With the 2020 season essentially over for athletics, focus now shifts to 2021, and given the current climate of financial affairs in the country, it remains uncertain how the local governing body for athletics will adjust its plans and to what extent its national programs and travel will be affected.
Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) President Drumeco Archer confirmed yesterday that they do indeed have a trying season ahead of them, but took solace in anticipating that it can’t possibly get any worse than what happened in 2020 when every major meet was canceled. One of their main challenges for 2021 will come in funding international travel. In any given calendar year, the BAAA facilitates about four or five national team trips for athletes and officials. Given everything that happened in 2020 surrounding the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in a long time, a national team might be forced to remain home in 2021.
Archer said it is a grim situation, but he remains optimistic that a financial breakthrough will occur and allow them to map out a successful course of action for athletics in 2021.
“It’s a dire situation but by no means will CARIFTA 2021 and the world juniors be impacted – we don’t plan to miss either one,” said Archer. “With the age group championships, if next year is the year for that, we are going to make every effort to get our youth to the regional meet. The harsh reality is that we might be unable to fund every trip. As far as CARIFTA is concerned, we remain hopeful that the government will continue to honor their commitment for that event and just let the chips fall where they may. Notwithstanding dire circumstances, CARIFTA was a budgeted item this year and those funds weren’t used so hopefully it can be used next year.”
When asked if the prospect of a national team trip not occurring would put a stain on his legacy as president, Archer said “absolutely not”. He remains hopeful that through corporate support they will be able to honor all of their obligations in 2021.
“I can’t remember a time when we would have been faced with these financial challenges,” said Archer. “To me, this is no different from saying to your child that you are unemployed and unable to pay school fees. In that vein, we are continuing to appeal to the public and continuing to appeal to corporate Bahamas. We’re looking for more persons to provide revenue. We are financially challenged but we still intend to have a full and productive season. We don’t want to disenfranchise any athlete and additionally, the number of officials will still be determined by the size of the team. We don’t ever want to compromise the performances of our athletes by limiting the support that we provide to them through coaching and the management staff. At the end of the day, we have to work together and that will determine the success of the 2021 track and field season.”
The 2020 season is behind them. Following the spread of COVID-19 globally, World Athletics announced a national championships window of August 8 to 9. That date has come and passed with no action, due to the national restrictions imposed through the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Orders. It’s the first year in as long as anyone could remember that no national athletic championships were held in the country.
“It’s frustrating but the reality is that we have to accept that our season has come to an end,” said Archer. “We take solace in knowing that our athletes are still able to perform at an elite level, but this has really been a dead season for us, and now we are left having to figure out how best to adjust for 2021.”
Archer said he will meet with his executive team in short order and together they will chart the way forward for athletics in the country.
“We’re making every effort for a successful season in 2021. We just want our athletes to remain optimistic and see that there is a goal in mind, and that training should still be done at a high level, notwithstanding the restrictive nature of COVID-19,” said Archer. “One of our challenges will be to balance the training schedule as it relates to the usage of the national facility. Speaking with the president of the coaches association and with the coaching community, we have to discuss more effective ways to deliver training sessions so that social distancing could be adhered to. We have to figure out how we will go about distributing usage of the national facility. Training schedules will be impacted. That is a major concern for us.”
On any given day, during the season, hundreds of athletes take part in training sessions and practices in the evenings at the original Thomas A. Robinson Track and Field Stadium. With COVID-19 being entrenched in local communities, the BAAA will undoubtedly be challenged in putting the proper protocols in place to ensure that wearing masks, sanitizing and social distancing is carried out during the sessions on a daily basis.
As far as the athletes maintaining fitness and staying sharp is concerned, Archer said that is the least of his concerns going into 2021. He is confident that Bahamian athletes and coaches will ensure that fitness is maintained, and that at the end of the day, there will be good representation for The Bahamas in athletics in 2021.
The 2021 season will culminate with the postponed Olympics Games, set for July 23 to August 8, in Tokyo, Japan. So far, a total of six Bahamian athletes have qualified outright – all in track and field. Shaunae Miller-Uibo has qualified in both the women’s 200 and 400 meters (m), Steven Gardiner in the men’s 400m, Tynia Gaither in the women’s 100 and 200m, Samson Colebrooke in the men’s 100m, Pedrya Seymour in the women’s 100m hurdles and Jamal Wilson in the men’s high jump.