Bahamian speedster Steven Gardiner geared up for the 2019 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships on Saturday, running a season’s best time of 44.14 seconds in the 400 meters (m) at the 2019 Kamila Skolimowska Memorial at Stadion Śląski in Chorzów, Poland. Gardiner wrote on Facebook: “This One Is For You Abaco! Great Run Here Tonight In Poland! 58 Degree Weather But We Did It!”
Gardiner’s run broke the former meet record of 44.43 seconds that he set last year, and it comes in the midst of a financial struggle by the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) to send a nine-member team to the Doha World Championships. Those championships get underway next week Friday in Doha, Qatar, and will run until October 6.
Gardiner ran out of lane six and blew away his competitors by the 250-meter mark. He ran a smooth race and looked in form as he clocked his best mark in over a year and the fourth-best mark of his career.
Around the 200m mark, the Bahamian 400m national record holder already had a gap over the field. He cruised to victory, winning by more than a second. Finishing a distant second was Rabah Yousif of Great Britain in 46.02 seconds, and coming in third was American Tyrell Richard in 46.27seconds.
For Gardiner, Doha is a special place. It was there that the Abaconian broke the Bahamian 400m national record in the IAAF Diamond League last year. The speedster clocked 43.87 seconds in that race back in May of last year.
Gardiner and Shaunae Miller-Uibo are two of the athletes that the world will have their eyes on to compete for gold medals in the men and women’s 400m races in Doha respectively.
Apart from the two quarter-milers, Bahamians qualifying for the world championships are Tynia Gaither (100 and 200m), Anthonique Strachan (200m), Pedrya Seymour (100m hurdles), Alonzo Russell (400m), Latario Collie-Minns (triple jump), Lathone Minns (triple jump), Donald Thomas (high jump) and Samson Colebrooke (100m). Colebrooke will not compete, opting to focus on his senior year at Purdue University.
The Head Coach of the team will be Fritz Grant. Bernard Rolle and Ronald Cartwright will assist. The team will be managed by Sharon Gardiner and she will be assisted by Dionne Britton. The medical staff consists of Dr. Keir Miller and physiotherapist Cordero Bonamy.
The other delegates are BAAA President Drumeco Archer and BAAA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mabelene Miller.
Jeffrey Gibson (400m hurdles) and Terrance Jones (200m) are two other athletes who could be invited at the “last hour” depending on the IAAF World Rankings and event quotas, but that will be determined by the IAAF.
In news that broke last week, the team’s trip to Doha could be in jeopardy. The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is only offering $25,000 toward the team’s travel, but a budget of $116,000 was put forward by the BAAA on February 1 of this year. That is a $91,000 shortfall, and up to last night, Archer said that they haven’t received any additional funds from the Government of The Bahamas.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Lanisha Rolle said: “The ministry does not have the funds for that organization or any organization to fully fund its events, travel or its total budgetary expenses. In the past, I’ve learned from former ministers, former presidents of the BAAA, they have indicated that source of funding is from multiple entities, agencies, avenues and that is how it has to work and that is what we encourage all of the federations to do because if the burden is on the ministry, we won’t be able to do anything else.”
Archer pointed out that for the 2015 and 2017 edition of the championships, the BAAA received $150,000 and $140,000 respectively. He added that it is no different from what their expectations are now.
“The last world championships was in 2017, and the BAAA, working along with the Bahamas Olympic Committee, would have all had the opportunity and the time to garner the necessary resources needed and then say to the ministry that: ‘We have this amount. Can you assist us with that amount,” Rolle said. “Certainly, just sending in information, if that is the case, and saying the ministry is responsible – the ministry is unable to do it and I must continue to follow the practice of the ministry.”
Rolle also said that the BAAA takes a large portion of the subvention and grants.
“They take a large portion of the subvention, they take a large portion of grants – I don’t want to say the extent but they do. In every instance when they have an event, we provide assistance. The world championships are coming up and we have offered assistance but we are not in a position to carry its full weight,” Rolle stated.
To that, Archer said that track and field is the largest sporting movement in the country.
“The minister categorically stated that track and field receives the lion share of government funding. What she didn’t say is that track and field is the largest sporting movement in the country as well as one of the most successful sporting organizations that requires sustainable funding. Still, we believe that there ought to be a greater investment in every sporting federation in The Bahamas, for we all share the very same objectives,” Archer said.
The team is set to travel later this week and Archer said if they only have $25,000 they will not send a team to Doha. He said the BAAA refuses to send a team that can only feature some of the athletes because all of the athletes qualified for the meet.
Archer also said that ticket prices are rising and it is not cost-effective. He also said it is very frustrating to the athletes and officials who are unsure whether or not they would be traveling.
There is also an issue arising that Rolle is seeking to take a nine-member delegation from the ministry to the world championships.
Archer said he has no objection if the whole country wants to go to Doha, but added that the public should be concerned about where the priorities lie. The head of the BAAA said that his obligation is to the athletes and he has to look out for their best interest and $25,000 is not near to what is needed.