Those who follow my column will know much I love Jamaica. For the last several winters I have made Kingston my winter training base. It might not be the best location to cycle, but everything else here is without doubt beneficial for my health, and that is more important than trying to compete.

The longer I stay tumour-free it feels like I am winning. It might not be standing on a podium but the feeling of getting out of bed each day and into the sun lasts longer than the thrill of standing on the podium.

It does break me mentally though when I see posts about competitions and upcoming races. I have to check in quickly on what I have come through and remind myself that my sense of self is more than just being a cyclist.

As I start a new masters in psychology this week, most of my time has been sat in a small office in downtown Kingston. I’m not far from the national stadium where some of the fastest humans on earth are preparing for the 2023 track season. As I sit looking out of the window daydreaming between scientific papers on the probability of my leg moving again, I catch the local school running their athletics session. There is no mistaking that athletics is the national sport here.

The world knows first-hand the power of Jamaican athletics, but what many might not be aware of is that this belief that Jamaica can produce world- class athletes might have started from a Scotsman. When I heard this, it sparked my curiosity. A Scotsman is a pioneer of what we witness now on the track from athletes like Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake?

Even in Scotland if we were to think of our track stars of the past, how far back would we go? Would many know Alfred Reynolds Downer?

If I am been honest, I had never heard of him until this week. As I sat watching the youngsters run, I picked up a book in the office I was in and started reading a chapter. That’s when the story of an unlikely Scotsman unravelled In front of me. The title was: “Alfred Reynolds Downer was the fastest man in Victorian England”.

Born in 1873 in a town called May Pen, Downer was one of the fastest athletes in the 1890s and is described as the first of the line in great Jamaican sprinters. However, in 1880 he moved to Edinburgh and went to George Watson’s College. It wasn’t long until Downer began making an impact on the sprinting scene in the UK. He won his first Scottish titles aged 20 in 1893 and dominated the 110y, 220y and 440y at the Scottish Championships over the next two years.

Working with a trainer who looked after the Hearts football team, he paid to join Rangers Football Club so he could train on the running track at Ibrox. It wasn’t long until Alfred saw the opportunity to make money by running.

It wasn’t just in Scotland that Downer was turning heads, he also ran the fastest 100 metres in 1895 and was regularly in the top 10 of the world’s fastest men.

He had formed a great rivalry with Edgar Bredin, who was England’s top sprinter at the time.

Downer would have been one of the favourites to take the 100-metre title at the Olympics in 1896 and a credible challenger to the American Tom Burke who dominated the event at the Games.

Unfortunately for Alfred – and maybe why he is not mentioned as much as other Scottish sprinters – was that he was also aware of the worth of a top athlete and was known for taking under-the-counter money for running, and with this, he was seen as a pro and banned from running at the Olympics.

In so many ways Alfred’s story reads like a movie script, but without the typical Hollywood ending. After tearing a muscle, he travelled back to Jamaica to recover in the heat and was struck down with malaria.

With the Olympics approaching in Paris in 1900, there was a race that was part of the Worlds Fair for professionals in the same stadium before the Olympics that Downer had travelled to. Unfortunately, he never fully recovered from malaria and the fever returned several times after returning from Jamaica.

However, it was not this that impacted the great sprinter, but an Achilles tendon injury that occurred during a hurdles race.

Downer never crossed the finish line in Paris and as his health declined, he died at the age of 39 in 1912.

But it’s a remarkable story and one that connects my Scottish blood to my new Jamaican home.