In the face of ongoing criticism regarding subvention for athletes, national celebrations and even the government’s remuneration program, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis assured yesterday that his government is truly committed and supportive of sports in the country.
During a courtesy call on the prime minister by Bahamian Olympic and Diamond League Champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Minnis said that while they must face a sad reality of the country’s finances, increased funding for sports is something that he would like to see accomplished.
This year, Miller-Uibo completed an undefeated season in which she finished a perfect 18-0 in all of her events, including nine victories in the women’s 200 meters (m); three victories in the 400m including a blazing word-leading 48.97 seconds national record-setting run; tying the world best mark in the 300m indoors; setting a new world best mark in the 150m straight; winning the high jump and shot put events at the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ (BAAA) National Open Championships; and being a part of two gold medal-winning relay teams at the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018.
It was arguably the single greatest year ever by a Bahamian in athletics.
“The government is truly committed to sports,” said the prime minister yesterday. “Sports is very important because not only does it enhance discipline, but it also enhances leadership. In our society, discipline is one of the important things that you need and from that comes great leaders. To be a successful athlete, you have to be very disciplined, focused and determined, and here we have an individual who displays that.”
Currently, the top tier of subvention is at $34,000 per annum. Upon attainment of an Olympic or world championships medal, an athlete is eligible to receive at least $26,400 per annum, as described by the Sports Policy that was put in place by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. The developmental stage is at $19,600 per annum. The subvention program was created primarily to assist athletes with training, payment for coaches and purchasing supplements. However, there has been a lot of question marks surrounding allocation, what is being handed out, and who is being paid, in recent times. Also, there was a recent two-month delay in payment of subvention, which the ministry said was an unfortunate circumstance due to a ministerial change at the top.
“Unfortunately, we are not as wealthy as the United States and China and Russia and Japan but we will do what we can in what we offer our athletes,” said the prime minister yesterday. “I would hope that we could do more. The Bahamian people must understand that we spend millions of dollars on tourism to market The Bahamas. Individuals like Shaunae and others are exposing The Bahamas to millions and billions of people. That in itself is 10-20 times more than the tourism budget.
“When we offer them various concessions, the Bahamian public must understand that is miniscule compared to the billions of dollars that is being spent indirectly in marketing The Bahamas. They deserve more and I will push for more, especially for those who have accomplished Olympic success and won Olympic medals, and I think the Bahamian people understand that.”
Miller-Uibo, who has been making the rounds since arriving home last Thursday, said that she was extremely pleased with the season she had. Her two main goals were to repeat as International Association of Athletic Federations’ (IAAF) Diamond Champion in either the 200 or 400m, which she did, and also to run under 49 seconds in the 400m, which she also did.
Miller-Uibo is the world leader in the women’s 400m and won her second consecutive Diamond League title in the women’s 200m this year, and third Diamond League title in total.
“It has truly been an honor to represent The Bahamas and I will continue to do so and fight for the younger generation that is coming up behind me,” she said. Miller-Uibo added that she felt the entire nation behind her while representing The Bahamas at the many meets she participated in around the world this year, and is ecstatic with the season she had. She’s hoping to duplicate her success leading into the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, next year.
“I’m really happy with it (the 2018 season) and can’t wait to see what’s to come next, but in Tokyo, the intention is to go after both (running the 200 and 400m), and hopefully I could bring home two gold medals.”
Miller-Uibo’s husband, Maicel Uibo of Estonia, said that he feels welcomed whenever he comes to The Bahamas, and always enjoys his stay.
“This is a true home away from home whenever I’m here in The Bahamas,” he said. “I could feel the love and that really makes me feel appreciated.”
Speaking on behalf of himself and his wife, Shaunae’s mother Maybeline Miller, Miller-Uibo’s father Shaun Miller revealed that it was actually Prime Minister Minnis who delivered Shaunae while engaged in his private practice as an obstetrician and gynecologist, and added that they are looking forward to continued success from Shaunae.
“We give God thanks for Shaunae, not only for us as parents, but he gave the Bahamian people a gift, and for that we are very thankful,” he said.
Miller-Uibo visited the Cabinet of The Bahamas after leaving the Office of the Prime Minister, and is scheduled to make more public appearances this week. She leaves for Orlando, Florida, on Sunday.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting