Former top Trinidad and Tobago sprinter and hurdler Thora Andrews, nee Best, passed away in Beaumont, Texas, on Saturday.
The 73-year-old former national long-jump title-holder was the first Trinidad and Tobago female athlete to win a medal at a major international meet, capturing bronze in the 80-metres hurdles at the Pan American Games in Canada in 1967. (Sybil Dommartin won 100 metre gold at the 1960 British West Indies Championship.)
It was a full 36 years before another woman won an individual medal in track and field in competition at that level, former national athlete and government minister Basil Ince reports in his book Olympian, which focuses on 75 years of Trinidad and Tobago in Olympic sport.
Best started running while in primary school at Tunapuna EC and she won the Victrix Ludorum title several times while at secondary school in St Augustine Girls. Settled into formal athletics under the tutelage of George Clarke of Burnley Athletics Club, Best blossomed into a fine national athlete and had many a memorable duel with aging national sprint champion, Sybil Dommartin at the annual Southern Games and Eastern Games. Along with Sigrid Sandiford, Merlin Reid, Joyce Walker and Millicent Cumberbatch and a handful of others, Best helped to make Burnley a household word in national women’s athletics.
Apart from the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, she represented her country in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Brazil and in the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica.
In 1964, she came close to realising her dream of making it to the athletics’ biggest stage, the Olympics. The only woman named on a preliminary national contingent for the Tokyo Games, Best was one of the three athletes cut from the squad when lack of funding forced a reduction in the size of the final party to five instead of the original eight.
That same year, she left Trinidad to take up an athletic scholarship at Texas Southern University in the United States and eventually took up residence in that country, finally retiring from competitive athletics in 1971. She became a high school track coach and remained in the field until her retirement in 2006. She was among a score of national athletes honoured jointly by the TTOC and the NAAA a few years ago.
Born in Tunapuna in 1946, the ninth of 12 children, Best was the younger sister of the late former Tapia leader and political thinker, Lloyd Best. She leaves to mourn her husband, Robert Andrews, children Raquel, Tonia, Roberta, Robert jr and Timothy and nine grandchildren as well as three sisters and one brother.
She is to be buried in Beaumont on Saturday.