First medal­list: Bill McKin­non won a photo fin­ish to earn gold at the 1969 Games, cap­tur­ing the Is­land’s first medal at the multi-sport event

Bill McKin­non was first Is­lan­der to win medal at Canada Games

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JA­SON MAL­LOY

Bill McKin­non was fifth or sixth in the field of eight run­ners mid­way through what, at the time, was the big­gest race of his life.

When the com­pe­ti­tion is 100 me­tres long, time is of the essence.

But McKin­non, who ad­mit­ted starts weren’t his forte, didn’t panic. He trusted his train­ing, stormed back, crossed the fin­ish line at the 1969 Canada Games in Dart­mouth, N.S., and stepped into the Is­land’s sports his­tory.

“I think I threw my arms up and just slowly jogged prob­a­bly most of the way around the turn and just felt a sense of re­lief,” McKin­non said on Mon­day.

The Char­lot­te­town na­tive thought he had won the race, but waited and watched as a dis­cus­sion en­sued among race of­fi­cials.

“I felt that string hit my chest,” he said. “I was pretty sure (I had won). It was a photo fin­ish. It was close.”

Within mo­ments, he re­ceived word his 10.37 time was the fastest.

McKin­non had not just won the mar­que event of the track and field com­pe­ti­tion, but he had also claimed Prince Ed­ward Is­land’s first medal in the mul­ti­sport event.

The Games are held ev­ery two years, al­ter­nat­ing be­tween win­ter and sum­mer. They started in 1967 in Que­bec City as a win­ter com­pe­ti­tion.

McKin­non was there for the first Games as a mem­ber of the Saint Dun­stan’s hockey team. At the time, men’s hockey was played among uni­ver­sity teams.

McKin­non said he al­ways had a love for track and field.

“For­tu­nately, we had some good peo­ple di­rect­ing us, and it in­stilled a love of the sport that I still have today,” he said.

Head­ing into the 1969 Canada Games, McKin­non had won the 100 me­tres and fin­ished sec­ond in the 200 at the Eastern Cana­dian cham­pi­onships in Toronto.

“There was a lot of pres­sure,” McKin­non ad­mit­ted

Some of it was self-im­posed

and some was from peo­ple within the Is­land com­mu­nity, say­ing he had a real chance of win­ning the race.

“That’s the last thing, when you’re en­ter­ing into a na­tional com­pe­ti­tion for the first time, that you re­ally want to hear,” McKin­non said.

But on race day he was healthy, con­fi­dent in his abil­ity and men­tally pre­pared.

One of his tech­niques in­cluded wear­ing big, dark, wrap­around sun­glasses.

“No­body could see in, but could see out,” he said.

“I al­ways thought I was aware of what they were do­ing and they were guess­ing what I was do­ing. Whether it was right or wrong, I have no idea.”

Some peo­ple had ques­tioned whether the sprinter from Canada’s small­est prov­ince could

Iwin the ti­tle.

He laid those ques­tions rest in 10.37 sec­onds.

“I’m proud of what I ac­com­plished, no ques­tions about it,” McKin­non said. “I was pretty proud to be able to show the medal to peo­ple and say, ‘we can do it’.”

McKin­non made the na­tional team in 1969 and com­peted in Tokyo, but a ham­string in­jury forced him to pull out of some events. The in­jury per­sisted in the years that fol­lowed.

McKin­non is still very vis­i­ble at the prov­ince’s sports fields, courts and rinks. The re­tired teacher and ath­letic di­rec­tor at Mon­tague Re­gional High School said he en­joys watch­ing ath­letes progress through the ranks with some of them end­ing up com­pet­ing for UPEI and Hol­land Col­lege.

Mon­day at the UPEI Alumni Canada Games Place, kids ran around the track dur­ing a sum­mer camp. They laughed and gig­gled and it was ap­par­ent to see the im­pact it had on McKin­non. “That’s the name of the game. If it’s not fun, is it worth it?” he smiled.

McKin­non has a mes­sage for the Is­land ath­letes who will wear P.E.I. colours this sum­mer at the Canada Games in Win­nipeg.

“Wear it with pride be­cause you earned it.” to

JA­SON MAL­LOY/THE GUARDIAN

Bill McKin­non looks at his medals on dis­play at the track club­house at UPEI Alumni Canada Games Place. They in­clude the first medal won by an Is­land ath­lete at the Canada Games.

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