Will Steven and Shaunae do the double in Doha?
When one looks at The Bahamas and the quality of its athletes, there are only two at this present time who could realistically win medals in both the 200 and 400 meters (m), and be significant members of the relay teams, at the world championships.
Both Steven Gardiner and Shaunae Miller-Uibo are quite capable of winning gold medals in both the 200 and 400m at the 17th International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships, which is set for September 27 to October 6, at the renovated multi-purpose Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar. However, the schedule favors just one.
Priority is given to athletes’ individual events over the relays at global meets, and understandably so given their shoe deals, and when one looks at the schedule, Gardiner is set up to go after the double, while Miller-Uibo is not. Miller-Uibo attempted it two years ago in London, England, but fell short with a third place finish in the women’s 200m and a fourth place finish in the 400m. She led the 400m until stumbling in the final 50 meters of the race and was passed by three runners, thereby settling for fourth.
Miller-Uibo earlier stated a desire to compete in both events again, but the schedule is not set up in her favor. The heats of the women’s 200 and 400m are on the same day – just an hour and 15 minutes apart – and the semifinals of the women’s 200 and 400m are on the same day – just 45 minutes apart.
Meanwhile, the only issue for Gardiner would be the heats of the men’s 400m and the final of the men’s 200m on the same day, but those two events are six hours and five minutes apart. He has already hinted toward going after the double in Doha. Both athletes have already qualified in both events, but of course would have to come home for the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) National Open Championships first. The nationals, which is mandatory for national team selection, is set for July 26-28 at the Grand Bahama Sports Complex in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
“It’s mandatory for the athletes to come to senior nationals, but there is very little that we could give them in return. These athletes have relationships with their sponsors and get huge returns through their shoe contracts,” said BAAA President Drumeco Archer during a press briefing on Tuesday. “At the end of the day, there is very little competitive reason why an elite athlete feels compelled to compete at the nationals. The value of their shoe contracts are significantly higher than the subvention than what they receive, so much so that the penalty of not participating at regular meets far understates the value of going somewhere else. With that, it’s very difficult for me to impose myself on an athlete when there is no compensation. Every professional athlete that we have is bound to their shoe contracts. The intangibles of what athletes do for the country… we couldn’t pay for that.”
As for the relays, only the mixed 4x400m relay conflicts with at least one of the individual events of Gardiner and Miller-Uibo. The heats of the men’s 200m and the final of the mixed 4x400m relay is on the same day – two hours and 30 minutes apart. Be that as it may, The Bahamas is yet to qualify in any relay, and with the top 10 spots in the men and women’s 4×100 and 4x400m events automatically going to the top 10 finishers from the world relays, as well as the top 12 spots in the mixed relay, spots are limited for Doha. There are just six spots remaining in the men and women’s 4×100 and 4x400m events, and four spots remaining in the mixed 4x400m relay, and they will go to the remaining top ranking teams according to the IAAF’s Rankings List.
With an eye on qualifying, after falling short at the world relays, the BAAA is organizing a relay invitational to be held on the final day of the national championships.
“We have a team of young, up-and-coming 400-meter runners. They have been training for this moment – to be a part of a formidable team,” said Archer. “Of course, the availability of the athletes for the relays would be brought into question during the world championships. It really goes back to the athlete and the economic value of their individual events. When an athlete runs in their individual events and gets a gold medal, their returns from their shoe contracts are at a premium. So, the obligation is a conflicting one. We have to be able to accommodate the athlete while still trying to make ourselves available for any one relay that we could show up well in. In the grand scheme of things, it probably would be a lot easier for us to go through the rounds of the men’s 4x400m than the mixed relay. It’s a decision that is made between the coach, the availability of the athletes in question and the national program.”
There is little doubt though, that with Gardiner and Miller-Uibo in the mix, The Bahamas would stand a better chance in the mixed 4x400m relay. They won the gold medal in that event at the 2017 IAAF World Relays with Gardiner leading off and Miller-Uibo running the second leg. Anthonique Strachan ran the third leg, and Michael Mathieu brought it home. The likelihood of finding two more world-class athletes to run with Gardiner and Miller-Uibo in the mixed 4x400m relay is greater than having three or four more men and women to make up the 4x400m relay pools.
Be that as it may, Archer is confident that The Bahamas will have good representation in a number of events in Doha. First of all, athletes would have to come home to the nationals and make the team. With that said, Archer said he expects this year’s nationals in Freeport, Grand Bahama, to be one of the most competitive ever.
All of the Bahamian elite athletes are expected to be home for the BAAA National Open Championships.