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Gold for Thomas at CAC Games

Eight years after Donald Thomas won his first Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC) Games title, he is on top at the quadrennial meet once again, proving that he is still a major force in the men’s high jump regionally and globally.

The former World Champion, Commonwealth Champion and Pan American Games Champion is now a two-time CAC Games Champion. He cleared 2.28 meters (m) – 7’ 5-3/4” – on his first attempt to claim gold inside the Rafael Cotes Athletics Stadium at the 23rd Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Barranquilla, Colombia, on Wednesday.

Javier Yanez Ruiz, of Venezuela, also cleared 2.28m on his first attempt, but had two knockdowns earlier in the competition and had to settle for second. Thomas was clean up until 2.30m (7’ 6-1/2”). He knocked down the bar once at 2.30m and then twice at 2.33m (7’ 7-3/4”), but was already assured of the gold. The 2.28m mark equaled a season’s best for Ruiz.

Two other jumpers cleared 2.28m, but had to settle for third and fourth based on number of knockdowns. Former CARIFTA standout Jermaine Francis, of St. Kitts and Nevis, won the bronze medal with his personal best clearance of 2.28m; and Puerto Rican Luis Castro Rivera cleared that height which was a season’s best for him, but had to settle for fourth.

The other Bahamian in the field, Jamal Wilson, finished fifth as he only managed to clear 2.24m (7’ 4”). He passed at 2.26m (7’ 5”), knocked the bar down once at 2.28m before passing at that height, and then had two failures at 2.30m to end his competition.

After missing the CAC Games four years ago in Veracruz, Mexico, Thomas returned to the spotlight by winning his second gold medal at the regional meet this year. He was also CAC Champion in 2010 when the games were held in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

The Bahamas wasn’t done in the athletics portion of the games as yet, as Alonzo Russell got on the track in the men’s 400m final. Running out of the center of the track in lane five last night, Russell ran 46.18 seconds to finish sixth.

Luguelin Santos, of the Dominican Republic, won the gold medal with a season’s best time of 44.59 seconds, Alberto Lescay Pardo, of Cuba, secured the silver with a season’s best time of 45.38 seconds, and Nery Brenes, of Costa Rica, won the bronze, in 45.61 seconds.

Russell won his semifinal heat on Monday in 46.49 seconds and qualified for the final with the sixth-fastest time.

In the women’s team competition in tennis at the Parque Distrital de Raquetas, The Bahamas suffered a 2-0 loss to host country Colombia in the semifinals, and will now play Guatemala for the bronze today.

Simone Pratt was blanked in the first match against Maria Osorio, losing 6-love and love in just 45 minutes. Kerrie Cartwright gave it quite a ride in the second match but came up short in three sets. She fell to Maria F. Herazo 6-2, 4-6 and 6-2. The doubles match was not played because Colombia had already clinched the win.

The Bahamas will play Guatemala for the bronze in the Women’s National Cup in team tennis today.

Just like men’s softball, the men’s basketball team also made sure that they didn’t leave Colombia without a win. They got a semblance of revenge against the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) for two losses during the 2019 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Cup qualifying process, as they won 73-68 yesterday.

The Bahamas nearly blew a 13-point second half lead at the Coliseo Elias Chewing on Wednesday, but got some key baskets from Mark St. Fort, Shavano Cooper and Kentwan Smith to preserve the victory. They will now move on to play Mexico in the fifth and sixth place game today.

St. Fort was huge, pumping in a game-high 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting. He added four rebounds and two blocked shots. Cooper had a strong all-around game with 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Smith had a huge double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. All three players finished 2-for-5 from behind the three-point arc for The Bahamas.

Angel Rivera-Cuencas paced the USVI with 15 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals. Jamaal Samuel had 14 points and seven rebounds, and Amir Nesbitt contributed 13 points and four rebounds.

The Bahamas was in control for most of the game, building as much as a 13-point lead in the third quarter, but the USVI battled all the way back, taking the lead on a few occasions. However, every time the USVI pulled close or surged ahead, either Cooper, St. Fort or Smith would have an answer.

When the USVI pulled even at 51 with 33 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Copper buried a three-point shot to give The Bahamas a 54-51 lead going into the final period.

St. Fort had a basket to tie the game at 56 with 8:23 to go in the fourth, and moments later, Cooper buried another three-point shot to give The Bahamas a 59-56 lead with 7:53 remaining. The margin stayed within four points up until the final minute of the game.

The USVI took a 66-65 lead on a basket by Jahmiah Simmons with 1:20 remaining, but St. Fort got the lead right back for The Bahamas, burying a three-point shot with just 59 seconds remaining. A basket by Smith, two free shots from Eugene Bain and another free shot from St. Fort sealed the win for The Bahamas.

The Bahamas shot 37 percent (26-for-71) from the field for the game compared to just 28 percent (23-for-82) for the USVI. Led by St. Fort, Cooper and Smith, The Bahamas also shot the ball better from three-point land. They went 6-for-20 for the game (30 percent) compared to 6-for-30 (20 percent) for the USVI.

The Bahamas led 17-16 after the first quarter and 39-32 at the half. The USVI battled all the way back from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter, but The Bahamas still took a 54-51 lead into the fourth. They persevered down the stretch to pick up their first win of the CAC Games. The USVI finished with a winless 0-3 record.

The Bahamas has ended its competition in swimming, sailing, boxing, fencing, men’s softball and judo. The women’s tennis team will play for the bronze in the team competition today, the men’s basketball team will play Mexico in the fifth and sixth place game today, and athletics will wrap up the competition for The Bahamas this evening with the men’s triple jump final and the men’s 4x400m relay final on the schedule. Kaiwan Culmer will compete for The Bahamas in the men’s triple jump final.

The Bahamas now has seven medals at the 23rd CAC Games, and has leapfrogged Panama into 10th place. The country now has four gold medals, two silver and one bronze. Joanna Evans has five of those seven medals – three gold in the women’s 200, 400 and 800m free events, and two silver in the 100m free and 400m Individual Medley (IM) events. Thomas has a gold in the men’s high jump in athletics, and Margaret Albury Higgs has the other medal for The Bahamas – a bronze in the women’s 200m breast.

Mexico still leads the way, now with 296 total medals – 120 gold, 100 silver and 76 bronze. Cuba is second with 204 total medals – 80 gold, 64 silver and 60 bronze; and host country Colombia rounds out the top three with 228 total medals – 64 gold, 80 silver and 84 bronze.

Jamaica has leapfrogged Trinidad & Tobago and is the top English-speaking Caribbean country. They are two spots ahead of The Bahamas, in eighth, with 22 total medals – 10 gold, three silver and nine bronze. Trinidad & Tobago is ninth with 27 total medals – eight gold, six silver and 13 bronze.

The order of finish at the CAC Games in the medal standings is based on the quality of the medals.

The 23rd CAC Games continues today and wraps up on Friday in Barranquilla, Colombia. However, competition for The Bahamas ends today.

Sports Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting
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