FORMER TT Olympian and Abilene Wildcats founder Dr Clifton "Cliff" Bertrand passed away on Saturday at the age of 84. Bertrand lived in New York and represented TT in the 200-metre sprint at the 1960 (Rome, Italy) and 1964 (Tokyo, Japan) Olympic Games.
Newsday was unable to confirm the official cause of death. However, according to another foreign-based Abilene Wildcats member and two-time TT Olympian Ainsley Armstrong (1972 and 1976), Bertrand did not have any major underlying medical issues.
Armstrong received confirmation of Bertrand’s passing at 5 am on Sunday. The pair had been in close communication within recent times discussing plans for the club’s 60th anniversary celebrations in 2023.
“I live in New Jersey so we speak all the time. Abilene is supposed to be celebrating its 60th anniversary in three years and we chatted about the history of the club and starting to put things in place for this celebration. He was a good educator and sportsperson,” said Armstrong.
Abilene Wildcats president Shedley Branche expressed condolences to club members and those who shared the pleasure of competing and communicating with the former athlete.
“He was the core of the club. Several top athletes have passed through the club, including numerous Olympians. And this was the works and intent of Bertrand. We are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our founder,” said Branche.
According to the club president, the executive will liaise with Bertrand’s family over the next couple days to ascertain how they would like the club to pay tribute to its founder. Bertrand established Abilene Wildcats in 1963.
Branche said that part of the club’s 60th anniversary celebrations was aimed at highlighting the history of Abilene over the years. A committee was in the process of preparing questions for Bertrand to get a clearer history of the club in its foundation years.
TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis sent condolences to Bertrand’s family and the track and field community.
“He was an Olympian and in the First Citizens Hall of Fame. He was very active, had his view and opinions and I always respected his right to his view. And that is something I’d always stand up for, people’s rights to their views. His contribution was great to the fraternity,” said Lewis.
Bertrand was also a New York City Board of Education school administrator. He did his undergraduate work at New York University (NYU). He is an American Bar Association (ABA) certified law student, Queens College.
Dr. Bertrand is a grassroots product of both Arima Boys RC Primary School and the Ideal and Progressive Educational Institute, where he also excelled at football.
Fondly called ‘Cliff’, he coached Jamaica High School and NYU’s track and field team. Bertrand also coached Martin Luther King Jr. High School to ten consecutive Borough Soccer Championships and was named Coach of the Year by the Public School Athletic League of New York City.
Additionally, he was the first Caribbean athlete to be the head coach of a major institution at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One Level in track and field and cross country, NY University.