For Bahamian O’Neil Williams, although he’s making progress in distance running, it’s been a struggle for him in terms of receiving financial assistance to the point where he has even considered retirement.
The 36-year-old Bahamian distance runner still has the 2019 International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships and the 2020 Olympics on his radar. For him to realize those goals, returning to Iten, Kenya, to continue his training is a key element.
So far, he has been hampered in his progress, and remains here in Nassau, The Bahamas. At the end of 2017, Williams broke The Bahamas’ national record in the men’s marathon, and just recently, he turned in a couple of top two finishes at The Bahamas Half and Marathon Bahamas. He was first in The Bahamas Half, and finished second in the half marathon at Marathon Bahamas.
Williams has been training in Iten, Kenya, with some of the world’s best distance runners for the past seven years.
“It’s been really difficult trying to find sponsorship. I’m just thankful to Minister Dionisio D’Aguliar and some of my running partners, but in reality, I need assistance from the government. The majority of times when I go to Kenya I’m on a $4,000 budget and that’s for the whole year, so I only need about $5,000,” said Williams. “I have requested funding from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture but I am yet to get a response. When I broke the national record, I thought that would have given me the leverage that I needed to get some support. However, I’m still waiting on assistance.
“Training in Kenya is going well, but I can’t get into a competition because of the cost affiliated with it. I want to make it to the 2020 Olympics. That is still my focus, even though a financial shortfall would make anyone want to retire. I’m having a real challenge but going forward, I’m just hoping for the best,” he added.
Williams said that he has several races in mind that he wants to compete in this year, including the Hamburg Marathon in Hamburg, Germany, and a return to the Kaunas Marathon in Kaunas, Lithuania. He also wants to run in the Amsterdam Marathon at the end of the year, and hopefully qualify for the world championships as well.
“My health is fine… there is just this financial shortfall,” he said. “My mind is in the right place and I’m ready to make this team for the world championships. However, I’m having a real struggle, and it’s taking a toll on me. I’m still hopeful for the support because it would be a big achievement to make the world championships and the Olympic team and represent The Bahamas. I need help and I hope someone is able to come through for me – I just have to wait and see,” he added.
Despite owning a few national records for The Bahamas, including the men’s marathon, Williams is not listed on the government’s subvention program – a system funded by the Government of The Bahamas to provide financial assistance for top athletes to assist in their training. He feels that it is a slap in the face for distance running, and for what he was able to achieve.
“It would be ideal for the ministry to help me out so I could go over there (Kenya) and only worry about training and nothing else. I don’t just want the money, I need the money,” he said. “When I return, I want to go for a full year. I love distance running and want to go as far as I could in it. I want to represent the country in it,” he added.
The 17th IAAF World Championships is set for September 27 to October 6, in Doha, Qatar. The qualifying time for the 2019 worlds in the men’s marathon is 2:16. It’s usually around the same time for the Olympics.
Williams has a personal best national record time of 2:30:35 that he ran at the 35th Ameris Bank Jacksonville Marathon in Jacksonville, Florida, USA, at the end of 2017. That time erased Delroy Boothe’s 18-year national record of 2:34:47.
The Bahamian distance runner just delved into marathon running about two years ago. His long-term goal in distance running is to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, and retire thereafter.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting