Germaine Mason, the Jamaican-born high jumper who won a silver medal with Team GB at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, has died following a motorcycle crash, aged 34.
Ben Hawes, chairman of the British Olympics Association athletes’ commission said of Mason “Winning a silver medal in Beijing places him amongst a unique group of athletes and underlines what a talented individual he was.”
Mason was born on 20 January 1983 in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of a British father and a Jamaican mother. He first came to notice at international level in the 2000 World Junior Championships in Santiago, Chile, gaining a silver medal with a jump of 2.24 metres. Two years later the Junior Championships were held on his home territory of Kingston. He came away with a bronze, as part of the same proud Jamaican athletics team as Usain Bolt, the sprinter who would go on to achieve world renown.
Having already established himself as a force at junior level, on moving to seniors at the Pan American games in 2003 he won gold, establishing a personal best of 2.34 metres, 6 centimetres clear of his closest rival, and a new Jamaican national record.
In 2006, and encouraged by his mother, he switched allegiance to the British team, a move allowed under International Association of Athletics Federations rules, as his father was born in London. Speaking later about the switch, he said “I don't even think about it now. The first year I used to think about what people would say in Jamaica but not any more. It just seems that this is where I should be.” His friend Bolt reinforced the sentiment at the time, adding that from his perspective “It doesn't matter to me who he competes for. We're friends from way back.“
Mason’s peak came at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Against a strong field of opponents he jumped 2.34 metres, equalling his personal best and gaining him a Silver as part of Team GB, behind the Russian Andrey Silnov. Always a fun-lover, Mason enjoyed playing to the crowd, with a trademark cupping of his hand to his ear to prompt their cheers.
But later that year he endured a serious knee injury and missed two months of his winter training in Jamaica, after surgery. Then, in April of the following year his brother, André, was jailed for his role in the gang murder of a student in Southall. Mason wrote to the judge in the case, pleading leniency and claiming that his brother’s behaviour to be “totally out of character”. Interviewed by Simon Turnbull for this newspaper in 2009 he spoke of a “difficult year for my family and I” and explained how they were “coping with it, taking everything step by step.”
Mason died in the early hours of 20 April following a motorcycle crash near Kingston. Fuzz Caan, the senior high jump coach at British Athletics, who had coached with Mason around the time of the 2008 Olympics, said: “Germaine was an outstanding athlete and a truly lovely man. He had a wry sense of humour and was a pleasure to be around. He was a great ambassador of British high jumping. It is an honour for us to have him as part of our sporting history.”
Germaine Mason, born 20 January 1983, died 20 April 2017