Team Bahamas kept an impressive tradition intact of winning at least one medal at the Pan Am Games since 1979 when Tynia Gaither broke through for the country on Friday.
Gaither maintained her form and speed throughout, not bothered by blazing starts from Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, of Jamaica, and Canadian Crystal Emmanuel, and came through for a bronze medal in the women’s 200 meters (m) at the 18th Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, on Friday.
Running a lane behind the former World and Olympic Champion at the Athletics Stadium Parque Kennedy in Lima, Gaither tried to keep pace with Fraser-Pryce and was able to ride the momentum enough to power through for the bronze. She finished in 22.76 seconds – less than a tenth of a second off her season’s best time and about two-tenths of a second off her personal best time.
Fraser-Pryce won in a Games record time of 22.43 seconds and Vitória Cristina Silva Rosa, of Brazil, won the silver medal in a personal best time of 22.62 seconds. Emmanuel ended up fourth, matching her season’s best time of 22.89 seconds, and the other Bahamian in that final, Anthonique Strachan, settled for fifth, in 22.97 seconds. Strachan got left in the blocks, labored around the curve and had to work too hard in the home stretch to get back in the race.
Gaither, who hails from Grand Bahama, earned a podium spot for The Bahamas and ended an agonizing wait to give the country its first medal of these games.
The Bahamas has now at least one medal at 11 straight Pan Am Games, dating back to 1979 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“I got out real well, executed the curves in good fashion, and I just thought, coming down the home stretch ‘stay tough and push through’. I did that,” said a joyful Gaither.
This is one of her highest levels of medal success and it came when her country badly needed to secure that special kind of hardware.
“This is real fantastic. To get our country the first medal is special. I wanted badly to get a medal and it happened,” said a smiling Gaither who added that better performances are to come. “Like I said yesterday, l’m about two years behind. I should have been at this level two years ago. There is much more to come. I really want to thank all who participated in my success, and, to the Bahamian people, I am very happy to give you a medal,” she added.
Strachan is back on pace to meet the expectations the track and field world had of her. She is cemented as one of the great junior sprinters in history, and injuries derailed her advancement as a senior. Strachan was satisfied on Friday.
“I did well. I thought I could have started better, but I am coming,” she said.
Four years ago, The Bahamas won six medals in Toronto, Canada – two gold, two silver and two bronze – and now the country has its first medal at these games. Also, four years ago, the now-retired Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, set a new Games record in the women’s 50m free in swimming.
In that same event, over at the VIDENA Aquatics Centre, on Friday, Ariel Weech was in action for Team Bahamas.
She finished sixth in her heat, in 26.84 seconds, and was 17th overall, just missing the ‘B’ final of that event.
In the men’s version of that race, swimming out of the third of four morning heats, Gershwin Greene touched the wall in seventh place and was 18th overall, in a personal best time of 23.33 seconds.
From Thursday night, Jared Fitzgerald was fantastic in the ‘B’ final of the men’s 100m free. He was fifth in that race, but came through in a new national record time of 50.81 seconds, erasing Vereance Burrows’ 10-year-old mark of 50.88 seconds. Fitzgerald swam 51.16 seconds in the heats.
Laura Morley is the only Bahamian so far to make an ‘A’ final, swimming in the women’s 200m breast ‘A’ final on Thursday night. She touched the wall in eighth place in 2:32.87, about two and a half seconds off the national record time of 2:30.21 she swam earlier in the day. In the ‘B’ final of the women’s 200m breast on Thursday night, Margaret Albury-Higgs touched the wall in fourth place in 2:34.17. She swam 2:33.67 in the morning heats.
In judo on Friday, Cynthia Rahming lost on penalties to hometown favorite Kiara Arango, of Peru, in the round of 16 in the women’s 57 kilogram (kg.) class. During the match, Rahming was issued a Shido – a light penalty which is given when a rules violation occurs. Rahming, in a pressure spot against an athlete from the host nation, couldn’t overcome the general scenario, a tough Arango fighting in front of an extremely partisan home crowd.
“I have to accept the penalties. That’s how it is in competition. They call a penalty and that’s it. The opportunity to compete here, I appreciate. I want to thank the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) for accrediting me,” said a disappointed Rahming.
Her coach, Oneysi Portorreal Pons, of Cuba, said he was proud of Rahming.
“She fought well. I question the penalties but you have to accept,” he said.
Rahming’s teammate Sasha Ingraham fights on Sunday. Action continues today on the track and in the pool for Team Bahamas. The competition wraps up on Sunday.