Bodybuilding and fitness team staying home

After a couple weeks of back and forth with the government’s representative for sports, the Bahamas Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (BBFF) determined yesterday that it would not be feasible to send the country’s 17-member team to the 49th International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness’ (IFBB) Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships.

The federation received $20,000 in funds from the government of The Bahamas through the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture around midday yesterday, but they were pressed for time in terms of putting together the itinerary for all of the athletes and team officials and a decision was made to stay at home. Registration and weigh-in of the athletes took place yesterday and the pre-judging process gets underway today in Barbados. The official opening of the event and most of the finals are set for tomorrow. Given the airline tickets that had to be purchased, the hotel accommodations that had to be secured, and the COVID-19 requirements, guidelines and restrictions in place, just getting the team settled in would have been a tedious task.

The competitive portion of the CAC Championships, which encompasses a pro segment, runs from Friday to Sunday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Center in Bridgetown, Barbados. This is the first year, as far as a number of senior executives of the BBFF could remember, that The Bahamas will not field a team and be a part of the show.

“We’re grateful to the government for submitting some of the money, but at the end of the day, we didn’t get the complete amount that was requested and for that reason we are unable to travel,” said federation president Joel Stubbs. “We checked the travel agencies and it’s just not feasible at this time. Crop Over is this weekend in Barbados and that’s a major attraction in Barbados. The team is a little deflated but we will weigh our options – there are one or two shows in the region that we are looking at.”

Crop Over is Barbados’ most popular and colorful festival and airfare into the island nation from The Bahamas, through connecting flights, is outrageously high, and that’s if tickets are available. Stubbs said there are two shows in the coming months in Caracas, Venezuela and Miami, Florida, where pro cards will be up for grabs, and the federation is eyeing those shows.

“At this time, the idea is to get the national team to those events and see if they can get pro status. Going forward, we have to find a way to engage Corporate Bahamas. We have to sit down with them and form partnerships so when time comes for the national team to travel, they are easily subsidized,” said Stubbs. “This is a great sport to get involved with. It’s all about the human body, become healthier, knocking out out non-communicable diseases and doing what is necessary to get bodies fit. This is a great sport for all to get involved with. I just want to thank the athletes for making the sacrifices and to tell them that the federation will be behind them and give them the opportunity to excel in their fitness goals and desires. We will continue to support the athletes.”

Stubbs said the entire trip would have run the federation into about $36,000 and they just received $20,000 from the government at midday yesterday. He said they were told that the money had to be processed which is the reason that was given for the late disbursement of funds. For him, it was vital that he be in Barbados, particularly with the CAC Bodybuilding & Fitness Federation (CACBBFF) General Congress set for this weekend. As the delegate representing The Bahamas, Stubbs had a seat at the table and was set cast a vote on behalf of The Bahamas.

Even though they won’t travel, Stubbs said they will still incur expenses in the cancellations of accommodations.

Men’s National Physique Champion Kaif Young said it seems like the sport of bodybuilding and fitness is not a priority for us here in The Bahamas.

“Whereas other countries invest in bodybuilding and fitness year round, we in The Bahamas do not. I guess the government feels that the sport doesn’t bring in an income for the country so they wouldn’t really invest in us,” said Young. “I wanted to go there and bring back some hardware, and even a pro card, but The Bahamas’ government hasn’t really been investing in us like that. I wish the government would show more interest and show us some support because we have the ability to go out there and make things happen.”

National Bikini Champion Fania Joseph said she is saddened by the news.

“After prepping for months and looking forward to competing against my peers in the region, it’s very depressing not to be going,” she said. “Going forward, we hope the sport gets the funding that it needs for us to go and represent The Bahamas. We’re appealing not just to the government, but to Corporate Bahamas as well. We are grateful for all the support that we receive. Bodybuilding is a very expensive sport and we need the assistance.”

National Women’s Wellness Champion Cara Saunders said she, too, was disappointed to learn about the fate of the team.

Cara Saunders.

“It’s very disheartening,” she said. “We put in a lot of time and energy into this and sacrificed a lot to be able to compete. It’s a great feeling to get an opportunity take part in activities of this nature, but it’s disappointing when we don’t get to compete. The camaraderie and competition is an all-time high at the CACs because we’re going up against the best in the region. It’s not comparable to other events – it’s a feeling of national pride that is indescribable. We won’t get to experience that, and that’s very disappointing.”

Men’s Muscular Physique National Champion Gemo Smith said he was training for months and looking forward for the opportunity to represent The Bahamas on stage.

“Financially it’s a burden for us, for the government not to support us, because we would have invested so much money in getting ready for this competition,” said Smith. “Other teams are going off to Barbados with no financial issues while we are stuck in the airport. It’s truly a sad day and not a good look going into our 50th year of independence. The sport is not being taken care of. The CACs is the pinnacle of bodybuilding and fitness in the Caribbean and every year we have to fight for funds. We’re simply asking the government to give us a small portion. It’s a sad day.”

The Golden Anniversary 50th CAC Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships is set for Oranjestad, Aruba in September, 2023.

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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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