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Diamonds International comes to Team Bahamas’ aid

With the world championships in athletics just about a week away, and the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) still searching for funds, there was a significant breakthrough yesterday as Diamonds International stepped up to the plate to provide financial assistance. They held a special reception for Team Bahamas at their downtown store yesterday, throwing their support behind the team’s ‘Mission to Moscow’.

BAAA President Mike Sands revealed late last week that they were still in the process of securing funds to send the 27-member team to Moscow, Russia for the world championships, and in actuality, had not purchased plane tickets as yet. He also revealed that because of the lack of funds, there would be no training camp for the athletes this year, meaning that the four relay teams entered would have little time to develop chemistry and work on exchanges. For the first time in the history of athletics in this country, four relay teams have qualified for either the world championships or the Olympics.

This year’s International Association of Athletic Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships is set for August 10-18, in Moscow. Diamonds International Human Resources Manager Chynella Cunningham said that it was only fitting that they come to the aid of the BAAA and Team Bahamas.

“For us, it’s not just about the team going to Russia – it’s also about what is going to happen in the future. We want this to be an ongoing relationship,” said Cunningham. “Diamonds International has been a part of the BAAA before, and we are looking forward to assisting again. We’re very proud of our athletes and we believe in the potential that they have. We know that they are going to do well and we want to be a part of that.”

BAAA President Mike Sands said that the contribution, whatever the amount may be, is significant, paticularly given their current financial position. He said that even though the organization was strapped for cash, leaving some of the team members home as rumored, was never an option. With the women’s 4x400m relay team just barely qualifying for the global event, and top female quarter-milers Shaunae Miller and Christine Amertil not likely to run the event, it was rumored that the BAAA would look into the option of leaving the women’s 4x400m team home. Sands quickly dispelled that rumor.

“First of all, let me say I don’t know where that ugly rumor started from,” said Sands yesterday. “There is no doubt that we are very challenged in terms of carrying the entire team, but my position is that it is all or nothing. It wouldn’t be fair to say that we are going to carry some and don’t carry others. It’s like having a baby and saying that you are going to cut the baby in half. Leaving some of the members home is certainly not an option for us. The entire team has been ratified by the membership, so we expect that by the end of the day, everybody will have an equal opportunity to travel and perform.”

Sands added that he is extremely grateful to Diamonds International for coming forward to help defray the costs of the team traveling to Moscow, and he encourages the rest of corporate Bahamas to follow suit.

“Every dollar makes a difference,” said Sands. “Diamonds International was one of the first title sponsors that we had for the national championships so this is nothing new for them. We are happy to see that they have come on board again, and we certainly appreciate their support, and we look forward to the support from others.”

Three of The Bahamas’ 27-member team were present at the reception yesterday. The elder statesman on the team Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie is back as a member of her ninth world championships team. She said that she feels blessed to have qualified and is just looking forward to making a contribution in whatever capacity she can.

“Just being able to compete, and being healthy is ideal,” said Ferguson-McKenzie. “I’m excited to be a part of another world championships, and just looking forward to going to Russia at this point. We rely on the government but we also rely on corporate Bahamas so it’s great that Diamonds International is stepping up and assisting us in whatever way they can. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

One of the youngest members of the team, 19-year-old Ryan Ingraham will be competing in his first senior world championships. He qualified ‘B’ standard with a personal best leap of 2.30 meters (m) – 7’ 6-1/2” – this year.

“I feel confident in my abilities. I just want to go there and represent myself and my country well,” said Ingraham. “This is my first world championships team, so I’m looking forward to the experience. I’ve been pretty consistent this year, and right now, it’s just a matter of me taking it to that next level. Hopefully, in Moscow, I could show some improvement. I’m looking forward to jumping against the higher competition.”

The majority of Team Bahamas is expected to leave on Sunday.

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