Claudia Ferguson, once nation’s fastest female
I visited Claudia Ferguson recently. While through the years there have been a few telephone conversations, a couple of decades had come and gone since our last face-to-face chat.
There she was, still speaking with that quiet voice and the stride is still graceful. Claudia Ferguson is just another of the very many Bahamians who made great contributions to sports development, but have slipped under the radar.
The athletes in track and field and volleyball today know very little or nothing at all about Ferguson. They don’t know that during 1967, 1968 and 1969 she was the undisputed queen of sprinting in The Bahamas. In 1970, her main rival Claudette Powell had emerged in a significant way and shortly thereafter, Ferguson concluded one of the greatest ever, local careers.
At her peak though, Ferguson was excellent. She was smooth and hardly seemed to be making much of an effort. The legs, however, would streak during the short sprints and throughout a glamorous senior career, as Government High School’s and the country’s fastest female, she tasted defeat no more than six times.
There were female sprint sensations before Ferguson, and of course, from the decades of the 1990s to the present time, female sprinting has reigned supreme in this land. No other female sprinter, in my view though, ever looked so stunning during competition. Ferguson was picture-perfect in her movements on the track. Her late Coach Charlie Wright had taught her to master the knee-lift action, and the acceleration. She glided effortless into the high-speed gear and in a flash she was at the finish, a victor over and over in the 100 meters(m)and the 200m events.
I have always seen a similarity in her style of running and that of the great American double Olympic sprint champion Wyomia Tyus. They were different somewhat in their physical make-up. Tyus was taller and of a slimmer built, but the running manner was comparable.
They both just eased around the track, never hustling, but somehow, mustering blazing speed. Tyus won two Olympic 100m gold medals(1964 and 1968). Ferguson was a member of the 1970 Central American and Caribbean(CAC)Games national team that went to Panama in 1970, but she never competed in the Olympics. If her career hadn’t come to a close, she would have no doubt been there in 1972 along with Powell at the Munich Olympics. Nevertheless, she is a quality subject for this trip down memory lane. She had the ability to make the national team as a sprinter and a long jumper.
Was she that good as long jumper?
Yes, indeed. In fact, the list of prolific long jumpers in the country’s track and field history, include Jackie Barnett-Bethel and one Claudia Ferguson before Linda’Silver Lady’Woodside and her training partner, a certain Shonel Ferguson came on the seen.
The national record went from one Ferguson to another. Claudia’s personal best was 18’9″, very good 40-plus years ago. In 1982, Ferguson lifted the national mark to where it is today(6.80m)or 22’3″.(Jackie Edwards would come along to match the record)
During the late 1960s however, Claudia Ferguson was the country’s finest long jumper. She was good.
In 1997, the Bahamas Amateur Athletic Association(now Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations), inducted her into the Hall of Fame. She was honored for her contributions as an athlete and also as a coach and mentor during her post competition years.
Now, by following this column, many more readers know of her exploits. Claudia Ferguson is certainly deserving of this”down memory lane”salute to her role in nation building through sports. Continued best wishes Claudia!
(To respond to this column kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com)