'Elaine buss wi' ...Sprinter's family relive childhood of Banana Ground's finest

August 31, 2016
Elaine's mother Rosalyn Richards (left), and Hycenth Ricketts, Elaine's gradmother, pose with some of the medals won by the sprint sensation from Banana Ground, Manchester.
Elaine Thompson celebrates winning the women's 100m final.
Ian Allen/Photographer Misty conditions at Banana Ground in Manchester. Residents say they can see the Kingston harbour from the hilly community on a clear day.
Misty conditions at Banana Ground in Manchester. Residents say they can see the Kingston Harbour from the hilly community on a clear day.
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From the yard where Olympic double gold medallist Elaine Thompson grew up, you can see Alcan, Davyton, Bellefield, the Pickapeppa Factory, Kendal, Williamsfield Gardens, and beyond.

And, in the thick fog on Monday, you could also make out the neighbours’ packed clothes lines, contents being battered by the heavy showers pelting the community.

Inside the clean, cosy house, pride is etched on grandma Hycenth Ricketts’ face as she welcomes THE STAR team.

She is popularly known as Gloria in the Banana Ground, Manchester, community that has been bursting with pride since their beloved Elaine did them so proud, “an buss we”, after her 100 and 200-metre wins in Rio.

“Yes, me proud of her and she big we up,” said Gloria, who eagerly took THE STAR down memory lane.

"Vinette (grandma’s pet name for Elaine) is my baby from she seven months old. I named her,” said the former basic school teacher.  

So filled with pride is Gloria that she still has the video recording of the races on her phone to play at her whim and fancy. She told THE STAR that she first noticed Elaine’s running ability when she attended Banana Ground Basic School, where she taught for 27 years. 

She is proud of having taught Elaine to read and write and telling her everything about her hero Merlene Ottey, whom she began admiring in primary school.

She also loves Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt, and even showed us their pictures in the track star’s bedroom and their living room.

As a child, Gloria said Elaine loved irish potato and her favourite drink was soursop juice. “She also likes carrot juice but soursop is her favourite. I used to have her on one shoulder while I cook and she see everything,” Gloria said. 

Other foods favoured by the sprint champ include vegetables as long as they are not steamed …only shredded with mayonnaise. Elaine would cut a cabbage in two, wash it in salt water and just eat it like that, Gloria said, adding that she also loves ripe bananas … no green ones for Elaine.

But, was it easy to raise her granddaughter?  Gloria’s response is instantaneous. “Vinette no give me no trouble at all. She does not like to be insulted so she did not give me any talking growing up…if strangers give her any food, she brings it home for me to see it before she eat it and she no beg-beg. She always ask permission to go everywhere, even to visit her mother. Her only fault is that she is a little selfish, she does not keep company or follow the crowd, ” said Gloria.

As a Seventh-day Adventist, Gloria says Elaine attended church on Saturdays armed with her little bag of snacks that she would quietly go outside to eat after Sabbath school.

“She don’t give me any trouble with boys or anything, she always telling me, ‘Mama, I am the only one for my mother so I have grow up and take care of her,'" Gloria said taking out her phone to call Elaine’s mother to come join the conversation.

Her father, a barber, was at work during our visit, but Gloria says he helped with bringing up his now famous daughter. 

"I feel good that my time with her has not been wasted, she listened to me, I told her never sit in anyone lap in a taxi and never to red-eye anyone because you don’t know how they get what they have,” she said.

Elaine’s mother Rosalyn Richards also lives nearby and takes care of her own mother who recently suffered a stroke. A very quiet and shy woman, she told THE STAR, “I am very proud of Elaine, I never know she would be a runner. I am looking forward to see her whenever she come home,” she said as she looks through a stack of photographs and medals won by her daughter.   

Barbara.ellington@gleanerjm.com

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