With all that is going on in the world of sports, in this case athletics, national representative for Bahamian athletes Jeffery Gibson said, collectively, they are just taking everything in stride and waiting out the pandemic. The athletes rep in the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) said that is all they could do at this particular time.
He said that the postponement of the Olympic Games could be a blessing as well as a setback, but added that there is nothing they could do about it at this time.
Leading into the Olympics, six Bahamians had qualified, all in athletics. Gibson said the one-year postponement would give more Bahamian athletes the opportunity to qualify. On the flip side, he said a number of athletes have been adjusting their workout programs and developing their bodies, so as to peak in time for this summer. It’s a challenge to refocus, but one, he said, they are willing to take on, given the circumstances.
COVID-19 has struck the sports world hard, posting and canceling global championships and qualifying events worldwide.
“A quote from former Australian hurdler Sally Pearson is ‘athletes don’t just train for four years for the Olympics… they dedicate their lives in the hope that one day they live out their dreams of being an Olympian’. After having trained and worked for four years, waiting one more year won’t be too much if it’s about the safety of the athletes and spectators,” said Gibson. “Despite the challenges of COVID-19, many athletes are excited to get back to training and some semblance of normalcy after having been under curfew or stay at home orders. I’ve spoken with a few who are still training and looking forward to salvaging the rest of the season seeing that World Athletics has continued with the newly named Wanda Diamond League. A few others have set their sights on next year, as a result of them being thrown off track.”
World medalist Gibson, who lives and trains out of Raleigh, North Carolina, said it has been a personal challenge to him to serve as the athletes rep while also maintaining fitness as an active athlete himself, but he said he is up to the task, ensuring that the athletes are well represented, while keeping up with his training himself. He has served as athletes rep for the past year.
“It certainly is a very demanding job, requiring a lot of follow-ups with the athletes. I commend the representatives before me for having held this position and the work that they have done,” said Gibson. “The biggest fiasco that I’ve had to deal with was the issue of the subvented athletes not being paid for the three months last year after the ministry’s revision of their budget. A lot of athletes were gravely affected by that stretch of time with training and therapy.”
Subvention remains an ongoing issue with a number of athletes with some claiming not to be paid on time and others claiming not to be paid what they’re worth and what they have earned, based on the requirements put in place by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. With the Olympics being postponed to 2021, Gibson is hoping that is one of the issues that is settled leading into the grandest meet of them all. The Games of the 32nd Olympiad are now set for July 23 to August 8, 2021, still in Tokyo, Japan.
Back here in The Bahamas, the country is now into phase three of the reopening of the economy plan, put in place by the Government of The Bahamas to return the country to a state of normalcy. For now, elite, collegiate and professional athletes are allowed to train at national facilities, once social distancing and safety guidelines are in place.
“For many, training has been hard or non-existent,” said Gibson. “College athletes have had their whole outdoor seasons canceled and had to return home with the closing of their schools. Those athletes would have been poised to finish their senior years of college having achieved great feats. Thankfully, they will be given back their year of eligibility by the NCAA and the other various collegiate bodies. It’s a challenge, but for the most part, we’re prepared.”
In addition to granting graduating seniors an additional year of eligibility, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has made it easier for freshmen to be accepted to accredited division one schools. Potential incoming student-athletes are asked to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center to ensure they stay on track to meet initial eligibility standards.
In the meantime, a number of Bahamian collegians are home in The Bahamas because of the closure of their schools and campuses in the United States, due to the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic. They remain hopeful that collegiate sports will be back on tap by the fall semester of 2020.