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Life-size painting celebrating Olympic medal winning boxer is a knockout

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Step into the ring: Clarence Hill, a retired Olympic heavyweight boxer, poses with a life-size painting of himself with Gail Palacio, the portrait painter (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Heavyweight hero: Clarence Hill, an Olympic bronze medal winner in boxing, with a life-size painting of himself (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A life-size painting of Bermuda’s first Olympic medal winner yesterday found a home in a public garden.

The six-foot portrait of Clarence Hill was installed in Rosalie Gardens on Pembroke’s Angle Street and part of the land was dubbed the Clarence Hill Sports Arena.

Mr Hill, who grew up near the garden, said that he was “tickled pink” to have his achievements marked.

He added: “This is my ‘hood, even though I wasn’t born on Angle Street. I was born on Parsons Road, but this is my ‘hood.”

The area dedicated to Mr Hill was sectioned off with a boxing ring-style border.

There is also a plaque, a tree and two smaller paintings of Mr Hill and Olympic gold medal-winner and triathlon world champion Flora Duffy.

The garden is managed by community activist Dale Butler, who will open the Clarence Hill Sports Arena to the public next February.

Mr Hill, who won a bronze medal in heavyweight boxing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, said: “To know that Mr Butler thought about honouring me – and not only thought about it but did it – really feels good.

“We have a lot of talent on this island, from music to sports, and we need to let the young ones know who the heroes are.

“By doing what Dale Butler’s doing you can see who the heroes are.”

Gail Palacio, the artist who created the painting, said that she had done artwork for several of Mr Butler’s projects and felt “privileged” to have been approached for the Hill project.

She added: “As an art teacher, and as a teacher in general, I often try to pass on information to my students.

“It’s just important for us to know ourselves and to have these examples and mentors – these geniuses – in so many different fields.

“Even though it’s very late, I’m so grateful that Mr Clarence Hill is here at this moment where we are honouring him.”

The Clarence Hill Sports Arena on Angle street, Pembroke (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Ms Palacio said that it was important to teach the younger generations about the history of Bermuda.

Michael Dillas, the “groundskeeper” who designed the arena, said that he was delighted to have been commissioned to do the work.

He added: “When I got asked to do this I felt like I’d won the bronze medal.

“I’m proud of Clarence – he’s always been one of my idols.

“I think the arena’s a beautiful piece and it fits in lovely with the rest of the garden.”

Miles Manders, who also helped to design the arena, said that the recent celebrations of Ms Duffy’s Olympic win had made the island “acknowledge our cultural heritage – present, past and future”.

He added: “Things like this can’t go unrecorded or unacknowledged, because Mr Hill was the first and that’s the greatest achievement of a pioneer.

“He was our first medalist, he will always be our first medalist, and he opened the door and blazed a trail to be followed.”

The Clarence Hill Sports Arena on Angle street, Pembroke (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published October 30, 2021 at 7:43 am (Updated October 30, 2021 at 7:43 am)

Life-size painting celebrating Olympic medal winning boxer is a knockout

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