LIMA, Peru — Coach Rudy Ferguson walked onto the track and field training field at the La Videna Sports Complex, in Lima, Peru, and he had a confident, assured look.
He is here as the lead coach for athletics, the sport expected to give The Bahamas its best chances of finals and podium appearances at the 18th Pan American Games. The two glittering stars, long sprinters Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Steven Gardiner, he confirmed, will not be representing the country, but he expressed a certainty about getting top performances out of the group of track and field athletes.
Not out for the first practice session were elder statesman high jumper Donald Thomas and veteran female sprinter Anthonique Strachan, but there was defending champion in the men’s 400 meters (m) hurdles Jeffery Gibson; a national high jump champion and world elite performer in Jamal Wilson; 100m hurdler Devynne Charlton; sprinters Warren Fraser and Cliff Resias; the triple jump twins Lathone and Latario Collie Minns; women’s triple jumper Tamara Myers; decathlete Ken Mullings; and others. Due to fly into Lima later were 100m hurdler Pedrya Seymour and 400m specialist Alonzo Russell.
“We’ve got a good group. We’ve got a defending champion in Jeffery Gibson in the hurdles and we should be just alright,” said Ferguson. Coaches Kennord Mackey and James Rolle were upbeat as well.
Sprinter Warren Fraser said he feels he can better his personal best of 10.14 in the 100 meters. Charlton is aiming for a position in the final and then, “who knows?”
“I feel pretty decent going into the meet. All the flying, right now, I’m very sleepy. I just need to get some sleep and I will be fine,” said Fraser, who was very optimistic when asked if he was ready to get under 10.14.
“I feel, to be honest, I might be faster than that right now. I don’t even want to think about it though. I just want to take my time, get a good blowout before I go into my race, just execute and see what kind of a result I get. My season thus far has been kind of shaky. It’s been different. We trained different for worlds (International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Doha, Qatar, from September 27 to October 6).
“I had a couple of injuries that prevented me from racing as much this year but I’m here now and ready to compete for my country,” said Fraser. However, in the men’s 100m semifinals on Tuesday, Fraser was only able to clock 10.62 seconds and failed to qualify for the final.
Charlton is modesty personified. She is unassuming about a brilliant junior career, and a just as spectacular collegiate tenure, during which she became a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) standout performer. Now, she is poised for that breakthrough on the senior continental level here at the Pan Am Games.
“I think this is a good atmosphere to qualify for the Worlds,” said Charlton who has a best of 12.70 in the 100m hurdles.
“I think if the conditions are right, then for sure (I can get around there) but I’m not trying to rush anything. Before I think about Doha, I want to get the qualification out of the way. That’s here. I don’t want to think that far and I’m not there yet,” said Charlton who emphasized that she is focusing on making the finals in Peru and will take whatever comes after that.
Her background indicates that she is a strong bet for a position in the women’s 100m hurdles final. Indeed, this could be that continental medal moment in time for Charlton.