Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Two-time national table tennis champion passes away

Published:Saturday | September 23, 2023 | 12:08 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Courtney Wilson (left) talks table tennis with fellow national champion Chris Marsh at a 2017 Heroes Day tournament at William Knibb Memorial High School.
Courtney Wilson (left) talks table tennis with fellow national champion Chris Marsh at a 2017 Heroes Day tournament at William Knibb Memorial High School.

The local table tennis fraternity is mourning the death of Courtney Wilson, the two-time national men’s singles champion, who passed away on Tuesday, September 19. According to his lifelong friend and teammate Ian Spencer, Wilson was “a calming influence and a player you’d want by your side going into a battle”.

Wilson, a left-handed looper who played close to the table, won the Nationals in 1980 and 1981. He started to play at Cornwall College and helped his school and the parish of St James to become national powerhouses.

“We started from Cornwall, playing on the steps. We didn’t have the formal boards for us going in, so we used to go on the step. You put a piece of board across it, and you get a ping pong ball and you play games, and the winners would continue. So that was how we started in table tennis,” Spencer recalled of an association with Wilson that began in first form in 1972.

Table tennis in the parish boomed when Insport assigned 1975 Caribbean doubles champion Winston Cowans to work in St James.

“He came down during 1976-77 and started giving us formalised training, and that’s when we really blossomed.”

A fine team emerged with Wilson, Spencer, Bruce Cormack, Donovan James, Peter Tomlinson, Carl Fennell and Wilbert Lawrence. With support from sports goods distributor Western Sports, St James became a force to be reckoned with.

Wilson and Spencer went on to play for Jamaica.

Asked what Wilson was like as a teammate, Spencer replied, “Courtney was very calm. He was cool under pressure. He was somebody you could depend on. He’s the one you would want by your side when you go in a battle,” Spencer recounted.


“In his game, he was a little more explosive in his play. In a way, very introverted, very shy. You really had to get to know him to know the real Courtney Wilson who was a fun-loving guy, because that was what his personality was like, both on and off the table tennis court,” the grieving teammate said.

The loss has been deeply felt in the Cornwall College fraternity. “I’ve been getting calls from old boys left, right and centre, all over the globe,” Spencer said.

“Younger players nowadays may not know, but this guy was one of the most talented players we produced,” he argued, “A son of rural Jamaica who came from playing on the little steps to be the national champion and to play for Jamaica, playing in the Caribbean Championships.”

Spencer said his friend and training partner was proof that work can triumph over what he described as humble beginnings.

“You don’t have to have all the money. You don’t have to have all the facilities but, with the drive and the passion, you can rise to the top,” Spencer said.

The 63 year-old Wilson died after a long illness.