After their exceptional performances at the Purdue Gene Edmonds Memorial Invitational in January, the Olympics was looking like a realistic possibility for University of The Bahamas’ (UB) decathletes Ken Mullings and Kendrick Thompson.
It’s still not out of the question that they will both realize that goal, but with the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic taking aim at sports worldwide, the process of getting to Tokyo, Japan, for all unqualified athletes for the global sports extravaganza becomes much more tedious.
The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG), along with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), have announced that the games are still on – set for July 24 to August 9, in the Japanese capital. However, qualifying events worldwide, in all sporting disciplines, are affected; and in conjunction with international federations, the IOC is working on altering qualifying standards and the qualifying system and creating avenues for athletes to qualify for Tokyo in order for the totality and universality of the Olympic Games to be realized.
Here at home, six Bahamians have qualified, all in track and field. A couple of UB athletes who were expected to turn in competitive attempts were Mullings and Thompson. However, with the collegiate season being essentially over for them, and with a number of meets being either postponed or cancelled altogether, their avenues are limited. Additionally, the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) and Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, in a national address on Sunday night, are calling for all sporting activities in the country to cease during this time.
“It’s disappointing. This was expected to be a big year for us, and we were getting ready to travel, so this is a real setback for us,” said UB Athletics Head Coach Ednal Rolle. “This is so unfortunate, but at the same time, we understand the health concerns and how this pertains to the country. That’s more important than to continue the athletics program right now. Pretty much, the season is over for us. There is no motivation for them to continue to train as far as the collegiate side is concerned.”
Sports on the whole in the country, including UB programs, have basically been shut down. In addition, access to UB’s campus and facilities is limited. For now, a number of student-athletes are completing courses online.
“The frustrating part is that we worked so hard in preparing our athletes for this season. It’s tough, but it is what it is,” said Rolle. “I gave our student-athletes some things to do on their own, but as far as coming out and training as a group, we took the approach that we are going to be safe. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
This past January, both Mullings and Thompson exceeded Mullings’ former national record in the men’s indoor heptathlon at the Purdue Gene Edmonds Memorial Invitational in West Lafayette, Indiana. Mullings exceeded the mark by 252 points – the old record was 5,426 points and the new standard stands at 5,678 points. Thompson turned in a 5,636 point performance at that same meet. They finished first and second.
Both athletes averaged north of 800 points per event, which bodes well for them in their qualification efforts for the Olympics Games. The qualifying mark for the Olympics is 8,350 points – an average of 835 points per event. In West Lafayette, Mullings averaged 811 points per event, and Thompson was at 805. No Bahamian decathlete has ever qualified for the Olympic Games.
“They’re both right there. We feel that Ken and Kendrick both have good opportunities as far as the Olympics is concerned, so this halt in competition is obviously disappointing for them. Right now, we don’t know what is going to happen as far as the Olympics is concerned,” said Rolle. “It’s very disappointing. Collegiately, it is possible that those who would have lost their eligibility for this year be red-shirted and then come back and compete next year without losing a year of eligibility. In that regard, we would probably follow suit like the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). It’s unfortunate for the ones who are graduating because this was their last opportunity to compete collegiately. We’re certainly going to adhere to the health regulations and are just taking it day by day. All we could do now is look forward to next year.”
In the men’s indoor heptathlon in West Lafayette in January, Mullings not only shattered the national record but had a personal best in every event. He won the event for the third straight year at the indoor invitational meet at Purdue University. He also holds the open men’s decathlon national record, scoring 7,427 points at the UM (University of Miami) Hurricane Alumni Invitational in Coral Gables, Florida, in April of last year. Thompson, who actually led the competition for all of day one in West Lafayette, was extremely competitive throughout and proved that he is an elite, multi-events athlete as well.