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BOC ratifies team for the Olympics

A 14-member team will represent The Bahamas at the Tokyo Olympic Games

Under strict COVID-19 guidelines and protocols, the Tokyo Olympic Games is going on, and Team Bahamas is set to be well represented.

The Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) ratified a 14-member team yesterday – 12 in athletics and two in swimming – who will contest the games in three weeks time. The Olympics is set for July 23 to August 8, 2021, in Tokyo Japan.

In athletics, the team members are Shaunae Miller-Uibo (women’s 100m, 200m, 400m, and 4x400m), Tynia Gaither (women’s 100m and 200m), Brianne Bethel (women’s 200m and 4x400m), Anthonique Strachan (women’s 200m and 4x400m), Devynne Charlton (women’s 100m hurdles), Pedrya Seymour (women’s 100m hurdles), Doneisha Anderson (women’s 4x400m), Megan Moss (women’s 4x400m), Lacarthea Cooper (women’s 4x400m), Samson Colebrooke (men’s 100m), Steven Gardiner (men’s 200m and 400m) and Jamal Wilson (men’s high jump).

In swimming, the two athletes are Joanna Evans (women’s 400m free) and Izaak Bastian (men’s 100m breast).

First-time Olympian Brianne Bethel, a graduate student at the University of Houston, said she is thrilled to be going to the Olympics and is looking forward to the journey. She ran personal best times of 11.27, 22.54 and 51.77 seconds in the 100, 200 and 400m this year.

“I feel amazing,” said 22-year-old Bethel. “I’ve worked hard all season to get to this point. Every time I fell down, I get back up. I’m just happy to know that I pushed through and I got here. I’m ready to run,” she added.

As for the women’s 4x400m relay team, the only relay team competing for The Bahamas, she said: “We have a lot of talent. I grew up with a couple of these girls – Megan and Doneisha. I know that they have a lot of heart. Also, Shaunae is the best in the world right now. I have no doubt that we will go out there, lay it all on the line and give The Bahamas a good opportunity to win a medal. With the amount of hard work that we put in, I feel that we are coming out with the gold. We’re coming to win that race. Once we do our job, we will be alright.”

Back for his second straight Olympics, and second in total, high jumper Jamal Wilson said he is looking forward to the challenge.

“It feels good. It’s a bit surreal that it’s finally here, but I’m excited to be going and I’m just looking to perform at my best for The Bahamas. When the day comes, I will give it my all,” he said. “All of us are qualifiers and we would have worked hard to achieve those standards. There are a lot of athletes around the world who won’t get an opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and call themselves Olympians, so this is a blessing to be in this position. We’re here for a reason. The world has been dealing for COVID for a while now and all of the protocols are in place. Sports must go on. For the most part, I’m not concerned. I just hope that everyone comes back safe and COVID free.”

Derron Donaldson is the Head of Delegation and Dorian Roach is his assistant. Cora Hepburn is the Chef de Mission of the team – The Bahamas’ first female Chef de Mission in the history of the Olympic Games. Dawn Johnson is the Athletics Team Manager and Rochelle Bastian is the Swimming Team Manager.

Rudolph Ferguson is the Athletics Head Coach and he will be assisted by Ronald Cartwright, David Charlton and Rupert Gardiner. Andy Loveitt is the swimming coach. Dr. Rickey Davis and Dr. Patrice Roberts are the team doctors and Oria Wood-Knowles and Clarence Rolle are the team attachés.

The team is being sponsored by Puma for the third straight Olympics.

According to BOC President Romell “Fish” Knowles, there is still a possibility that Donald Thomas (men’s high jump) and Laura Morley (200m breast) could be added to the squad in respect of world ranking points and the universality rule respectively. Former World Champion Thomas is in an eight-way tie for 27th on the world’s top performance list for 2021, and Morley attained the ‘B’ standard for the Olympics in the women’s 200m breast.

The government of The Bahamas has pledged $100,000 toward travel.

