McLean in a nutshell

The Olympics in Beijing are less than a year away and for the president of Cayman’s Olympic association they can’t come soon enough.

Donald McLean juggles his own pharmacy business with his commitments to sports administration generally, not just the Olympics.

‘We’re at the height of preparation for the Games. In fact, the qualification for most of the events started in January 2007,’ he said.

McLean has been president of the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee since March 2005. Prior to that he was secretary-general for four years and in 2000 he was chef de mission, aka team manager at the Sydney Olympics.

Cayman has two elite athletes already qualified; track star Cydonie Mothersill in the 100 and 200 metres and swimmer Shaune Fraser. Mothersill is likely to only run the 200m though as competing in both will be too taxing.

Fraser went to the Athens Olympics three years ago when only 16; mainly for experience. His progress has continued dramatically and he was Cayman’s first ever medalist at the Pan Am Games when he took silver in the 200m freestyle. He has qualified in the 100m and 200m freestyle.

McLean said he hopes Fraser’s younger brother Brett – also a swimmer – will qualify too as can a bunch of sprinters, particularly Tyrell Cuffy who has run close to the 200m qualifier.

‘We’ve also applied for one of the invitation spaces for one of our shooters, Edison McLean (no relation).’

McLean is proud of being born and raised in Cayman.

‘Yes, I’m from East End. Apart from studying for five years in the US, I’ve lived here all my life.’

A sports nut, he ran track and field in his youth and first represented Cayman in rowing at 15 in a Sea Scout regatta in Grenada where they won gold.

The two others in the team were Arden McLean (now an MLA) and his cousin Roger Ebanks. Donald played football for East End United and was selected to play nationally but went to university in Tallahassee that year, which had an excellent academic programme in pharmacy.

He played football until injuring his cruciate ligaments in his knees badly in 1980, forcing him to retire. Unfortunately, he couldn’t medicate himself.

So he started wind surfing, sailing and occasionally a gentle game of tennis. In 1990 he represented Cayman Islands at the Central America and Caribbean Games ‘at the tender age of 35’.

He always had an interest in sailing and continued competitively for years. In 1993 at the Central America and Caribbean Games in Puerto Rico he was selected to carry the flag at the opening ceremony.

‘I was selected because I was the oldest athlete there! Jeffrey Webb (president of the football association) was the team manager who gave me the honour.’

He went to all the big sailing events in the region, including Antigua and Bermuda and was good enough to go to the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

‘That sort of ignited my interest in the Olympic movement because it was a life changing experience by meeting all the different nationalities with the common interest of sailing. We were all in the Marriott Hotel in Savannah, 72 countries, 450 sailors. The camaraderie and vibe was inspiring.’

He came on to Cayman’s Olympic committee after that. Each sport has a representative to the Olympic committee.

The composition is an association of all associations.

In Cayman there are about 17 sports under the Olympic umbrella.

In 1999 he went to Fiji for a meeting of the Commonwealth Games Federation and did an Olympic campaign for two years after. He had the time and the enthusiasm to run for president and was successful.

‘We’ve done a lot to improve the image of the Olympic committee, the transparence, visibility, establishing an office, but there is still a long way to go.’

McLean owns the building on Smith Road that houses his business and the Olympic Committee offices. The police rent offices upstairs. Imagine having the police as your tenants. Needless to say, he’s never been burgled.

His two children, Thomas, four, and Maggi, two, came relatively late in the life of the 52-year-old. ‘I’m a late bloomer; only got married at 45. I had been enjoying my lifestyle and felt no need. I almost got married three times but somehow managed to wiggle out if it,’ he said laughing. It was actually his business commitments that he was married to.

‘I took a huge risk starting this business with my partner in 1985 and it took a long time to build up. Out of work I was sailing and travelling around the world involved in sport so I quite liked my lifestyle. My motto used to be ‘no wife, no pets, no kids’. I went to so many sailing races in the ’90s that really I didn’t work very much.’

That all slowed down in 2000 when he married fellow sailor Jennifer, a Canadian. Inevitably, they met on a sail boat when she helped him come down from Quay West to Cayman.

‘After that I became more grounded but I still sail. In fact, we’ve just qualified for an international regatta being held in February.’

In 1976 Cayman first went to the Olympics, in sailing. They’ve been represented in four sports; swimming, cycling, sailing and athletics. They’ve sent 34 competitors.

They’ve also competed in the Pan Am Games since 1979 and the Central American and Caribbean Games and Commonwealth Games, both always two years before the Olympics.

There are also the Island Games every two years.

‘Every year there are some type of games, not only the Olympics. There’s also a certain amount of travel.’

He’s off to Sri Lanka on Monday for the Commonwealth Games general assembly for a week. He’s also been to Abuja, Glasgow, Rhodes, Rio de Janeiro.

‘It’s a voluntary position but I absolutely love it. Since I’m a sports fanatic it’s fantastic. And that is Donald McLean in a nutshell.’

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