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Debbie still going strong as one of world’s best

There she was at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia of the United States. As a 20-year-old, she was just recently removed from one of the most decorated junior track and field careers in Bahamian history.

Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie was a newcomer to the senior female sprinting ranks in The Bahamas, but she belonged. Some were not quite sure and there was controversy in Atlanta as a result, but although there were tears for the young lass, she persevered. That Olympics proved to be the announcement to the world that The Bahamas had one of the fastest female units over a relay lap in the entire world. The Golden Girls won the silver medal.

What would be Debbie’s story, some wondered. Fourteen years later, the world knows her for having one of the most successful and prolonged careers in sports history. Indeed, Debbie has come a long way since Atlanta. She has enjoyed tremendous success as a prime member of the Golden Girls and on an individual basis, she has won an Olympic medal, World Championships medals, Commonwealth Games medals, and of course, stood on the top podium spot at regional events like the Pan American Games and the Central American and Caribbean Games.

Over the 14year span 1996-2010, she has been the most successful Bahamian athlete. That’s a huge statement, but it’s the view held here. Other careers compare favorably over that time frame.

There is Chandra Sturrup who zipped to the fantastic national record of 10.84 during that period, won a Commonwealth gold medal, a World Championship Indoor gold, two World Outdoor bronze medals and was also successful at the Pan Am and CAC levels. Debbie has edged her however in my humble opinion.

For me, the icing on the cake between the two was when Debbie came through to win the individual bronze medal in the 200 meters at the International Association of Athletic Federations World Championships of 2009. It’s a bit of a squeaker, but Debbie is the one ahead.

Then, there is Mark Knowles of tennis fame. He’s won four grand slam titles, men’s doubles in the Australian, U.S. and French Opens and mixed doubles at Wimbledon. Had he won them all as an individual, he would have been a no-brainer choice over the same period, but, he didn’t. Nevertheless, he was yet another of those superb athletes who enhanced The Bahamas’sports power image immensely.

Back to track and field, quarter-miler Chris Brown, his female counterpart Tonique Williams-Darling, high jumper Donald Thomas and triple jumper Leevan Sands have also being sensational. As we step closer to the dawn of a new decade, only Williams-Darling has retired.

Debbie though was ultra fabulous. When I saw her simply claw her way through the field from sixth place or so on the turn to home in the 200 meters final at the 2004 Athens Olympics to get the bronze, I didn’t think she could duplicate that kind of determination, but there she was five years later in Berlin at the IAAF Outdoor Worlds, doing the same thing, for another bronze.

She is a remarkable athlete, lady and Bahamian. Continued best wishes Debbie on the swing toward the close of a brilliant career.

(To respond to this column, kindly contact frobertsturrup@gmail.com)

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