From one era to the next, from a former 400 meters (m) runner to the current world champion over that distance, and from one Bahamian to another, Mike Sands is encouraging Steven Gardiner to take the mantle and run with it.
He said Gardiner is far more talented than any runner of his era and has the ability to break the world record and take it down to the 42-second range. The current world record in the men’s 400m is 43.03 seconds, set by Wayde van Niekerk, of South Africa, in winning gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Gardiner ran a new Bahamian national record of 43.48 seconds for the world championships title on Friday night – the only gold and second medal for The Bahamas at the 17th International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships that wrapped up on Sunday in Doha, Qatar.
Sands, who officially transitions into the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) presidency this week, said Gardiner’s combination of speed, strength and long strides make him an intimidating force in the men’s 400m – much like how Jamaican triple world record holder and multiple World and Olympic Champion Usain Bolt was for the duration of his career.
“It’s very rewarding and very satisfying,” said Sands of Gardiner’s progression. “I am very proud of Stevie and what he was able to accomplish. The Bahamas should be proud of him. He’s been at this for a long time, and his time has finally arrived.”
Gardiner will go into the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, as one of the favorites for the gold medal in the men’s 400m. It certainly won’t be easy as Van Niekerk, who defeated him for the world title in 2017 in London, England, is set to make a return to the sport, coming back from a knee injury, and world leader Michael Norman, of the United States, is expected to be back to top form.
As for the NACAC region, it’s been an outstanding world championships for that area, particularly in the sprints. The most prominent nation, the United States, was dominant, winning 29 total medals, including 14 gold. No other nation won more than five gold medals.
There was a world record from American hurdler Dalilah Muhammad in the women’s 400m hurdles, breaking her own record of 52.20 seconds and settling for the new mark of 52.16 seconds. The United States mixed 4x400m relay team also broke the world record, running 3:09.34 in the final to erase the old record of 3:12.42 that they actually ran in the heats.
American Donavan Brazier ran a new championships and area record in the men’s 800m, Joe Kovacs, also an American, set a new championships mark in the men’s shot put, another American Shelby Houlihan ran a new area record in the women’s 1,500m, and The Bahamas’ own Shaunae Miller-Uibo set a new area record in the women’s 400m.
There was also an abundance of national records, world-leading times and personal best and season best times from athletes from the NACAC region.
Additionally, in the sprints, the region had a sweep of the medals in the men’s 100m, and six of the eight athletes in the men’s 400m final were from the NACAC region. Athletes from the region also won the women’s 100m, the men’s 200m and the men’s 400m with Gardiner.
“NACAC is living up to its name of being the best area in the system,” said Sands. “Our athletes are performing extremely well. When you look at the women’s 100m, there was a clean sweep, we won the men’s 100, the men’s 200, and of course the men’s 400m with Stevie. We are dominating the sprints and that says a lot for our area.”
As NACAC president, Sands automatically becomes an IAAF Council Member as the official representative of one of the six area associations of the IAAF. He will serve for the next four years.
“We (NACAC executive board) held our first meeting this afternoon with the entire membership,” said Sands on Saturday. “Right now, we’re just planning the way forward. I’ve presented to them my outline of the plan and they have accepted it. It’s very challenging but that is something that we are looking forward to.”
Sands said there have been discussions about moving the NACAC office to The Bahamas, and that there have been a lot of transitional discussions from the outgoing executive team to the incumbent one.
Sands and his team officially take over their new roles today, and will begin functioning in them as such.