DOHA, Qatar – After Bahamian Steven Gardiner runs today, competition will be over for The Bahamas at the 17th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
For the first time in over 25 years, ever since the 1993 IAAF World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, The Bahamas will not be represented in any of the relays at the world championships. The Bahamas was also represented at every single Olympic Games in at least one relay over that span.
Tynia Gaither, who has emerged as an elite sprinter for The Bahamas over the past five years, said it is disheartening.
She loves competing in her individual events, but said that it is the relays that brings the most excitement and glory to the Bahamian people. It is something that she yearns to do, and she is looking forward to meaningful representation for The Bahamas in that aspect of athletics before her career is done.
At 26, the now two-time world championships finalist still has a long way to go in the sport, but said as a country, they must come together and get the issue with the relays sorted out.
No Bahamian relay team qualified for these world championships, as team officials cited issues with getting athletes together in one place to run. They said that injuries and collegiate commitments played a part as well.
Also, there was a horrendous showing for The Bahamas in relays in international competitions this year. The men’s 4x200m relay team was disqualified at the world relays and the men’s 4x400m relay team didn’t even line up as lead runner Gardiner was deemed unfit to run a day prior to the race. At the Pan Am Games, The Bahamas’ men’s 4x400m relay squad finished a disappointing seventh in 3:09.98. The women’s 4x100m relay team failed to finish.
“These are the discussions that we need to have,” said Gaither. “Something is obviously wrong when you have fast runners like we do and we are unable to field a relay team at this level. I’m very disappointed because I know that we have the people to do it, and that’s for all of the relays. This is the first world championships in a long time that we’re not present in any of the relays so that’s very painful. Hopefully, that won’t happen next year and the year after that.”
Over the years, The Bahamas has won quite a number of medals, including gold medals, in the relays at global competitions. The original “Golden Girls” struck gold at the 1999 World Championships in Seville, Spain, and again at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The “Golden Knights” shocked the world with gold at the 2012 Olympics, and last but not least, the team of Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Steven Gardiner, Michael Mathieu and Anthonique Strachan won gold at the 2017 World Relays on home turf in The Bahamas.
Team Bahamas’ head coach at these world championships, Fritz Grant, said that it is just something that they’re going to have to continue to work on.
“It’s one of those things when you wish you were there but unfortunately, you’re not,” he said.
“I believe that moving forward, we’re going to build on it and for the next championships.
“I believe we will have a mixed relay team, and 4x1s and 4x4s. It’s just a matter of planning and it’s a matter of all of the athletes preparing themselves for their individual races and just being ready to contribute to the relays. The whole structure needs to be in place. The 242 will be back in the relays.”
Gaither is optimistic as well, but is of the view that The Bahamas cannot just rest on its laurels and expect things to happen. She said they have to go out there and make it happen, and she believes they will.
“We have to sit down and talk about how important it really is. It’s really important for us to show unity when it comes to these kind of meets,” she said. “A lot of people are interested in the relays and we have a history of doing well so we can’t just let that die. We have to get back there and we will.”
There are a lot of young up-and-coming athletes who are expected to factor into the respective relay pools in the coming years. Terrence Jones, in particular, just 17, was on the world championships team and has tremendous talent and potential. The youngster has personal best times of 20.43 seconds in the 200m and 46.29 seconds in the 400m. He made a senior world championships team before even making a world youth or world juniors team.
“We are in the transition phase and we have a lot of young athletes who we feel could contribute to relay success in the future. They just have to continue to progress and be available for relay duty,” said Grant.
Gaither, who was eighth again in the 200m at the world championships, and tied for 13th in the 100m, is hopeful that they could fix that issue leading into the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. She said that the legs are out there – it’s just up to the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) to identify the athletes and bring all of them together.