Athletes get back on the track

With a number of track and field athletes going through critical periods in their respective training regimens for the upcoming season, the competent authority has stepped forward and granted a specific request to open national training facilities albeit with certain safety measures and social distancing guidelines in place.

Both the original Thomas A. Robinson (TAR) Track and Field Stadium and the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium are open, as well as the 100 meters (m) straight-of-way situated on the outside of the old stadium. All were closed for extended periods of time due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in The Bahamas. They were briefly opened when the coronavirus cases started to decline, but in the face of an aggressive second wave of the virus, they were closed again.

Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ (BAAA) President Drumeco Archer said they are grateful for the special consideration for sports, specifically track and field. Athletes have already begun working out at the venues and the national track and field calendar commences as early as next month.

The first meet of the season, the BAAA Odd Distance Track and Field Meet, is set for Saturday December 19, at the national stadium.

“We are very pleased that the competent authority has seen fit to consider sports to be such a priority in the country right now. We are mindful of the danger of COVID-19 and the far-reaching effects locally, in the region and in the world, but sports, specifically track and field, needed to commence even if it is being done under strict guidelines. This is an exciting time for us in track and field. We’re looking forward to a promising season across the board, one in which we continue our progression on the junior side; prepare athletes to go off to college where they can continue their academic studies and athletic careers; and prepare for an Olympic experience on the senior side. I am of the view that it is going to be a grand year for track and field.”

In the face of growing criticism from athletes and coaches regarding the closure of tracks and facilities, the BAAA wrote to the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture; the Ministry of Health and the National Sports Authority (NSA) at the beginning of the athletics offseason outlining a strategic plan insofar as training and competition are concerned, and seeking clarification as to the usage of the respective facilities. It wasn’t until last week when they got clearance to 

utilize the venues for training of athletes in preparation of local, regional and international competitions. Up until that time, a number of clubs and groups were staging their own private training sessions. 

“We understand that we would have to maintain social distance and have safety measures in place in training sessions and with the various meets and we’re already compliant in that regard as we have adopted world-class COVID-19 safety protocols,” said Archer. “We are pleased to say that there has not been one single incident of an outbreak among track and field athletes and we don’t anticipate one. We’re looking forward to a very exciting, COVID-free year in track and field.”

Following the Christmas holidays, the first item in the new year will be the BAAA Church Service, tentatively set for Sunday January 3, 2021. The T-Bird Flyers Track and Field Classic will be held the following weekend. The ultimate experience of the season will be the World Athletics (WA) World U20 (Under-20) Championships, also known as the World Junior Championships, on the junior side and the Tokyo Olympic Games on the senior side.

The world juniors is set for August 17-22, 2021, at the Nyayo Sports Complex in Nairobi, Kenya; and the Olympics will be held July 23 to August 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Other significant international meets in the calendar for next year are the CARIFTA Games over the Easter holiday weekend (April 3-5) in Hamilton, Bermuda; the 18th World Athletics Indoor Championships from March 19-21, in Nanjing, China; and the World Athletics Relays, May 1-2, in Chorzów, Poland. It will be a loaded local track and field season as well with a number of meets planned.

“I’m optimistic that the season will be held in its entirety,” said Archer. “As you can see, a number of events are planned. Of course, all of that is contingent on how the world rebounds from COVID-19, but we are optimistic that it will be under control and sports will be able to resume. This has been a most frustrating period for sports – disrupting the training schedules for athletes everywhere; but given this latest development with the competent authority addressing our concerns favorably, we are confident that we will recover and put a product on the track and in the field that Bahamians everywhere will be proud about. We are looking forward to a grand season.”

With the facilities now open, a number of coaches have resumed their regular training schedules at their usual locations. There are only about four weeks before the first meet on the schedule – the BAAA Odd Distance Track and Field Meet.

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Sheldon Longley

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.

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