Youth team returns home
Arguably the most successful athletics squad in Bahamian history returned home to a hero’s welcome last evening inside the VIP Lounge of the Lynden Pindling International Airport.
The 15-member squad, which matched or surpassed the medal count by any World Championships or Olympics squad, finished 15th overall with 37 points, but fourth in the medal standings, trailing just the United States, Kenya and Jamaica. The four-medal tally – three gold and one bronze – at the 7th International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) World Youth Championships in Lille, France, was termed by the Minister of Youth Sports and Culture last night, as truly outstanding.
As a matter of fact, Minister Charles Maynard assured that his ministry through the government will implement a new ‘Cash for Gold’ incentive program where there will be funds available in recognition of outstanding performances.
“It is an honor to sit up here with three gold medalists and one bronze medalist,” said the minister last night. “I want to take this time to appeal to the corporate community to partner with the government because the government can’t take on the burden alone. We are taking on a new program as of tonight, and it’s called ‘Cash for Gold’. Together, we have to provide all of our track clubs and the associations with the necessary funding to continue this success. I want to encourage all of our corporate citizens to join me in this new initiative.
“If we want to be able to celebrate our young Bahamian talent again, we have to be able to step up to the plate and make sure that they have the resources that they need. I just want to say on behalf of the prime minister and my colleagues that we are extremely proud of the whole team and we wish you continued success in the future,” he added.
It seems like everyone who came out to the late night welcome at the airport wanted to hear from the medalists though.
Stephen ‘Dirty’ Newbold, the surprise gold medalist in the Boys 200 meters (m), said that he was just focused on running his race and doing a personal best time. He did exactly that as he went under 21 seconds for the first time in his career, winning the gold medal in 20.89 seconds in the final.
Newbold is a former CARIFTA Champion and current record holder in the Under-17 Boys 400m hurdles, and is this year’s CARIFTA bronze medalist in the Under-20 Boys 400m. Still, his coach David Charlton felt he would have had a better chance of winning a World Youth medal in the 200m, and the tall and talented former St. John’s College athlete did just that this past weekend.
“I just have the leg speed for the 200m so I knew that I stood a better chance of winning a medal in that event,” said Newbold last night. “I knew that I would put my best effort out there and I just want to thank God that I was able to come through. As a team, we just showed the world that The Bahamas isn’t a small country, and we came to dominate,” he added.
With the World Junior Championships carrying a higher age limit than the World Youth Championships, rarely would you have an athlete win a World Junior title, then a World Youth title, and then have the opportunity to repeat as World Junior Champion. With her gold in France this past weekend, Shaunae Miller set herself up to complete the rare feat next year in Barcelona, Spain.
As for the race itself, she said that she wasn’t focused on the hype surrounding the world youth leader Chris Ann Gordon of Jamaica, She said she just listened to her coach and ran the type of race that she knew she was accustomed to running. Miller won the gold medal in a new personal best and junior national record time of 51.84 seconds.
“First of all, I just want to give thanks to God for allowing us all to compete well. We just went out there and had fun,” said Shaunae Miller last night. “As for the race, I knew that it was going to be a hot race. I just went in there with the frame of mind to do my best and I’m pretty happy with the outcome,” she added.
As for the twins, Latario and Lathone Collie-Minns, they went into the championships with the best and third best jumps in the world this year, so their double medal feat came as no surprise. It is believed to be the first time that twins have both won medals in the same event at a major athletics championship, and certainly the first time for Bahamians. Latario won the gold medal with a leap of 16.06m (52’ 8-1/4”), and Lathone won the bronze medal with a leap of 15.51m (50’ 10-3/4”).
“The experience was wonderful. There were some hard times but we stuck in there,” said gold medalist Latario. “My intention was actually to PR (personal best) on my first jump but I’m satisfied with the performance that I had,” he added.
Latario still has the world youth leading jump this year of 16.55m (54’ 3-3/4”) – a personal best for him. With South African Albert Janki’s clutch 15.95m (52’ 4”) leap to snatch the silver away, bronze medalist Lathone now owns the fourth best world youth jump in the world this year of 15.73m (51’ 7-1/2”).
“There were some hard times but the outcome was pretty good. I was real happy to get the bronze,” said Lathone. “I gave it my all, particularly on that last jump to get the silver back but I’m satisfied. I’ll just keep training and trying to get better for next year,” he added.
Head Coach of the squad, Peter Pratt, said that they just wanted to ensure that the athletes had adequate time to rest and adapt to the conditions in Lille, France, so that they could turn in their best performances on the track. He said that despite consuming a lot of French food that the athletes were unaccustomed to, and occasional sickness, they all performed at their best.
“We really got acclimatized very well,” said Pratt. “We went over there and trampled on the giants, and they did not allow us to do – we went out there and did it. Our athletes did it. They wanted to celebrate Independence in a positive way so they went out there and showed the world what they could do.
“As for our medalists, they were outstanding. Double trouble had the fans rocking and reeling. Everyone was waiting to see what was going to happen with Shaunae and the Jamaican who had the world youth leading time, and she didn’t disappoint. And the biggest surprise of all, what more can we say of Stephen Newbold. They were all outstanding. In saying that, work is not done. We still have more work to do,” added Pratt.
Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ (BAAA) President Mike Sands said that as an organization, they were extremely proud of all the athletes and look forward to similar performances in the future.
“You have all made us extremely proud of your accomplishments,” said Sands. “There are some of you who didn’t win medals but gave your best efforts and we are very thankful for that. For those of you who won medals, you went up against the world and proved yourselves to the world. You are nothing less than World Champions and we are extremely proud of you,” he added.
Next up for the BAAA is the Sr. Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Championships which will occur in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, this weekend. Following that, the Jr. Pan American Championships will be held in Miramar, Florida, from July 22-24, and the IAAF World Outdoor Championships will be held in Daegu, South Korea, from August 27 – September 4.
Bronze medalist Lathone Collie-Minns,
gold medalist Shaunae Miller and gold medalist Latario
Collie-Minns just after arriving in Nassau yesterday evening.