From Sylvio Cator to Nadine Faustin Parker,
By Louis J Auguste, MD - An Article From REFLETS MAGAZINE
As a proud Haitian, I always look to see our delegation among most of the other athletes seen during the opening day ceremony of the Olympics. The performance of athletes participating at these games is always a source of pride for all nations. This year, the Haitian delegation counted seven members and since the NBC announcers had a short comment for every country, I was all ears, curious to hear what would be said about Haiti. To my dismay, nothing! Nothing, I thought!
Why did he not talk about the long presence of Haiti at the Olympic Games? Indeed, Haiti first participated in the second Modern Olympiads in 1900 in Paris. This was the first time that countries other than those of Europe and the United States took part in this international event. For the record, our lone representative Leon Thiercelin participated in the fencing competition. He competed valiantly but failed to come out of his pool. Why didn’t he talk about the medals, or more exactly the two medals that we have won in the past?
He most likely did not know and I felt even sadder that probably many young Haitians do not even know that a Haitian won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It was exactly 88 years ago. And the star athlete was none other than Sylvio Cator… I am sure that his name will sound familiar to most Haitians as it designates the largest soccer stadium in Haiti, but do they know why or who he was.
Sylvio Cator in a long jump at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He won the Silver medal reaching 7.58 m., behind the American Edward Hamm. The same year in Paris he broke a new record with 7.937 m. jump.
Sylvio Cator was born in Cavaillon, on October 9, 1900, son of General Joseph Milien Cator. Later on, General Milien was elected to the National Assembly and moved his family to Port-au-Prince. Young Sylvio attended elementary school at the St Louis of Gonzagua Institute. However, in 1911, then President Antoine Simon resigned from office and the Cator family went into exile on the Island of Jamaica. It is there that Sylvio discovered his athletic talents. Back in Haiti, during the First American Occupation, he joined the soccer team of the Tennis Club, earning the admiration of all of Port-au-Prince. In 1921, he became the star of the newly created Tivoli Athletic Club, along with Philippe Cham, Rene Etheart, Justin Sam, Leon Chips, Lucien Regnier and Alberic Cassagnol.
In 1924, Sylvio Cator, Andre Theard and Emmanuel Armand were bound to Paris to further their college education. They were given the task to represent Haiti at the VIIIth Olympic Games. However, when the Olympic Committee of Haiti requested funds for the Haitian team, the American agent who then oversaw the Haitian Finances refused to give a dime, unless he could verify the ability of the athletes. Hurriedly, the committee set up a field on the Champ-de-Mars. The same afternoon, Cator did a long jump that landed him beyond the sand box, on the hard surface. In doing so, he sprained his ankle, but he had jumped 7.35 m., farther than the French record holder. The funds were allocated. However in Paris, despite intense physical therapy, his ankle still swollen, he finished 15th in the high jump and 12th in the long jump. Instead the Haitian heroes of these games were our free rifle team, who included Ludovic Augustin, Destin Destine, Saint-Eloi Metellus, Astrel Rolland and Ludovic Valborge, all members of the military corps. They earned a bronze medal, the first ever Olympic medal for Haiti.
Cator did not give up. He continued to play soccer and tennis in Port-au-Prince, but he had his eyes on the next Olympics Games of 1928, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Sylvio Cator jump 7.58 m. enough to win the Silver medal, behind the American Edward Hamm who had established a new Olympic record of 7.73 m. One month later, not only Cator beat Hamm in Paris, but he established a new world record for the long jump at 7.937 m. Back in Haiti, Sylvio Cator and the entire Olympic team received a heroes’ welcome. His supporters gave him a brand new Chrysler convertible. His leap into sports history was commemorated by a series of postal stamps that were released by the Haitian government in 1958, 30 years after this extraordinary accomplishment. This world record lasted eight years and was only beaten by the hero of the Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens who in the presence of the Fuhrer himself established a new Olympic and world record of 8.06 m. However, the Haitian record in long jump after 80 years still belongs to Sylvio Cator, making it the longest standing national record in track and field.
Both Cator and Andre Theard represented Haiti as captain and co-captain at the tenth Olympic Games of Los Angeles in 1932. Cator’s performance was dismal. He made a jump of only 5.93 m. and placed ninth behind the American Champion Ed Gordon, whose jump was taped at 7.64 m. However, at a subsequent invitational competition at Soldier’s Field in Chicago, Cator won the long jump event with a jump of 7.387 m, proving that he still could do it. However, that was Cator’s last appearance at the Olympic Games.
Sylvio Cator had accumulated a total of 37 victories in international competition, in France, England, Holland, Belgium, USA, Poland, Hungary, and Switzerland. He had competed with success not only in long jump, but also in high jump, 100 m dash, tennis, soccer and even boating.
On July 21, 1952, the year of the completion of a stadium in Port-au-Prince under President Paul Magloire, a fabulous life dedicated to sports and country came unexpectedly to an untimely end. Sylvio Cator died and the circumstances of his death are unknown to me. In 1959, the Haitian Senate voted to create a Medal entitled: Ordre du Merite Sportif Sylvio Cator, to be granted to individuals who performed exceptionally well in sports. The government also renamed Stade Magloire, the largest stadium in Haiti, Stade Sylvio Cator.
