Sports

Strachan earns spot over Bethel

Run-off in Tokyo determines final runner for The Bahamas in women’s 200m

TOKYO, Japan – A month-long dilemma and standoff between the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) and the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA), in terms of who would run the women’s 200 meters (m) for The Bahamas at the Olympics, was settled yesterday as Anthonique Strachan and Brianne Bethel went head-to-head in a run-off to determine the final runner.

A total of four women from The Bahamas qualified in that event for the Olympics, but only three could run.

Strachan won the unconventional 150m race between the duo yesterday, sealing her spot in the field of competitors for the women’s 200m at these Olympics here in Tokyo, Japan, but there are still a lot of questions left unanswered.

Why wasn’t Tynia Gaither included in the run-off, seeing that she, like Bethel, didn’t run the women’s 200m at the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) Junior and Senior National Track and Field Championships at the end of June? Why did the race cover 150m as opposed to 200m, seeing that whoever won would compete in the latter here at the Olympics? Why should Strachan have to earn her spot in the first place if she rightfully qualified for the Olympics at the nationals and finished in the top three, as required by her national governing body? Why was a run-off done so close to the athletics competition of the Olympics when this issue persisted for an entire month?

Those are just some of the issues that still linger. Thankfully, the odd person out, Bethel, is taking it like a champion and is remaining upbeat.

She wrote on Twitter yesterday: “God always has a way of setting your soul and drive on fire. Although I will not be running the 200m… next time… there won’t be a run-off. I thank God for the opportunity to even be here and I’ll see y’all in the 4×400. #ThroughGod. Congratulations @Anthonique. Go and kill it!!”

It’s settled now who will be the three runners for The Bahamas, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Gaither and Strachan, but it could have gone drastically wrong, and could have crushed the spirit and confidence of a young up-and-coming runner who felt she would have earned the right to be among the trio of female half-lappers representing The Bahamas at the Tokyo Olympic Games. After all, she would have had the fastest qualifying time between herself, Strachan and Gaither.

Bethel, who is the youngest of the trio at 23, ran a personal best time of 22.54 seconds for a conference title at the American Athletic Conference Championships in Tampa, Florida, in May. However, apparently the Houston Cougars graduate student was advised by her coach not to contest the 200m at the BAAA nationals due to a nagging injury that forced her to pull out of the women’s 200m at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Track and Field Championships this year. For the BAAA nationals, it is understood that she was granted a medical exemption.

Gaither, 28, has a qualifying time of 22.57 seconds that was done twice in 2019, and Strachan, 27, qualified with a time of 22.76 seconds at the nationals. Gaither ran the 100m at the nationals, but opted out of running the 200m, apparently for medical reasons as well.

Meanwhile, Strachan said it’s not about feeling vindicated. She’s looking forward to representing The Bahamas in the women’s 200m here in Tokyo, but feels that the entire month-long melee could have been avoided.

“I personally feel disenfranchised. I still feel that way,” she said yesterday. “I competed at trials for this event, qualified and finished in the top three. Even now, I am still confused as to why I had to go through all of this. It’s mentally exhausting. This is mental abuse.

“Yes, based on time, my time is the slowest, but I qualified the right way, I contested the event I wanted to compete in, at the trials. I followed all of the rules and I’m flabbergasted as to how all of this happened. It’s not just an injustice to me, it’s an injustice to Brianne as well.”

Asked why it was an injustice to Bethel as well, Strachan hinted that the run-off should have been between Bethel and Gaither, as opposed to between Bethel and herself.

“It’s all about favoritism, because it was unjust to me and it was unjust to Brianne. Why am I doing a run-off against someone when I did what I was supposed to do at the trials? Tynia has a faster qualifying time than myself, but that time was done in 2019. My time is more recent and Brianne’s time is more recent. If times were not included from 2019, Tynia would not have even qualified off of time.

“There clearly is favoritism. I could not feel any other way. If I am presented with evidence showing that there is no favoritism, then I will retract this statement and apologize, but until then, this is how I feel.”

According to a well-positioned source, Strachan was hand-timed in 16.89 seconds in the 150m run-off yesterday, an indicator that she is clearly in fine form heading into the heats of the women’s 200m here in Tokyo. There wasn’t a time available for Bethel.

“My focus was just to prove that I was in the shape that I needed to be in, and to come through and contest the event that I contested at trials,” said Strachan. “When I line up for the 200, I just want to move through the rounds and continue to improve and achieve the goals that I set out to do.”

According to reports, the BAAA had recommended Miller-Uibo and Strachan be automatically included in the list of entries for the women’s 200m and a run-off be held between Bethel and Gaither to determine the final runner. Miller-Uibo is the fastest qualifier for The Bahamas in that event and also won at nationals.

It is understood that the BOC responded by stating that the recommendation was past an imposed deadline date and left the decision for the list of entries for that event up to the management team in Tokyo, specifically Chef de Mission Cora Hepburn, Athletics Head Coach Rudolph “Rudy” Ferguson and Athletics Team Manager Dawn Woodside-Johnson.

The BOC is in charge of Team Bahamas at the Olympics and all matters of team structure and privilege must go through Chef de Mission Hepburn, who apparently designated authority to Ferguson and Woodside-Johnson to make the call on who should run.

Both Ferguson and Woodside-Johnson resigned as administrators of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Coaches (BAAC) on Tuesday, amid calls from that body to do the “right thing” and allow Strachan to run the 200m in Tokyo. Failure to do so would result in “severe consequences” as stated by the BAAC in a communication to Ferguson and Woodside-Johnson.

Ultimately, it was determined to stage the run-off between Bethel and Strachan but not before legal action would have been threatened by Strachan, and not before an appeal would have been made on her behalf to World Athletics, the world’s governing body for athletics.

It has always been the BOC’s stance that the three fastest runners from the qualifying period should run that event at the Olympics, but the BAAA is of the view that the legitimacy of its national trials process should be upheld.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that Miller-Uibo, Bethel and Gaither were the three entries for The Bahamas for the women’s 200m, and Strachan was listed as the alternate. After the uproar continued, it was decided to stage a run-off between Bethel and Strachan, excluding Gaither who runs in the 100m heats on Friday. According to reports, it was said that Gaither would have earned her spot among the list of entries for the women’s 200m, and also that it wouldn’t be fair to her to take part in a run-off, having to compete in the 100m the following day, and potentially running two more rounds of the 100m on Saturday.

As for the women’s 200m, the heats are set for Monday morning in Tokyo, Sunday evening back in The Bahamas. The semifinals will be held later Monday in Tokyo and the final is set for Tuesday.

Bethel is now the odd person out for the women’s 200m, but will likely be included in the field of runners for the women’s 4x400m relay for The Bahamas. She has the second-fastest 400m time among the runners in the relay pool for The Bahamas during the qualifying period, but was not one of the four runners who helped The Bahamas qualify a team for the Olympics.

The quartet of Doneisha Anderson, Miller-Uibo, Megan Moss and Strachan, in that order, clocked 3:29.40 at the Blue Marlin Last Chance Meet at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium at the end of June, to qualify The Bahamas in the women’s 4x400m relay for the Olympics. They qualified in the 16th and final spot for the Olympics, and is the only relay team from The Bahamas to qualify.

As it stands now, Bethel will almost certainly be included in that relay pool, particularly since high school athlete Lacarthea Cooper tested positive for COVID-19 in Nassau, and didn’t travel with the team.

The athletics portion of the Tokyo Olympic Games gets underway today at the Japan National Stadium here in Tokyo, Japan.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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