More comprehensive national presence advocated for Pauline Davis-Thompson
Fred Sturrup will be out of the country for a few days. In his absence, The Nassau Guardian Sports Section will run a few of his Sports Scope columns from the past. Sturrup’s regular columns will return on Tuesday December 5.
Pauline Davis-Thompson sits around the table of one of the most noted international sports bodies in the world, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). She is world track and field royalty.
At major national events that relate to track and field, she is showcased for sure, but otherwise, the enthusiastic, energetic matriarch of athletics in the country does not have the kind of comprehensive national presence her status dictates. Nationally, I think she is under-utilized.
Who is better to galvanize young boys and girls in every corner of the archipelago than Davis-Thompson? Her patriotism is infectious and she is the kind of magnetic individual who would inspire thousands more adults of the future, if given the opportunity through a nationwide program with a heavy sports thrust. There is so much more to the ‘Dame of Track and Field’ than what she is asked to contribute.
Let’s have a look at this lady. For 33 years, Davis-Thompson has been associated with sports, particularly track and field (athletics), in a profound way. However, she unreservedly, speaks easily of her early years in the over-the-hill Bain Town less affluent sector of New Providence.
For instance, without hesitation she would inform of having to make daily trips to the public road faucets to collect water for her home. Her family did not have the luxury of a potable water supply in the home, meaning they were on the lower rung of society.
From that backdrop, she evolved into one of the best competitors and highly respected track and field figures of her era. It must be emphasized also that Pauline Davis-Thompson, through hard work, determination, yes defiance, but leaning always on God, became the very first international female star in the history of The Bahamas.
Davis-Thompson is not a Bible-thumper, but firmly believes as she has said on numerous occasions, that “it was the Almighty who carried me through those many times when I was out there alone for my country, with not a Bahamian in the stands, no other countryman or woman on the track with me, no one as an official or in the coaches’ area.”
Through the years, having done multiple interviews with Davis-Thompson, this writer has always understood that her deep devotion to The Bahamas was topped only by her faith in God. Thus, her life, in and out of competition has been as wholesome as could be.
Today, she is revered and appreciated by associates from every continent within the world track and field family. To that end, her ascension to the council of the parent body for world athletics, the IAAF, in 2007 was no surprise. It is likely that she will be called upon, for as long as she desires to stay active, to serve in a capacity that enables her to advance the sport she loves so dearly.
It is a sport Davis-Thompson has mastered. As a junior, she became famous throughout the Caribbean region because of her astounding performances. The Austin Sealy trophy from the 1984 CARIFTA Games was her crowning junior achievement. She won gold medals in the 100, 200 meters (m) and the sprint relay.
At the collegiate level, competing for the University of Alabama, Davis-Thompson had a hallmark year in 1989. She became the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion for the 200 meters. Her career has been one heavily flavored with fortitude.
Her courage, the resilience she has demonstrated, her mental and physical endurance through times when she was least afforded the appropriate medical and physiotherapy treatment, stamped her as a one in a million commodity, a wonderful product of The Bahamas.
Davis-Thompson weathered lean years but stayed committed to her objective of willing the body and mind to put The Bahamas, in female track and field, at the top of the mountain. In 1995, she broke new ground for Bahamian female excellence.
At the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Barcelona, Spain, she won a silver medal in the 200 meters. It was the first female world championship medal for her country. Later that year in Gothenburg, Sweden, she shifted to the 400 meters and won a silver medal at the IAAF World Outdoor Championships.
Then, came the period of supreme excellence that she crafted with four other stalwart daughters of the Bahamian soil. With Eldece Clarke, Chandra Sturrup, Savatheda Fynes and Debbie Ferguson, a unit was formed that became known as the Original Golden Girls. Davis-Thompson and her mates revolutionize world relay sprinting.
From a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States, the Golden Girls rose to being the best in the world, and one of the greatest examples of ultra sprinting in the sport’s history. Davis-Thompson and company won the 1999 IAAF World Championships gold medal in the sprint relay, in Seville, Spain.
The next year, the Golden Girls won the Olympic gold in Sydney, Australia. At that same 2000 competition on the world’s greatest of sports stages, Davis-Thompson won the 200 meters gold medal. She thus accomplished another Bahamian first. The effort in Sydney produced the first ever, individual Olympic gold medal for a Bahamian, male or female.
That’s yet another reason why she presides over such a special place in Bahamian history.
Her medals will always be significant to the nation and her legacy, but it was equally as much, the terrific role she played as the forerunner to female track and field greatness that sets her apart from peers in The Bahamas and many in the wider Caribbean region. She was the advanced superstar of female track and field in her Bahamaland.
When Davis-Thompson is referred to with devotion as a ‘Grand Lady of World Track and Field’, it has as much to do with the elegant demeanor of Pauline Davis-Thompson, as with the splendid contributions of those Bain Town legs, turning over and over in a dynamic and pure sprint cycle. She is indeed a grand lady who has brought so much pride and honor to her country, that another title is most deserving.
Yes, it is quite thinkable that at some point in the future she will be respectfully referred to as Dame Pauline Davis-Thompson.
• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.