Olympics one year out…again!
If not for the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the world’s best athletes would be at the Olympics right now.
This is the time when they would have gathered in Japan’s capital city of Tokyo for the grandest sports spectacle in the world, but that was before COVID-19 hit, forcing a stoppage of sports across the globe.
As a result, the Summer Olympics Games is set for an odd year for the first time in its 124-year history – postponed to July 23 to August 8, 2021, still in Tokyo. The training schedules for thousands of athletes have been disrupted, and additionally, training venues and facilities were closed for a significant period of time. A number of those places have since opened, but now a second wave of the coronavirus is upon us.
For some athletes, this is an opportunity to get healthy and fine-tune their bodies for 2021. For others, it’s an opportunity lost as they get older and out of prime condition as the days and months go by.
For the most part, Bahamian athletes support the decision to postpone the Olympics, particularly given what is going in the world today with COVID-19. Even the qualifying period has been suspended, and as a result, The Bahamas finds itself in the same position it was in 12 months ago as no additional Bahamian athlete has qualified.
Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) President Romell Knowles said he feels confident that The Bahamas will be well represented at the Olympics and the chosen few will once again make a tiny nation of just under 400,000 people proud.
“I can tell you that our athletes are coping as best as they can with COVID-19 to prepare themselves for the Olympics. It’s been challenging with the protocols and restrictions that are in place but mentally I believe that our athletes are up to the task at hand,” said Knowles. “They are being responsible and taking care of themselves and have pride in the representation of our country. We are optimistic that they will perform at a very high level. They’re excited, motivated and they’re going to give it their all. We’re not challenging them to win medals, but rather to do the best that they can and if that lands them on the podium, then we’ll be excited for them and excited for the country. Once the all clear is given, hopefully a vaccine will be found for this coronavirus, putting everyone’s minds at ease, and I believe our athletes will rise to the occasion.”
So far, a total of six Bahamian athletes have qualified outright for the Tokyo Olympic Games – all in track and field. A couple of Bahamian female swimmers have achieved “B” cut qualifying times.
The track and field athletes who have qualified outright are Shaunae Miller-Uibo in both the women’s 200 and 400 meters (m), Steven Gardiner in the men’s 400m, Tynia Gaither in the women’s 100 and 200m, Samson Colebrooke in the men’s 100m, Pedrya Seymour in the women’s 100m hurdles and Jamal Wilson in the men’s high jump. Laura Morley and Joanna Evans have achieved “B” cut qualifying times in swimming in the 200m breast and 400m free events respectively. Miller-Uibo and Gardiner were fantastic this past weekend, the former with a pair of world leads in the 100 and 200m, and Gardiner with a sub-20 mark in the men’s 200m – the second-best time in the world this year.
Knowles said the Olympic movement in the country is doing what it can to get the best representation possible for The Bahamas in Tokyo, providing Olympic development grants and Olympic scholarships and facilitating national federations where possible.
COVID-19 has turned the world upside down, and this period continues to create setbacks in sports. World Athletics has suspended the qualifying period for track and field events for the Olympics until December 1, 2020, and the International Swimming Federation (FINA) has postponed or canceled all qualifying meets. It appears that those two disciplines will account for the bulk of Team Bahamas in Tokyo.
One Bahamian athlete who would have qualified if not for the suspension of the qualifying period is Anthonique Strachan. She won the women’s 200m at the Velocity Fest 2020 event in Kingston, Jamaica, in 22.72 seconds, this past weekend – her fastest time in five years. The qualifying time in that event for the Olympics is 22.80 seconds.
Knowles said there is nothing that can be done about the pandemic; it’s here and we just have to navigate around it in preparation for Tokyo. The BOC chief said he foresees no additional setbacks once the spread of the virus dies down and the world returns to a state of normalcy.
At the last Summer Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, The Bahamas was represented by a 26-member squad in three sporting disciplines – athletics, swimming and rowing. Miller-Uibo won gold in the women’s 400m, and the men’s 4x400m relay team of Alonzo Russell, Michael Mathieu, Steven Gardiner and Chris Brown, in that order, won a bronze medal.
Knowles remains confident that more Bahamian athletes will qualify for Tokyo, and at the end of the day, The Bahamas will have one of its better collective performances at the Olympics.