Cayman hails its sporting heroes

Beha Hansson, left, and Alan Mackay receive bravery citations at National Heroes Day.

Some of Cayman’s most successful athletes, its first Olympians, football heroes, and track and field stars were honored Monday as part of the annual National Heroes Day celebrations.

Long-time administrators and coaches who have worked with generations of youngsters were also among the 316 people who received honors at the event in Heroes Square.

The roll call of recipients included Cydonie Mothersill, who won a Commonwealth gold amid a host of medals in a glittering track career; Renard Moxam, Cayman’s first professional footballer with the Toronto Blizzard in the 1970s; and professional boxer Charles “Killa” Whittaker.

Frank Flowers, the founder of Cayman’s famous Flowers Sea Swim, and Derek Haines, who helped develop the sport of rugby in Cayman and more recently hit the headlines for running marathons to help raise money for local charities.

There was also a special bravery citation for a 16-year-old boy and a marine conservation officer who attempted to save an award-winning sushi chef who drowned in a snorkeling accident off North Side last year.

Beha Hansson and marine officer Alan Mackay struggled in strong currents to try to save chef Mongkol Srilamai before helping another struggling swimmer to shore during the March 2017 incident.

Several politicians were included among the heroes. Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush, also the island’s first sports minister; former legislator Lucille Seymour, a figurehead for the sport of netball in Cayman; and education minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, a track star in her younger days, all received awards.

Mr. Bush said he was proud to have personally sponsored football clubs in West Bay and, as minister for sports, helped establish many of the islands sports facilities and national programs.

Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush, center, receives a ‘Pioneer’ award for his work as Cayman’s first minister of sports, from current sports minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who was also honored for her achievements in track, and MLA Dwayne Seymour. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

Ms. O’Connor-Connolly recalled the days of the “barefoot brigade” track team from Cayman Brac who took on all comers at local and international competitions.

She also paid tribute to coach Gerry Harper, the track coach who was honored as a pioneer in sports, for bringing through several generations of Cayman athletes.

In total, there were nine honorees in the “Early Pioneer” category, 79 in “Pioneer,” and 26 in “Emerging Pioneer.” There were also 168 “Long Service Certificates,” and 34 people placed on the “Memorial Scroll.” The colorful parade to commence the day’s celebrations included the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service band, as well as detachments from the police, fire service, the Prison Service, Girls’ Brigade, Scouts, Cadet Corps and Seventh-day Adventist Pathfinders.

A stage was set up in front of the courthouse and awardees and their families watched from tented pavilions bedecked with Cayman flags as each one was called in turn to receive their award.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, in his speech to the gathering, said sports was important to build character as well as community.

He added, “Sport also transcends borders, race, gender and social status. It is a universal language that possesses the power to uplift, entertain and unite us in celebration of the human spirit.”

Health Minister Dwayne Seymour praised all the awardees and the countless others who have contributed to sports over the years.

“I offer my congratulations to every single one of you,” Mr. Seymour said. “Whether you are a competitor, coach, committee member, organizer, parent, volunteer, spectator or fan, I know how much time, effort and energy goes into supporting sports in the Cayman Islands.”

Donald McLean, who sailed for Cayman at the Atlanta Olympics and has since gone on to become president of the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee, told the Compass it was an honor to be nominated.

Also a hero in the health category for his contributions as a pharmacist, Mr. McLean said, “It feels good to be acknowledged for the work you do in certain areas.”

Also among the heroes was former Cayman Compass sports writer Matthew Yates, who was nominated for long service to sports.

He said it was a nice surprise to be included in the list and be honored among the athletes he used to interview and write about.

“It is not something I was expecting,” he said. “I’m blessed to be in a position to be put in the same category as some of my role models and some of the icons of Cayman sports.

“Many times, in the media, you are thought of as the villain, so it is good to be thought of as a hero too. It is humbling that people respect you enough to consider nominating you as a hero for doing something you love to do.”


  1. It’s a shame that Len Cohen was omitted even though he left here many years ago. He arrived in Cayman to run M&G Securities offshore operation, at the end of the 1960’s, and was instrumental in setting up and running the first football league competitions and also organised the first FA Cup competition in 1970. He actually played for the winning team in the final when Scotia beat Byrite 1-0.Those were the days when the West Bay pitch one of the regular venues was quite hazardous as it contained a concrete cricket strip right in the middle and players in their studded boots in wet weather often went flying and several suffered broken bones.

  2. Rodger how well I remember that final with a young Renard Moxam playing. Len did a lot for football as did Ian Falconer for cricket. Talking of which I was surprised to see a couple of guys get no recognition for cricket and not many for tennis either.. There are many who organized sport in the earlier days who have since left the island some of whom are enjoying themselves in the great playing fields in the sky. We are however left with great memories when sport was a little more sporting than that played today.

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