“We expect great things from this team. The Bahamas has a strong history of great representation from its athletes at the Olympic Games and we expect these particular games to be no different,” said Knowles. “Let me just say that in reference to the issue of The Bahamas having four qualifiers on the women’s 200m and only three being allowed to run, that is a situation that we expect to play out favorably and will be handled respectively. The final consideration would be given at the scratch meeting in Tokyo and the best possible decision in the best interest of The Bahamas would be made.”

Knowles is referring to the issue that surfaced in their meeting with Anthonique Strachan Wednesday evening after Strachan would have expressed her displeasure in not being given the opportunity to run the women’s 200m after taking part in the 2021 BAAA (Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations) National Junior and Senior Track and Field Championships, finishing in the top three in the women’s 200m, and qualifying for the Olympics as required to do so by her national federation. Strachan went as far as to threaten legal action against the BAAA.

“We’re hurt that we find ourselves in this position but we have to remember that this is the Olympic Games and the rules at the BAAA nationals does not apply to the BOC,” said Knowles. “The usual stance would be to go with the three fastest athletes. Of course, the opportunity for Anthonique to compete will be there but that is a decision that will be made in Tokyo with final consideration being given at the scratch meeting. It will be done at the discretion of the team officials in Tokyo.”

Oddly enough, the exact same situation would have occurred five years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who was one of the top runners in the world in the women’s 200m, was denied the opportunity to run that event at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because she didn’t run it at nationals.

“We’re holding firm because we ought to be consistent. There are some deficiencies that occurred outside of the purview of the Bahamas Olympic Committee in 2016,” said Knowles. “What transpired at the scratch meeting in Rio was an independent decision. Here, we have a situation where a decision would be made in the best interest of The Bahamas. With us having four qualifiers, a particular athlete will not automatically run that event in Tokyo.”

Be that as it may, there is a lot to be proud about as Bahamians with the team that was selected.

The days of the ‘Golden Knights’ and the ‘Golden Girls’ might be gone, but enters a new group of sprinting stars.

For the second straight Olympics, The Bahamas will field a team in the women’s 4x400m relay. The group qualified as one of the fastest non-automatic qualifiers at the Blue Marlin Last Chance Meet on Monday, and will be led by Olympic Champion Miller-Uibo. They also continued a streak of The Bahamas having at least one relay team at the Olympics at every Olympics since 1992. Coincidentally, this is the first time that The Bahamas’ men’s 4x400m relay squad will miss the Olympics in that span.

For the first time in history, The Bahamas will be represented by two athletes in a singles hurdles event at the Olympics. Reference is to Devynne Charlton and Pedrya Seymour who will be contesting the women’s 100m hurdles, and both appear to be in tip top shape with realistic chances to move through the rounds. In Rio de Janeiro, Seymour made history as the first Bahamian to advance to a hurdles final at the Olympics and ended up sixth. Charlton qualified for those Olympics but was forced to sit out with a back injury. Now, the young Bahamian star is running better than she ever has before, clocking a personal best national record of 12.61 seconds this year.

As mentioned earlier, Hepburn is the first female Chef de Mission of a Bahamian Olympic team in the history of the Olympic Games.

“I cannot explain my emotions when it was announced that I would be the first female Chef,” said Hepburn. “I’m honored that the persons around me feel that I’m capable of doing an awesome job. I accept that gracefully and I’m thankful. The federations involved did a good job in putting together the best athletes that they possibly can. Athletes qualified to be here and they were named to the team. Tokyo is going to have the COVID protocols in place. It’s going to be up to us as team officials to ensure that the athletes are following the protocols, but the athletes have to take some responsibility as well. It’s going to be a huge task but I believe that we will manage it well and come back COVID free and healthy.”

For 14 days prior to travel to the Olympic Games, all athletes and officials from every country must monitor temperature readings gauge their health status. They must keep records and present these records online before being allowed entry into Japan. Additionally, every visitor to Japan must present a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test result, whether they are vaccinated or not. Any elevated temperature reading, or sickness, must be reported prior to travel to Japan.

Also, athletes and officials are limited to specific venues and events during the Olympics, and must leave Japan a maximum of two days after their events would have been completed. There will be no team relay camps during the games. 

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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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