This is Sylvio Cator. All these thoughts came to my mind as I saw the Haitian delegation walked proudly in Beijing in the Bird’s nest, without the least commentary by the NBC announcer.
Haiti has continued to participate in the Olympics since 1932. Perhaps, their greatest achievements since Sylvio Cator, were in Athens, Greece at the Games of 2004, when Dudley Dorival reached the semi-final in the 110 m. hurdle, with a time of 13.39 sec. and Nadine Faustin also reached the semi-final in the 100 m. hurdle with a time of 12.74 sec. The other Haitian Olympians were in Tae Kwon Do, Tudor Sanon who reached the round of 16, Joel Brutus who in Judo-Heavy weight reached the round of 32, Ernst Laraque in Judo-Light weight, who reached also the round of 32 and finally Dadi Desir and Moise Joseph who respectively in the 400 and the 800 m. races lost in the first round.
One may asked how our athletes fared in Beijing in 2008, since they were not exactly in the spotlight of the media. Azea Augustama, boxing in the 81-kg category lost to Brazil in his first match. Joel Brutus in Judo (100 kg category) lost to Korea in the round of 64. Ange Mercie Jean-Baptiste in Judo (57 kg category) won her first match, but lost to Cuba in the round of 32. Dudley Dorival competing in the 110 m. hurdle with a time of 13.71 sec. moved to the second round and finished seventh in his heat but 25th overall. Barbara Pierre in the 100 m. dash, also advanced to the second round but with a time of 11.56 sec. finished fifth in her heat, but 31st overall and was eliminated. Nadine Faustin in the 100 m. hurdle (13.25 sec.) and Ginou Etienne in the 400 m. race (53.94 sec.) were all eliminated in the first round.
Not the brightest results. Nevertheless, we are proud of our Olympians, who have courageously carried out national colors almost every four years for the past 108 years, despite political unrest, despite natural disasters, despite a lack of year-round financial support, despite the lack of adequate training facilities, often despite the lack of proper coaching. If throughout mankind’s history, sports have played such a dominant role, there must be solid reasons for it. Success in sports is tantamount to psychotherapy for not only the individual performers, but also for entire nations. Ask the Americans, the Chinese and the Jamaicans. Success in sports provides a mental boost, a lift to the country’s spirit.
In Haiti, sports can play a major role in bringing our youth back to an apparent normal life. After being lured to a path of hatred, crime and destruction, sports can strengthen their character, give them a purpose in life and teach them perseverance. Thanks to sports, we all can learn that success does not come easily overnight. It requires sacrifices. It requires to practice, practice and practice, even when you are tired, even when you are not in the mood, even when you are in pain. The Latin philosopher expressed it best “Mens sana in Corpore sano.” A healthy body is a sine qua non for a health mind and vice versa. Our youth needs to be challenged to reach for the stars, to dream of impossible things. Stressing the achievements of Sylvio Cator can be a great motivation, but our youth needs all our support, that of all of us private citizens and of the government as well. Governing is not just managing one crisis after another, one conflict after another. It is looking forward and building the future. It is motivating all our fellow countrymen to always do their best and providing them with the venues to develop their skills. It is widening the talent pool, from which our future champions will come. Citius, Altius, Fortius is the motto of the Olympic Games. I am certain that Sylvio Cator would love to see one of our young athletes finally break his long jump record.
As a conclusion, no one says is better than Nadine Faustin-Parker herself: Although she was born in Brussels and lived all her life in New York, when the time came to choose which country to represent, she never had much doubt. “My parents have always kept me close to my Haitian roots, so I never felt because I was outside the country that I was not a part of it. Competing for Haiti gave me a purpose. I enjoy the challenge of trying to put a country on the map. Some Haitian youths are ashamed of their roots, and that‘s something I never was so I try to make them understand they have a lot to be happy about.” Looking forward to the day when she will no longer be competing herself, she states: “I really want to build a track in Haiti. I see what track and field has done all over the world for the youth. It can really help somebody move forward in life.”
This article was published in 2008 in the "Reflets Magazine" and edited for this site.
Read the entire article by clicking this link.
Last updated 08/08/2016
Price: $20.00 Free Shipping
Price: $15.00 Free Shipping
• Haiti's Hidden Treasures I: (1hr10 mn)
DVD-Documentary by Haitian filmmaker Patrick Dorsainvil, showing Port-au-Prince and its surroundings, and touching the history, the people, geography and resources.
• Haiti's Hidden Treasures II: Awe-inspiring dvd showcasing Haiti's most popular cities surrounded by untouched natural beauty. 67 mns + 12 mns slideshow.
Haiti's Hidden Treasures Part 1 & 2: $30.00
Free Shipping & Handling
Usually ship within 24 hours.
BUY 2 & SAVE!