Maneuvering her way through a COVID-19-stricken season, Bahamian superstar athlete Shaunae Miller-Uibo said it’s all in an attempt to continue to get better and position herself for a run to Olympic glory next year.
Speaking on the Guardian Talk Radio show The Hit Back with Nahaja Black on Thursday, Miller-Uibo said she has re-directed her focus toward 2021 and maintaining fitness for the Olympics. The postponed Olympics is now set for July 23 to August 8, 2021, still in Tokyo, Japan.
“It was very heartbreaking. When we first heard the news, I don’t think anyone really knew how to handle it. We were training so hard up to that moment, but what was happening around us was so [much] bigger than sports. It was definitely the right decision to make to postpone the Olympics, but it was devastating at the time for us athletes,” said Miller-Uibo. “For us athletes, we had already put in so much hard [work] but this is a part of the game and we understand that. Right now, we’re just brushing it off – refocusing for next year. We’re going to use this season to work on a few things and be more prepared for next year.”
This season has been another progressive one for Miller-Uibo despite not stepping on the track much. At one point, she was the world leader in all three sprints – the women’s 100 meters (m), 200m and 400m. She is still the world leader in the 200m, owns the world’s second-best time in the 400m and is the fourth-best in the 100m for the shortened season of 2020. In the latter, she set a personal best time of 10.98 seconds, and in so doing, became just the fourth woman in history to ever run under 11 seconds in the 100m, under 22 seconds in the 200m and under 48 seconds in the 400m. It remains to be seen what she will do for the remainder of 2020.
“We were able and lucky enough to have a season this year. It’s not an ordinary season but we were still able to compete and put down some performances,” she said. “Everything has been going well so far and I’m just looking forward to the rest of it.”
As far as the Olympics is concerned, she has already stated her intention of going after the 200m title, seeing that World Athletics has declined her request to adjust the schedule further to accommodate an attempt to go after the 200-400m double. As a result, it is likely hat she will not defend her Olympic title in the women’s 400m in Tokyo.
“We were confident going in, and if there is a year to make sure that you are on top of your game, this is the year,” she said. “This is the Olympics – we were really prepared. I was working on a few things – speed, endurance, strength and just trying to put everything together for the big showdown at the Olympics. It’s a li’l devastating that it has been pushed back but it could be looked at as a blessing in disguise. It gives me an opportunity to work on a few things and it gives me more time to prepare.”
Given the nature of the novel coronavirus, Miller-Uibo said she had to familiarize herself with adjusting to the various protocols and safety measures, but she fully understands the process and why it must be carried out. She said she embraces the changes.
“Whenever we compete, we have had to fill out various forms, wear masks, practice social distancing and then when we competed there was always spaces between the lanes. Quite a few protocols were in place at the respective meets,” she said. “Everything is in place. Competing actually feels a lot like practice – running without any crowd – but we’re adjusting.”
There is a little bit of a stigma out there of Miller-Uibo not being able to come through in recent big meets despite dominating throughout the year. Her only two defeats in the women’s 400m since the Rio de Janeiro Olympics came at the 2017 London World Championships and the 2019 Doha World Championships. However, on the contrary, she has run some of the fastest times of her career at big meets, particularly in the 400m. In 2015, she ran a lifetime best, at the time, at the Beijing World Championships; did the same at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics a year later; and became the sixth-fastest woman of all time at the 2019 Doha World Championships. The only exception during that time in which she faltered at a big meet was when she stumbled and finished fourth in the women’s 400m at the 2017 London World Championships after leading for 350 meters of the race.
“The big meets is when you want to run your fastest. That’s the big dance. Throughout the season, it’s just getting a feel of different things; but at the big meets, that is when you want to perform at your best and I feel I was able to do that,” said Miller-Uibo. “You expect everyone to bring their ‘A’ game and you bring your ‘A’ game as well, and we go at it and see who comes out on top. I always look forward to the challenge.”
As far as the athletes coming up behind her and the other elite Bahamian athletes are concerned, Miller-Uibo said there are many in the pipelines and their talent just needs to be nurtured.
“We have tremendous talent in The Bahamas. It’s just a matter of reaching out to those many athletes and bringing them along in the sport,” she said. “I always say that there is unbelievable talent in the Family Islands, but we have to come together as one people and push those athletes forward and give them something to look forward to. We have to start building a foundation, especially in the Family Islands – build tracks and other facilities. Only that way will we be able to keep a lot of the athletes at home. There are a lot of great coaches so we just need the facilities to attract more athletes.”
Miller-Uibo, 26, has not officially ended her season as yet. It is expected that she will compete in a couple more races before closing the door on what has been a trying season for sports worldwide in 2020.