Success Playfield named after late Olympian Harry Prowell
By Avenash Ramzan
Twenty-one years since his passing, Guyanese Olympian Harry Prowell was on Saturday (July 17, 2021) honoured in a way his admirers hope will fortify his legacy and inspire future generations.
The long-distance runner, who represented Guyana at the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968, died in June 2000 at the age of 63, and his decorated career was immortalised with the naming of the Success Playfield the Harry Prowell Playfield.
Prowell, a 10,000m and 5,000m runner, lived a corner away from the East Coast Demerara ground, which is expected to be given a facelift soon through the government’s Ground Enhancement Programme.
“An athlete would die twice- at the end of their career and their natural death. Harry Prowell’s achievements are immense, they cannot be equated, and that was one of the driving forces behind this initiative,” Mustafaa Azimullah, the brainchild of the project, told News Room Sport.
“This would serve as a reminder, not only for us, but the youth of tomorrow about who Harry Prowell really was, who this great man really was, who this legend was.”
After a brief programme reflecting on the life and career of Prowell, who was born on July 10, 1936, a sign was unveiled at the ground, detailing the achievements of one of Guyana’s most renowned distance athletes.
Prowell was awarded the Arrow of Achievement national award in 1970 for his outstanding exploits in the sport in the 1950s and 60s.
Representing then British Guiana in the British West Indies Championships, Prowell copped gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m in Jamaica in 1960 and in the 5,000m in Barbados in 1965. At this same event, he also won five silver medals between 1958 and 1965.
Prior to the Olympic Games in 1968, the legendary runner had competed in the Pan American Games in Canada in 1967 and later the British Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 1970.
At the Olympics, Prowell was among 75 athletes from 41 countries in the Marathon race. He finished 50th with a time of 2:57:01.4s, which was way slower than his Personal Best of 2:39:11, set at a track event in Grenada eight months before the Olympics.
Grand-daughter, Michelle Rampersaud, said the Prowell clan is proud to witness the honouring of the Olympian, one that will serve to preserve his remarkable legacy.
“This day will cast a permanent mark on our minds. We cherish this day as this event keeps the accomplishments of a great athlete, a great son and a true champion alive,” Rampersaud told the gathering.
Zaman Shaw of the Better Hope/La Bonne Intention Youth Standing Committee echoed similar sentiments as he praised the organisers for seeing the need to honour heroes of yesteryear.
In February 2018, Shaw, the then Chairman of the Better Hope/La Bonne Intention Neighbourhood Democratic Council, had worked along with Azimullah and team to have a street in Better Hope renamed after another distance runner Moses Dwarka, who had some memorable battles with Prowell.
“I think it is timely, it is needed. We’re committed to ensuring that we continue to hold these legacies of all these international and national athletes, so we can have the up and coming generation look at it and be encouraged to do the same,” Shaw commented.
Jagnarine Singh, a Councillor of the Better Hope/La Bonne Intention Neighbourhood Democratic Council, labelled Prowell “a very magnanimous person”, noting that the Olympian led a very simple life, working in the sugar industry to sustain his family.
“While I know we should have done this when the person was alive and not posthumously, I think what is happening here today if for us to leave his name, not imprinted in the sand of time, but imprinted at the ground of Success,” Singh said.
“This is really to honour the life of a son of the soil, a bare-footed, very simple person, who lived a simple life, but would have left a great mark for all of us to see.”