-1959 during which he won the 200m, 400m and high jump.
At two editions of the Pan American Games in 1959 and 1963, Bertrand won three medals. At the latter, Bertrand won the 400m bronze and another bronze in the 4x400m relay. In 1961, Bertrand was a member of the 4×400-yard team that set the indoor world record at the time (3:16:00), at the Millrose Games, Madison Square Gardens in 1961.
Among other achievements was once being on the receiving end of the prestigious Martin Luther King Award. He was a former coach of Jamaica High School in New York, Daytona Club and Mausica Teachers’ College of T&T.