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Humility, determined spirit describes Sands

There was the gold medal effort of 17.21 meters(m)in the men’s triple jump at the Central American and Caribbean(CAC)Games in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico this past July. Otherwise, the 2010 season was a relatively low-key one for Bahamian Leevan Sands.

Somehow, Sands always seems to be under the radar, even when he wins medals. At the 2010 CAC Games, the astonishing medal haul by swimmer Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, gold medals in tennis, boxing and a few in athletics, added to Sands’success. Quarter-miler Christine Amertil, high jumper Donald Thomas won gold also. In that Bahamian success mixture, although he has been one of our premier elite athletes since the birth of the new millennium, somehow Sands seemed upstaged.

That’s how it has been generally for national record holder Sands. He won a bronze medal at the 2003 International Association of Athletic Federation’s(IAAF)9th Championships, in Paris Saint-Denis, France. It was perhaps the least-profiled top flight international medal in the history of The Bahamas.

A year earlier, he won a bronze medal at the 2002 Manchester, England 17th Commonwealth Games, but that was the event at which Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie had one of her greatest collective performances. All she did was win gold in the 100 meters, the 200 meters and the 4×100 relay. Accordingly, she was the toast of the town and her effort lives on as one of the most spectacular highlights in Commonwealth Games history. So, Sands’bronze medal that year, although not under-appreciated, was kind of overwhelmed by the sensational sprinting of Ferguson-McKenzie.

Ironically, in 2006, when he was ineligible for six months due to a mistake with medication, he received more attention than ever before. That situation actually resulted in a sub-par 2007 season, but, there he was in 2008, that humble soul, hurt by the loss of endorsements and money, frustrated because he felt the support he deserved never came, yet still determined to make his countrymen proud.

Indeed he did. At the Beijing Olympics, he demonstrated what perseverance is all about. A personal best of 7.59m garnered the bronze medal. On the track in Beijing as always, he appealed to the crowd to inspire his efforts with hand claps. That’s his trademark, but away from the competition runway, he remains a humble, quiet force.

And so, the 2011 season is just around the corner. This is another IAAF Outdoor Championships year. At 29, going on 30(16th July, 2011), Sands has the kind of maturity and wealth of experience that could push him beyond his personal best and onto the podium once again.

Another World medal in the beginning year of a new decade would solidify his status as one of the best triple jumper of his time. One thing is certain though. A medal will not change the humility in him.

Best wishes to you Leevan, in 2011 and beyond!

(To respond to this column, kindly contact [email protected])

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