Everyone on the island knows the island’s first-ever Olympic gold medalist Flora Duffy, but less is known about Bermuda’s first-ever Olympic medalist, boxer Clarence Hill, who won bronze at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
In historian and former PLP MP Dale Butler’s opinion, Mr. Hill is finally starting to get the positive recognition that he deserves after decades of negative publicity.
“ As frustrating and bitter as Mr. Hill has been in the past, Bermudians need to realize that he has grown,” Mr. Butler said. “ In spite of all the negativity, he has remained very positive and we can all learn something from him: in spite of what happens sometimes that we may not get exactly what we feel is right, we can still rise to the occasion.”
Early in the new year, the Clarence Hill sports arena will open at Rosalee Gardens on 35 Angle Street. It will feature, among other things, a boxing ring with a six-foot-two plywood image of Mr. Hill. The arena was supposed to officially open last weekend, but was postponed due to the Coronavirus.
“ What we decided to do on the corner of Angle and Court Streets was put four banners that highlight Mr. Hill’s career with a beautiful plaque designed by Rona Pedro from Cedar Bridge Academy,” Mr. Butler explained. “ There is also an autograph card which sells for $5, with his special autograph and eight fun facts about him on the back of the card.
There are also notebooks with his picture on it for people within the community who have been very supportive of him.” The arena will also feature a plaque highlighting Ms. Duffy and her achievements.
Mr. Butler believes that Mr. Hill is an even bigger role model for the community now than he was when he won his medal, because he has demonstrated throughout his journey that sometimes you have to take a giant step forward rather than backward to overcome adversity.
“ It is most egregious and unfortunate that governments of the past could not get things done [for Mr. Hill], but there is a future and nothing is preventing us, with the possible closing of schools, from having one of those gyms in those schools named after him,” he said. “ I’m sure that there is an organization or group of people who can put some funds together and get those plans done in consultation with the Bermuda Boxing Association so that one of his dreams can come true.”
“Clearly it was a mistake not to recognize Mr. Hill back then, clearly we cannot continue that mistake, and I commend the Government and commend Mr. Hill for being a sports statesman and an ambassador who we can all learn from,” Mr. Butler concluded.
In an interview with TNN’s Trevor Lindsay on Monday; Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports the Honorable Dr. Ernest Peets confirmed that a statue of Ms. Duffy and a bust of Mr. Hill are currently being commissioned.
“ [The bust of myself being commissioned] made me feel accepted and appreciated to be a Bermudian and an Olympian and to know that I won an Olympic medal,” Mr. Hill said. “ It felt great to know that some people do appreciate you and are starting to learn the significance of an Olympic medal.”
Despite not receiving the recognition that Ms. Duffy did when he returned to Bermuda with his medal, he no longer holds hard feelings about it.
“ I had to grow up and could not allow [my lack of recognition] to walk with me for the rest of my life,” he said. “ It was hard to let go, but I decided to do it because I feel better.”
Seeing posters and plaques of himself in the Court Street area, close to where he was raised, makes Mr. Hill feel even more appreciated as a representative of Bermuda.
“ People do not know quite how it feels to represent their country in the Olympics, or any sporting event,” he said.
“ The medals are all secondary, the first and foremost [concern] is qualifying for and giving your all in the Olympics. Not everyone who goes to the Olympics wins a medal, but the country feels great about them because they got to represent their country.”
Mr. Hill hopes that a bust of himself and a statue of Ms. Duffy will inspire young people to see what they can accomplish if they put their mind to it, even if they are from a tiny island like Bermuda.
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