The track and field community of The Bahamas was hit hard over the weekend as it lost one of its own to a senseless act on his home island of Abaco in The Bahamas.
According to a police report, Shavez ‘Sparky’ Hart, one of the best all-around sprinters in Bahamian history, was gunned down shortly after 2 a.m. on Saturday morning near a business establishment situated in Mount Hope, North Abaco.
Hart, just three days short of his 30th birthday, represented The Bahamas at all levels of track and field, reaching as high as the world championships and the Olympic Games. He had personal best times of 10.10 seconds and 20.23 seconds in the 100 and 200 meters (m) respectively, and was a formidable 400m runner as well, thereby setting his mark as one of the best 100-200-400 combo runners in Bahamian history. Indoors, he had personal best times of 6.60 seconds in the 60m and 20.57 seconds in the 200m.
Hart was more known for his accomplishments in the short sprints, but it’s actually in the 400m, as a part of a relay squad, in which he achieved his most prestigious medal. Stepping in with two of The Bahamas’ ‘Golden Knights’, Chris ‘The Fireman’ Brown and Michael Mathieu, Hart won a silver medal in the men’s 4x400m relay at the 16th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Indoor Championships in March 2016 in Portland, Oregon, United States. Hart teamed up with Brown, Mathieu and Alonzo Russell, and they ran a national record time of 3:04.75 for the silver medal.
Hart never really reached his full potential on the senior side at global meets, but his times have him listed in the top five in Bahamian history in the short sprints. He is at number four in the 100m and tied for fifth with another of the ‘Golden Knights’, Demetrius Pinder, in the 200m.
According to the police report, a group of men were involved in a physical altercation in the parking lot of a local night club on North Abaco early Saturday morning. One of the men left, returned with a firearm and discharged the weapon, shooting Hart in the chest. EMS (Emergency Medical Services) attended to the victim and found no signs of life. He was later transported to the Marsh Harbour Clinic where he was seen and examined by a doctor and pronounced dead. The report continued, stating that the suspect in this matter was later arrested and taken into police custody, and that investigations are continuing.
Shavez’s mother said her son was trying to defuse an altercation between two men when he was caught in the middle and shot. It was reported that the subject attempted to shoot another man and ended up shooting Hart.
“He was such a good son – very quiet and always helpful,” said his mother Shammaine Hart. “He did a lot of work in the community and was always trying to give back. I will certainly miss him.”
Hart was well-loved in local track and field circles.
Speaking from Europe where she is busy running on the circuit, Anthonique Strachan who represents the athletes locally, and who was just elected as a Member-at-Large for the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) Athletes’ Commission, said she is devastated by the news.
“This is just too much. Shavez was the sweetest, most kind-hearted person you would ever meet. He was dedicated in everything he did and he was a guy who wore his heart on his sleeve even though he showed minimal emotions,” said Strachan. “I’m still very shocked. I wish the best for his son and his family and will continue to pray for them during this most difficult time. His son, who I believe hasn’t turned one yet, will never really get to experience his father – just knowing what is told to him. He will never get to see the great person that his dad was, and how driven and dedicated his father was in everything that he put his mind to – from school, to sports to becoming an entrepreneur.
“It’s very hard to grasp that something like this happened. Condolences to his mom, his dad, his son and his entire family. This is so heart-wrenching and so sickening. There are a lot of innocent people being killed and I hope the government does something to put a serious clamp on the gun violence that is happening in the country.”
Strachan said she last spoke to Hart via phone during the NACAC Championships in Freeport, Grand Bahama, in August, and he vowed to attend the event for the weekend but it never materialized. She said in speaking to the athletes, they have decided to make a donation to the family, setting up a GoFundMe account.
NACAC President and former BAAA President Mike Sands said he was saddened by the news of Hart’s unfortunate and unexpected demise.
“He was a great athlete who competed with true grit and determination. It was always a pleasure being in his presence,” said Sands. “He was a very humble and a mannerly young man who always greeted you with a smile. My condolences goes out to his immediate family and the wider track and field family. Let fond memories of ‘Sparky’ comfort us all during this difficult period. I also take this opportunity to urge everyone and our young men, in particular, to seek conflict resolution rather than violence that all too often ends tragically.”
