Sunday, Nov 17, 2019
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Sands wins NACAC presidency

It was an ideal birthday gift for man who has dedicated most of his life to track and field!

Mike Sands has gone where no Bahamian has gone before, as he was elected to the top position of one of the most prestigious and powerful athletic organizations in the world – the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC), a day after his 66th birthday. As NACAC president, Sands automatically becomes a council member of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) – the world’s governing body for athletics.

In voting in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico, yesterday, Sands won over four other highly qualified candidates from this region – Alain Jean Pierre from Haiti, Claudia Perez of Mexico, Ephraim Serrette from Trinidad & Tobago and Dr. Warren Blake of Jamaica.

All 31 delegates, representing the 31 member bodies of NACAC, casted votes. In the first round of voting, Sands secured 10 votes, Pierre had eight, Perez obtained seven, Serrette got four and Blake had two. After Serrette and Blake dropped out in the second round of voting, it was imperative for Sands to get the support that was thrown behind them. A couple delegates also withdrew their support of Perez, meaning eight votes were up for grabs between Sands and Pierre.

Sands needed to secure four of those eight votes to win the presidency, and he did just that in one of the closest electoral presidential races in NACAC history. In the end, Sands won with 14 votes and Pierre obtained 12. Perez was a distant third with five votes. Catherine Jordan of Barbados will serve as vice president, and Stephanie Hightower of the United States was voted in as treasurer. Cydonie Mothersill of the Cayman Islands, Calixto Sierra of Honduras, Evelyn Farrell of Aruba and Howard Cornelius of Antigua & Barbuda were voted in as members at large. The new board will serve for the next four years.

“I am pleasantly surprised,” said Sands. “Obviously, I’m happy with the results, particularly based on the fact that through the entire region I was able to get through the first round leading the vote count and also win the second round. I’m humbled by the confidence that is displayed in me in the next four years. Thanks to everyone for the well wishes. Also, a very special thanks to President Drumeco Archer and the BAAA (Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations) for the confidence displayed in me by advancing my nomination. For this I will forever be grateful.

“I just want to take this time to dedicate this victory to my mentor and friend the late Dr. Bernard Nottage, who encouraged me early in my administrative career to stay focused and be determined to make a contribution. It was through his support and guidance that I was able to persevere and I dedicate this victory to him. Right now, I’m just prepared to get to work. The work has just begun,” he added.

More than 50 percent of the new executive board are women. Sands said that bodes well for gender equality and the way forward.

“World Athletics has been pushing gender equality, and this is a step in that direction,” said Sands. “They are all capable of doing the work and I welcome them aboard. The female component and what they bring to the table is welcomed, and something that I look forward to. Initially, it’s going to be a transitional period for us, something that will probably take off after the Doha World Championships. In the meantime, there will be a lot of discussions and we’ll be receiving a lot of assistance from the outgoing president and the outgoing executive board. We expect that process to go smoothly.”

The 17th IAAF World Championships is set for September 27 to October 6, at the renovated multi-purpose Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.

Sands has been involved in track and field for over half of a century, either as an athlete, an enthusiast or an administrator. As an athlete, he represented The Bahamas twice at the Olympics (1972 in Munich, West Germany; and 1976 in Montreal, Canada) and is the only individual to hold all three Bahamian men sprint records outdoors at the same time – the men’s 100 meters (m), the 200m and the 400m.

Sands was the first ever gold medallist for The Bahamas at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Championships, winning the title in the men’s 400m in 1975 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He also won a bronze medal in the men’s 200m at the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City, Mexico.

In college, he accumulated a number of All-American honors for the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Following his retirement from sprinting in 1981, Sands moved into the administrative sphere of the sport. He started out as public relations officer for the former Bahamas Amateur Athletic Association, now Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA). Sands eventually ascended to the position of BAAA President where he served two consecutive terms. Sands also served as a vice president of the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) and as a vice president of NACAC.

Sands was forced to step down as a vice president of NACAC in 2015 after Pauline Davis-Thompson ascended to the office of IAAF Council member, as two persons from the same jurisdiction cannot sit on the NACAC board at the same time. Davis-Thompson’s position as IAAF Council member automatically gives her a position on the NACAC board. With the Bahamian legendary athlete having served for 12 years on the IAAF Council, the executive board of the BAAA decided to approve the application for the NACAC presidency of Sands.

“Pauline has served the country well and I wish her well in her future endeavors,” said Sands. “She is one of the longest-serving members of the IAAF board, and has done a lot of work, at the local, regional and world level. She is to be respected for that. As far as the BAAA and business here at home is concerned, I have a wider scope that I have to deal with and I have to treat all the member federations of NACAC with impartiality. Any issue that the BAAA is dealing with has to come from that administration. If they are experiencing some issues, and it is brought to the NACAC office, then it is my responsibility to assist as with any other federation in this region.”

Sands is now the first Bahamian to represent the country at the regional level as NACAC president. He succeeds Victor Lopez of Puerto Rico who announced last year that he would be stepping down following the conclusion of the current term, at that time, in office. Lopez assumed the presidency of NACAC in 2013, succeeding the late Neville “Teddy” McCook of Jamaica – the only other NACAC president from the English-speaking Caribbean. Sands said there are immediate plans to re-locate the NACAC office from Puerto Rico to The Bahamas, but added that that is something that could be looked into.

The successful election of Sands comes three days before the start of the NACAC Under-18 (U18) and Under-23 (U23) Championships in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico. The Bahamas is represented by a 19-member team at those championships.

In congratulating Sands, BAAA President Drumeco Archer said the latin expression “Veni, Vidi, Vinci”, translated to “I came, I saw, I conquered”, best describes Sands’ thrilling victory.

“This is a very happy day for the region and an even happier day for The Bahamas,” said Archer. “This gives cause for a heartfelt congratulations on behalf of the federation and the people of The Bahamas. May he continue to do the work of the country and more importantly, the work of the entire region. We wish him well today and in the years to come.”

BOC President Romell Knowles said: “Congratulations Mike. Today is a historic day. Our very own Mike Sands comes into a fraternity of great sports administrators. I am very confident that Mike will do great work. It’s time that we set aside any differences and unite in solidarity to support the work that Mike is about to [do] in NACAC. I look forward to working closely with President Sands and I look forward to the many successes in regional track and field. Once again, on behalf of my colleagues in the Bahamas Olympic Committee, we are very proud of Mike Sands and the BAAA. It shows that if you are united in solidarity, the sky is the limit. What a glorious day! Congratulations.”

Of the six regional area associations of the IAAF, NACAC is arguably the most prolific athletic community, usually generating the largest medal count at both the world championships and the Olympic Games. Sands would directly oversee athletics in the North American, Central American and Caribbean region, encompassing large countries and athletic giants such as the United States, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, just to name a few. Sands would also secure tremendous influence for The Bahamas at the regional and international levels.

Sheldon Longley

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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