A pair of global athletic champions, one from the Olympics and the other from the world championships, were named as The Nassau Guardian’s Athletes of the Decade for 2010-2019.
The Bahamas has watched both Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Steven Gardiner grow from blossoming young teenagers to sports superstars this past decade, seemingly overnight. Miller-Uibo was a unanimous selection while Gardiner prevailed by one point over National Basketball Association (NBA) star guard with the Sacramento Kings Chavano “Buddy” Hield. Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Jonquel Jones was second among the women.
In the case of Miller-Uibo, she started the decade off as a world youth champion and ended it as the consensus number one 200-400 meters (m) female runner in the world today. In the latter, she achieved CARIFTA, World Youth, Diamond League and Olympic glory this past decade, winning at each level. In the 200m, she won a Commonwealth Games title, and is the three-time International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League Champion.
The only title that continues to elude her is a world title, but at just 25-years-old, it is anticipated that she has the bulk of her senior career ahead of her and will be in the running for many years to come. Miller-Uibo is set to defend her Olympic title in the women’s 400m in Tokyo, Japan, this summer.
Miller-Uibo’s personal best national record times of 21.74 seconds in the 200m and 48.37 seconds in the 400m has her listed as tied for 11th and sixth in the history of world athletics respectively. Her time in the 400m is also a North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) record, listing her as the only outdoor area record in The Bahamas today.
Miller-Uibo had a two year unbeaten streak, in all of her events, snapped at the Doha World Championships in 2019 when she crossed the finish line in second place in the women’s 400m. This year, she intends to continue her progression, looking to possibly run the double (200 and 400m) at the Tokyo Olympics Games.
Gardiner’s rise to the top of the charts gives The Bahamas a legitimate shot of multiple gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics. He was a relatively unknown athlete at the beginning of the decade, but around 2015, he began to make a name for himself and really never looked back. In one season, Gardiner erased more than three seconds off his personal best time and broke a long-standing national record in the men’s 400m.
He glided around the track in 44.27 seconds at the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) National Open Championships that year, easily breaking Chris Brown’s national record of 44.40 seconds. A couple of years later, Gardiner became the first Bahamian to crack the 44-second barrier when he ran a stunning 43.89 seconds in the semifinals of the men’s 400m at the London World Championships. He went on to win the silver medal behind world record holder Wayde van Niekerk, of South Africa, in the final, and two years later, Gardiner became the sixth world champion in the history of the world outdoor athletics championships for The Bahamas, and the second Bahamian world champion in the men’s 400m outdoors.
He also blossomed in the 200m, recording a personal best national record setting run of 19.75 seconds in 2018. Gardiner’s national records of 19.75 and 43.48 seconds has him listed as tied for 17th and sixth respectively in the history of world athletics.
At the 17th IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, last year, Gardiner won by more than half of a second over second place finisher Anthony Zambrano of Colombia.
With both former World and current Olympic Champion van Niekerk and American Michael Norman expected to be back from injury, 24-year-old Gardiner will have his work cut out for him at this year’s Olympics, but the tall and talented sprinter from The Bahamas said he is looking forward to the challenge.
Professional basketball players Hield and Jones, both from Grand Bahama, finished second for The Nassau Guardian’s Athletes of the Decade honors, while quarter-miler Brown and swimmer Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace were third in their respective genders. NBA number one draftee in 2018 DeAndre Ayton was fourth among the men and swimmer Joanna Evans was fourth among the women. Boxer Tureano Johnson was fifth among the men and professional women’s basketball player Waltiea Rolle rounded out the top five for women.
Hield, 27, and Jones, 25, are a couple of young stars in the NBA and WNBA respectively, each making inroads and each breaking records. Hield set a franchise record for made three-pointers last season and had the seventh-most prolific single-season performance from downtown in NBA history. Jones is a two-time rebounding champion in the WNBA and has won both the league most improved and best sixth woman awards.
Brown, 41, who hinted on coming out of retirement for a run at the Olympics this year, is a former world indoor champion and a world and Olympic relay champion and the most decorated man ever at the world indoor championships. Vanderpool-Wallace, 29, is a retired multiple regional champion in swimming and is The Bahamas’ only medalist ever from the world short course championships in swimming and the country’s only Olympic finalist in swimming.
Ayton, 21, became just the second Bahamian to be drafted number one into the NBA and finished third in voting for the Kia NBA Rookie of the Year last season. Evans, 22, qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the 200, 400, and 800m freestyle events, setting national records in the 200 and 400m. She was 13th in the 400m free, finished 23rd in the 800m free and was 37th in the 200m free.
Johnson, 35, has won numerous internationals titles during his career including the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) Continental of Americas Middleweight Title, the WBC Silver Middleweight Title, the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) International Middleweight Title and the North American Boxing Federation’s (NABF) Middleweight Title. Rolle, 29, was the first Bahamian woman to be drafted into the WNBA and has been playing professionally for the past seven seasons. She made a name for herself in basketball playing collegiately for the University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels where she was one of the more elite defensive stoppers in women’s college basketball in the United States, leading to her being drafted 36th overall by the Minnesota Lynx in 2013.
The full breakdown of points for male and female athletes of the decade in The Bahamas as voted on by The Nassau Guardian’s sports team is listed with this article.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting