Not since Raymond Higgs at the 2012 Olympics in London, England, has The Bahamas had someone compete in the men’s long jump at a global meet in athletics.
That is about to change this summer as former St. John’s College standout LaQuan Nairn booked his ticket for the 18th biennial World Athletics (WA) Championships in Eugene, Oregon in the United States (US), qualifying with a massive leap of 8.22 meters (m) – 26’ 11-3/4” – in April.
The qualifying standards for the athletics world championships are a bit more stringent this year as opposed to years past, but Nairn didn’t let that stop him from going out there and doing what he needed to do to ensure he competes in Eugene. He will become the 10th athlete from The Bahamas to compete in the men’s long jump at a senior global meet this summer, joining national record holder Craig Hepburn, Moxey, Higgs, the late Joey Wells, Steve Hanna, Gerald Wisdom, Fletcher Lewis, Lyndon Sands and ‘Superman’ Leevan Sands.
Nairn won the long jump competition at the USA Track & Field (USATF) Golden Games Meet at Hilmer Lodge Stadium in Walnut, California, in April, with that 8.22m effort. He obliterated his previous personal best of 8.04m (26’ 4-1/2”) and catapulted himself into the number two position on The Bahamas’ all-time list, trailing just national record holder Hepburn.
Hepburn remains the only Bahamian to ever soar over 27 feet legally, setting the national record of 8.41m (27’ 7-1/4”) at the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ (BAAA) National Championships in 1993. Nairn is now just a fraction under the 27 feet mark.
Earlier in April, Nairn won the men’s long jump competition at the John McDonnell Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas, leaping a wind-aided 8.12m (26’ 7-3/4”). Indoors, he has leapt as far as 8.18m (26’ 10”).
A total of seven Bahamians have now qualified for the world championships in Eugene, Oregon, this summer. They are Shaunae Miller-Uibo in the women’s 200 and 400m, Steven Gardiner in the men’s 400m, Devynne Charlton in the women’s 100m hurdles, Anthonique Strachan in the women’s 100 and 200m, TyNia Gaither also in the women’s 100 and 200m, Samson Colebrooke in the men’s 100m and Nairn in the men’s long jump.
For the first time in 20-plus years, ever since the eighth edition of the world outdoor championships in Edmonton, Canada, that event is headed to this side of the world. Postponed for an entire year due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world championships are now set for July 15-24, in Eugene, what is known in the athletics family as Track Town, USA.
The world’s best stars in athletics will gather in Eugene for 10 days this summer to display their talents in the various disciplines at the newly renovated University of Oregon Hayward Field, which has a capacity of 30,000 and has hosted the 2021 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships and the 2020 US Track and Field Olympic Trials. So far, seven Bahamians will be among them. The event is being organized by USATF with technical assistance from World Athletics officials.
COVID-19 has certainly had its toll on sports in the region, but, like the Olympics of 2021, there has been no word of withdrawal of any of the major athletic powerhouses in the world from the championships.
Apart from the stringent qualifying standards, athletes can also qualify for the world championships by their WA rankings, by wildcard entry (reigning world champion or 2021 Diamond League Champion), or as the current area champion from his or her respective area championships.
The Bahamas has won at least two medals at each of the past three world championships – silver and bronze in 2015 in Beijing, China; silver and bronze again in London, England, in 2017; and gold and silver in Doha, Qatar, in 2019.
Gardiner is the reigning world champion in the men’s 400m from Doha, and Miller-Uibo is the 400m silver medalist.
As mentioned, this is the first time the world championships are being held in the western hemisphere since the 2001 edition in Edmonton, Canada. Coincidentally, that was also the year The Bahamas had its biggest medal haul – three gold and a bronze for a total of four. On two other occasions, The Bahamas won three medals at a single world championships and two medals on three other occasions.
In the history of the meet, The Bahamas has won 25 total medals – eight gold, nine silver and eight bronze.