A Bahamian legend in track and field, who was a part of a couple iconic races in Bahamian history, is stepping away from the track.
Michael Mathieu, the third runner of The Bahamas’ Golden Knights’ from the 2012 London Olympics, and the anchor from The Bahamas’ mixed relay team at the 2017 World Relay Championships in The Bahamas, is retiring from athletics after a more than 20-year career.
The 37-year-old Bahamian athlete from Freeport, Grand Bahama, came up as a promising junior, specializing in the 400 meters (m) and continuing that trend right into the senior ranks. Mathieu ran what was a junior national record at the time, 46.47 seconds, in the 400m in 2003, earning a bronze medal at the Pan American Junior Championships in Bridgetown, Barbados, that year.
Mathieu ran sub-46 seconds for the first time in 2006, and eventually got down to 45 seconds flat to end his career as the 10th fastest
Bahamian quarter-miler of all time. He was the only ‘Golden Knight’ not to go under 45 seconds in his career, but was consistently in the 45-second range. The Bahamian speedster also goes down as the second fastest Bahamian ever in the men’s 200m, and he’s in a four-way tie for the seventh fastest in the men’s 100m, making him one of the more diverse track and field athletes from The Bahamas in history. He has won medals at every level of Bahamian track and field, climaxed with relay gold at the London Olympics and gold at the world relays, and now coaches youth basketball along with focusing on his training program speedBegins in Orlando, Florida.
“I feel good about the career I had,” said Mathieu yesterday. “God blessed me to have three Olympic podium finishes and numerous other international medals. I felt it’s about that time to move on, especially having two sons and seeing them growing and find their passions. I felt it was definitely time to go ahead and hang it up and start channeling my energy and focus to my kids.”
In the men’s 4x400m final at the 2012 London Olympics, Mathieu ran the third leg for The Bahamas, keeping the country within striking distance – this, after false-starting in the semifinals of the men’s 200m two days earlier. The men’s 200m final was set for the same day as the opening round heats of the men’s 4x400m relay, so, naturally, Mathieu would have had to make a choice.
With Mathieu not in the men’s 200m final, that opened him up to run in the heats of the relay, helping The Bahamas reach the final. With Mathieu running the third leg in the final, they went on to win the gold medal in a new national record of 2:56.72. It was the first gold medal in athletics for Bahamian men at the Olympics and it represented one of the grand signature moments in the history of Bahamian track and field. In addition, Mathieu was the anchor leg for The Bahamas’ mixed relay team at the 2017 World Relay Championships, leading the country to gold. In both instances, The Bahamas upset the United States and, to date, it is the only two gold medals for The Bahamas in 4x400m running at the global level.
“My greatest moment is a tie for 2012 gold and world relays gold,” said Mathieu. “They were both special in unique ways; winning the highest medal possible in track and field, and winning a gold medal in front of my home crowd when we didn’t have one medal for the meet as yet, were both epic.”
Mathieu ends his career with three Olympic 4x400m relay medals – gold in London, England, in 2012; silver in Beijing, China, in 2008; and bronze in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016. He also has world championships silver (both indoors and outdoors); world relays gold and two silvers; and Pan American Games and Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Championships gold medals (one and two, respectively), among numerous other international medals and outstanding performances. He is also a former All American in college, indoors and outdoors, competing for the Texas Tech Red Raiders in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I athletics.
In addition to his specialty, the 400m, Mathieu was a standout 200m runner, ending his career as the second-fastest Bahamian in the history of that event. He ran a then-national record of 20.16 seconds at the Belém Grand Prix Meet in Belém, Brazil, in May of 2012. Just Steven Gardiner has gone faster among Bahamians, running a national record of 19.75 seconds in 2018 – a time that stands to this day.
Individually, Mathieu’s greatest accomplishment was probably making the semifinals of the 200m in London in 2012. Also, he has gold in the 200m from the 2011 CAC Championships in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, and silver in the men’s 400m from the 2008 CAC Championships in Cali, Colombia.
He has numerous relay medals highlighted by the three at the Olympics, the three at the world relays and the silver medals at the world indoor and outdoor championships. The Bahamas’ ‘Golden Knights’ of Mathieu, Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown, Demetrius Pinder and Ramon Miller still own the national record of 2:56.72 outdoors. The mixed relay team from 2017 – Mathieu, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Gardiner and Anthonique Strachan – has the national record in that event, a time of 3:14.42 for world relays gold at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, The Bahamas, in 2017.
Mathieu remains optimistic for the future of Bahamian track and field. He currently serves as head coach of the Jr. Magic Warriors youth basketball team in Orlando. The Bahamian track legend has also created his own business, speedBegins, a camp designed to build speed for all sporting disciplines that require it. He has teamed up with CoachUp.com/speedbegins to help bring awareness to the business.
“Track and field in The Bahamas still has work to do, I think. There is little stuff that can be done as simple as hosting more clinics from elite athletes and coaches that can spread knowledge to the kids,” said Mathieu. “The head coach of the Orlando Magic just invited all Jr. Magic’s coaches to a clinic, recently. I attended that seminar. Small stuff like that, in track and field back in The Bahamas, will make a major impact on the future of Bahamas track and field. I’ve seen and had the pleasure of running with some great athletes. I believe every generation is destined to be greater than the one before, so I have high hopes for the younger generation, once they are guided right. In terms of family, my sons are now focusing on basketball, so my energy and heart is in that right now.”
Mathieu lives in Orlando with his family and has turned his attention to the upbringing of his two sons, coaching basketball and the running of speedBegins. They are on Instagram and TikTok at @michael_miguelmathieu under the hashtag #speedbegins and on Facebook at Michael Mathieu.
“It’s a speed training camp designed to increase speed and teach kids fundamentals on running and speed building,” said Mathieu. “My goal is to eventually start giving back from speedBegins to numerous clubs in The Bahamas as well.”
Mathieu leaves the sport of athletics as one of the more diverse and decorated athletes in Bahamian history, and is now turning his attention to his family and the development of others.