By the time next year’s Olympics rolls around, Bahamian legend Chris “The Fireman” Brown will be three months shy of his 43rd birthday. Still, he isn’t letting that prevent him from competing in what would be a record sixth Olympic Games for Bahamian track and field athletes. Laverne Eve, Pauline Davis-Thompson, Chandra Sturrup and Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie have all competed in five. Sir Durward Knowles has the overall record for Bahamians, having competed in eight Olympics.
With the postponement of the games by a year due to the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown said this actually works in his favor, giving him more time to prepare for the world’s largest multi-sport spectacle.
Brown may just be the longest-active runner in the men’s 400 meters (m) in world history. He has had an illustrious career, winning gold, silver and two bronze in the men’s 4x400m at the Olympics; gold, two silver and a bronze in the 4x400m at the outdoor world championships, and a relay silver at the world indoors to go along with many other regional and international medals. In the open 400m, he is the most decorated man ever at the world indoors with a gold, a silver and three bronze. He also has a slew of fourth place appearances at the Olympics and the world championships.
Brown was the national record holder in the men’s 400m for eight years, until Steven Gardiner ran 44.27 seconds at the 2015 Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) National Championships. Since then, he has taken that time down to 43.48 seconds, done for the gold at last year’s Doha World Championships.
As for Brown, he’s seen the decline of The Bahamas’ men’s 4x400m relay team in recent times, and he wants to assist wherever possible. The Olympic Games is now set for July 23 to August 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.
“Well, it doesn’t affect me, to be quite honest. I still feel like I’ll be able to put down a fast time. I’m taking it as it being another year for me to prepare mentally and physically,” said Brown yesterday. “I feel confident that I could do what I need to do to get another Olympic experience under my belt and if it isn’t to be, then I’ll just sum it up as it’s my time to step away. Whatever God has in store for me, I will accept. I’m just taking it day by day right now.”
At the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brown anchored The Bahamas’ team to a bronze medal behind the United States and Jamaica. It was his fourth relay medal at the Olympics, highlighted by a gold from the ‘Golden Knights’ in London, England, in 2012.
Brown said he just wants to be that beacon of hope for the next generation, letting them know that anything is possible, once they work hard to achieve their dreams.
“I think it will motivate them (next generation) a whole lot,” said Brown. “They are used to seeing my face and hearing my voice and I believe that I have an ability to get the best out of my teammates. My presence could do a whole lot for the success of the team, so Bahamians could definitely look forward to seeing me one more time on the track. I believe that I have one more good relay split in me. I wouldn’t be focused on the 400 – I’ve already done what I can in the open 400 meters. It’s just about helping out in the relay, right now. I just want to help my teammates to be the best that they could be. There has been a lack of 400 meters running on the men’s side, as far as the relay is concerned, and I want to be able to contribute what I can. The goal is to continue to grow, represent The Bahamas as best as I can.”
The novel coronavirus, that is infecting the world and crippling economies, has certainly taken effect on Brown’s athletics program at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia. Brown is in his first year as head coach of the program and was already making strides. Under his guidance, a number of athletes ran personal best times and set school records and the Clayton State Lakers women’s team won their first meet in school history, taking the overall title at the Tiger Indoor Invitational in Sewanee, Tennessee, at the beginning of February.
The outdoor season was cut short as COVID-19 swooped in.
“Well, the semester is completed for us, as far as track and field is concerned. It’s disappointing, particularly for the seniors, because they would have worked so hard this year. We had about five seniors and they were looking forward to the outdoor season – looking forward to qualifying for big meets and putting down some good times. The freshmen were doing so much and the others were coming along as well. They just have to be hungrier next season. They realize, now, that nothing is to be taken for granted. You could be here today and gone tomorrow. You just have to grasp every opportunity that comes your way and run with it.”
At this time, there’s no telling what’s to come for the remainder of 2020. The indoor season usually gets underway in December, and Brown is hopeful that everyday life will return to a state of normalcy by that time. Already, some schools in the United States are making plans to continue online courses and academic programs straight into the 2020 Fall Semester.
“We’re hoping that we will be able to start on time for next year,” said Brown. “In the fall is where all the hard work starts and the foundation from then. Hopefully, this pandemic is behind us soon and will be able to continue with life as usual. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Right now, they’re just focusing on their academics because there is no training going on. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board in the fall, but with preparation and hard work, I’m confident that we will able to set new goals and achieve them.”
Brown took over the athletics program at Clayton State this season following the promotion of long-time head coach Mike Mead to Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities and Alumni Engagement. The Lakers compete out of the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II athletics.
“I’m continuing to do what I love to do and I want to thank Clayton State for giving me the opportunity to come in here and show what I could do,” said Brown. “I’m learning and growing in certain areas and just trying to make an impact in this step of my journey in athletics and just continue to impact lives. Here, at Clayton State, I have some big plans and we’re looking forward to a great future.”
Brown said that their goal at Clayton State is to recruit the best athletes as possible and achieve the desired results. He is among a fraternity of Bahamian head athletic coaches in American colleges and universities in the United States. Rolando “Lonnie” Greene is the head athletics coach at the University of Kentucky, Norbert Elliott took over for Greene at Purdue University and Nyles Stuart is the head athletics coach for the Life University Running Eagles, just to name a few.
During this time, when the ever-growing coronavirus pandemic is threatening the livelihood of people everywhere, Brown is encouraging Bahamians to trust the process and believe in God.
“This is the time for us to strengthen our faith in God,” he said. “He will make a way for us to get though this. I plead with Bahamians to stay at home, and if you have to go out, please do so with caution and protect yourselves and your families. We have to continue to pray and continue to love our families. Bahamians are strong and we will get through this. We just have to trust God. What is meant to be will be.”
As far as the young athletes are concerned, he encourages them to stay motivated as best as they could and to not give up on their dreams and aspirations.
There are over 1,300,000 cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide, and almost 75,000 have died.