Hart was just three days short of his 30th birthday, set to run 30 on September 6. In athletics, he was a bronze medalist at the CARIFTA Games and the Pan American Junior Athletics Championships, a gold medalist in the men’s 4x100m relay at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Athletics Championships, and a silver medalist in the men’s 4x400m relay at the World Indoor Championships.
In college, he excelled nationally as a double sprint champion at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Championships in 2012, and a double medalist indoors and outdoors nationally in 2013 while at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. To this day, Hart is the school’s record holder in the men’s 100m and a member of the record-setting men’s 4x100m relay team – a record which stands to this day. Hart then went on to become a standout athlete at Texas A&M University, excelling indoors and outdoors. Hart is a part of the school’s record-setting team in the men’s 4x100m relay. The team of Prezel Hardy Jr., Hart, Michael Bryan and Trinidadian Deon Lendore, in that order, ran 38.30 seconds at the Texas Relays in Austin, Texas, in 2014, and eight years later, that school record still stands.
Hart is a former Southeastern Conference (SEC) Athlete of the Week and received numerous school and conference accolades while at Texas A&M.
It’s been a tough year for the Texas A&M Aggies as Lendore died after being involved in a car collision near Cameron, Texas, in January, 2022. Lendore was a close friend and former teammate of Hart.
As for Hart, he is also a member of men’s 4x100m relay team that holds The Bahamas’ national record in that event. The team of Adrian Griffith, Warren Fraser, Hart and Teray Smith, in that order, set the record of 38.52 seconds at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
Just a month ago, Hart had started up track training in North Abaco, working with some young men in the area.
“I had a conversation with him and he was in the process of going around to get athletes to start the program,” said Rev. Anthony Williams, who was one of Hart’s mentors out of Moore’s Island in the Abacos. “With the Bahamas Games and the CARIFTA Games slated for The Bahamas in 2023, Shavez was working aggressively to find new talent. I am very saddened by this, especially how he lost his life – trying to stop a fight. I want to express my deepest condolences to his family and the people in Abaco and the wider track and field community. Moving forward, we have to do something to help these athletes when they finish school and come into the system. There needs to be more programs to deter men from a life of crime.”
Outside of athletics, Hart was a young entrepreneur. He was the former owner of Club Magenta in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
Prime Minister Philip ‘Brave’ Davis expressed condolences on Twitter.
“On behalf of my family and the people of The Bahamas, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family of Shavez Hart. As a country, we’ve been blessed to have had an amazing athlete carry our flag worldwide. (My wife) Ann and I will keep the family of Shavez in our thoughts and prayers.”
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg also expressed condolences.
“It is with great sadness that I join in the sporting fraternity in expressing heartfelt condolences to the family of the late Shavez Hart, Olympian…. The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture also extends heartfelt condolences to the executive branch of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA), all other members of the organization, and persons within the sporting community. As minister, I pray for healing and comfort for the family of the bereaved during this difficult time. May his soul rest in peace.”
Hart’s former coach at South Plains College Blaine Wiley expressed his sentiments on Twitter.
“(I’m) waking up to absolutely devastating news that one of my former athletes Shavez Hart was shot and killed last night in The Bahamas. I had the honor of coaching ‘Sparky’ at South Plains College where he remains the school record holder and won many NJCAA Championships. #RIP”
Hart’s former teammate at South Plains and Texas A&M, American Fred Kerley, the reigning World Champion in the men’s 100m, simply tweeted ‘My Brother’ with a photo of Hart on Twitter.
No doubt, Hart was one of the greatest Bahamian sprinters of all-time. He is survived by his mother, father, a 14-month old son, three siblings and a host of other family members and friends.
He was certainly one of the most pleasant athletes to interview by the Nassau Guardian sports team, and the team offers sincere condolences to his family, friends, the track and field family of The Bahamas, and to the local sports fraternity in general.
May his soul rest in peace.