Rodney Wilkes was Trinidad’s first Olympic medal winner, in 1948, and with his silver and bronze medals in weightlifting from the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, he is still considered the greatest weightlifter ever from the island nation. Wilkes was nicknamed the “Mighty Midget” or “Midget Atom” for his strength feats in the featherweight division. He first came to international notice when he won gold at the 1946 Central American and Caribbean Games. He followed that with his silver medal at the London Olympics, and then defended his title at the 1950 CAC Games. In 1951 Wilkes added another gold, winning at the Pan American Games, before adding an Olympic bronze medal in 1952 at Helsinki. In 1954 he won the featherweight title at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, and would win bronze at that tournament in 1958 in Cardiff, Wales. Wilkes was injured in 1955 and unable to defend his title at the Pan Americans and he just missed the podium at his third Olympics in Melbourne, placing fourth. He continued competing through 1960 but was not chosen for the West Indies Federation team for the Rome Olympics and then retired.
After his competitive days, Wilkes worked as an electrician in his hometown of San Fernando. He was named to the National Sports Hall of Fame in 1984. He was also given the Hummingbird Medal, a state decoration in Trinidad and Tobago awarded for loyal and devoted service beneficial to the state.