While releasing its official report on their first six months in office, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) also took time out yesterday to brief the media on the Steven Gardiner controversy at the world relays and the reported tension between themselves and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.
As it relates to the latter, BAAA President Drumeco Archer said that it remains a work in progress. At the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relay Championships, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Lanisha Rolle didn’t go through the national federation for the sport for accreditation, and reportedly met with IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe without notifying a member of the national federation. Also, there was apparent interference with the business of the BAAA via a telephone call. Whilst none of these are forbidden, they are said to be against proper protocol and expectations.
“We are all about changing the profile of this organization,” said Archer. “It would be unfair to say that we have a bad relationship with the ministry. We have been unable to clearly establish a relationship with the ministry to the extent where the level of expectations are clear. I believe that the minister is trying to understand the dynamics of the sporting environment and I believe that we will be able to speak with her and achieve our objectives.”
After spending more than $70,000 on sending two teams to the world relays – none of which made the finals, Archer said that they are in the red in terms of the funds that are available to them, and they still have four more teams to send off to international competitions. At the beginning of the year, they estimated a budget of $850,000 to effectively run the national program – an amount that poses a serious challenge to the executives of the BAAA.
“If we want to grow as an entity, we need more money,” said Archer. “We want to be able to engage a wide group of people in providing funding for the federation. Without that support, it would be very difficult for us to deliver to the level that is expected. One of the challenges that we have because of limited funding is our connection with our elite athletes. There is no obligation for them to compete at the nationals other than them qualifying for international meets and ensuring that their shoe contracts continue to provide a living for themselves. There is very little that we could give back to them.
“It is truly an expensive undertaking for us. We do not have the resources to live up to the expectations of an elite athlete program. We have been raising our own money with a view of underwriting expenses, but we have to make an aggressive appeal to our corporate partners and we are appealing to others as well.”
As it relates to Gardiner, an Achilles tendon injury forced him out of the men’s 4×400 meters (m) relay at the world relays in Yokohama, Japan, and it was reported that by the time the injury was discovered, it was too late for team officials to find a replacement. In the other relay that The Bahamas was entered into, the men’s 4x200m relay, the team dropped the stick in the final and was disqualified.
“At the athletes meeting that Friday, all seemed well,” said Archer who was in Yokohama for the event – the first world relays to be held outside of The Bahamas. “We had a conversation with Steven after noticing that there was kinesiology tape on his Achilles. He said at that time that he was feeling some level of discomfort and that he was receiving therapy. We took a decision to monitor the progress of Steven Gardiner and make a game time decision. I was advised that Mr. Gardiner indicated that he could not ago after 6 o’ clock, and by that time, it was too late.”
In the face of damning criticism by the team manager as leaked through the media, relay coordinator Rupert Gardiner said that it was a just an unfortunate situation where an elite athlete got injured and the replacements also couldn’t run. He said that he will not refute what the team manager said, but instead will hand in his own report and let the federation handle the matter from there.
“What happened is that Steven warmed up twice – a pre-competition warm-up and a competition warm-up. It wasn’t until his competition warm-up that he decided that he couldn’t go,” said Rupert Gardiner. “I wasn’t aware of the time at that particular time, but I wouldn’t say that the time expired because they actually granted the leverage to replace him. It’s just that Stephen Newbold couldn’t go because he had a workout that morning for the 4×200 and Teray went down, so we really didn’t have that depth. That was the two alternates right there.”
Be that as it may, Team Bahamas will have another opportunity to record a qualifying time for the world championships at the relay invitational that is being organized by the BAAA as a part of the national championships. The BAAA National Open Championships is set for July 26-28 at the Grand Bahama Sports Complex in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The relay invitational will be held on Sunday July 28. Meanwhile, the 17th IAAF World Championships will be held September 27 to October 6, at the renovated multi-purpose Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
Archer said that the process to get to that point has been challenging so far. The new executive team with Archer as president has only been in office for six months.
“This year began with the odd distance meet, and one of the things that we wanted to do was to interact with the fans as much as possible and we did that through the battle of the DJs (Disc Jockeys). The fans really felt it and it was hoped that, that could continue to be the trend moving forward. Also, we wanted to begin a re-branding of the federation in such a way that would become more appealing to our corporate partners,” said Archer. “We introduce the ‘Be My Running Partner Initiative’ in which we extended ourselves to the wide reach of Corporate Bahamas with a view of having partnerships that are reciprocating relationships – how to grow their brand and simultaneously grow the brand of the federation.
“The BAAA also made significant changes in the way we deliver our programs. We set new criteria for coaching and qualification, and that was evident in the qualification for the CARIFTA Games. New standards were set in place and we only took qualifiers to CARIFTA. The Caribbean saw the results, stating that The Bahamas has showed up in a big way – greater than we have in a very long time, and there is better to come.
“There is a mandate for coaches to become certified at every level. We will stage a USA Track and Field Level II course in Nassau that will be available to all physical education teachers in The Bahamas. Also, we will identify specialist coaches to come to The Bahamas to train some of our athletes, and that will be a part of a national development program. There will be elite coaches training their athletes here in The Bahamas in the offseason, and in exchange, those coaches will share their expertise with some of our junior athletes. It’s a win-win situation for both parties.”
Archer said that they will end the year with the BAAA Masquerade Race Weekend – an event on November 9-10 that will feature a 10-kilometer race and a half marathon relay, and culminate with a major concert.
“The intention is to create an environment that creates an opportunity to bring people closer to the sport,” said Archer. “It’s going to be a festive event that is expected to bring the community of track and field closer together.”
The Masquerade Race Weekend is expected to be the final local competition on the BAAA calendar for 2019.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting