In an effort to heighten awareness and create income for ongoing training for the Olympics, Bahamian distance runner O’Neil Williams has started a YouTube Channel featuring himself in action.
The title of his channel is “Abroad in Kenya” and his latest episode is “How to run hill sprints with perfect form. Bahamian marathoner training in Kenya”. The 37-year-old Olympic hopeful remains confident that with the proper support, he will qualify for the Summer Olympics which has been pushed back to July 23 to August 8, 2020, still in Tokyo, Japan.
Williams is the preeminent marathon runner in the country, setting the new national mark of 2:29.28 at the TCS Amsterdam Marathon, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, last year. He initially broke Delroy Boothe’s old record of 2:34.47 at the 35th Ameris Bank Jacksonville Marathon in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2017, running 2:30.35, and then lowered the mark even further in December of 2019. The qualifying time for the Olympics is 2:11.30, and he can also qualify based on athlete quota for the men’s marathon for the Olympics and overall World Athletics ranking points.
“I feel as if I’m right there,” said Williams. “My training is going very good. I’m looking at running again in late November or early December. I’m just using this time of the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for something later this year. I’m in good shape and things are going well. I only wish I could get more financial support, particularly from the government of The Bahamas, the BOC (Bahamas Olympic Committee) and the BAAA (Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations). Even after breaking the national record, I am not on subvention which is sad. The BOC is supposed to have a welfare outreach program to help the athletes but I’m not sure what is going on with that, because I haven’t heard anything to this day. They say they want to help the athletes but I’m not hearing anything. I’ve also reached out to the BAAA many times, but to no avail. It’s as if they don’t want to assist the athletes.”
Williams is stating that he is not even at the developmental stage of subvention which is listed at $12,000 per annum. It is the lowest level in the government’s subvention program. The BOC has pledged on a number of occasions to assist developing athletes in their attempts to attain qualifying marks for the Olympics through Olympic solidarity funds. However, Williams said he was told by a BOC official that he needs to be an Olympian in order to receive assistance funds from the BOC. As far as the BAAA is concerned, the Bahamian national record holder in the men’s marathon said that he has been given the runaround ever since he moved to Kenya to train.
He trains alongside some of the best distance athletes in the world in Iten, Kenya, where he has been for the past nine years.
“The powers that be who are responsible for the sports in the country are doing me a disservice. Athletes are still suffering and I am one of them,” said Williams. “All I’m doing is asking for some assistance so that I could qualify for the Olympics. I’ve received assistance from family and friends and I’m extremely grateful for that, but the people who are responsible for sports are not offering any support. I shouldn’t have to be running behind these people to get support in order to put the country on the map. The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture helped me out one time, but I’m an athlete year around, not just on one occasion, and I’ve been representing the country all over the world. I just want to thank the people who are still behind me – my adopted father Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar, my mom Dawn Knowles, Shavaughn Blades who has been there for me from day one, my Coach Wilson Bain, my aunt Joan Sweeting, Think Simple and my member of parliament Glenys Hanna Martin who has been promoting me and my channel and I thank her for that. She is a good woman and she is being very helpful.”
Member of Parliament (MP) for Englerston Hanna Martin has posted on Facebook in support of Williams: “Sheer determination, discipline and hard work…and no doubt great sacrifice has been invested in this goal. He (Williams) is a product of Englerston and Bahamian proud! Let us support him. Please subscribe to his Youtube channel.”
Williams said he is looking to run in Marathon Bahamas in January, but there hasn’t been any word on the status of that event given the unpredictable nature of COVID-19. The Sunshine Insurance Race Weekend, featuring the 12th running of Marathon Bahamas, was initially set for January 16-17, 2021.
The marathon season usually stretches from September to June, but the men’s marathon at the Olympics wouldn’t be held until Sunday, August 8, 2021, according to the new schedule. Williams would have to shave about 18 minutes off his personal best national record time in order to qualify for the Olympics on time.
“The purpose of me asking for help is so that I could qualify for the team,” he said. “When I broke the national record in Amsterdam last year, I did it after sleeping in the airport for two nights and without getting any assistance from the government. I have been begging for money to train and represent The Bahamas because I know what I’m capable of doing once I put in the necessary work. I’m not even on developmental subvention and this is during a time when there are many means to qualify. A little bit of support would go a long way. I’m confident that once I get the proper support, and in the right conditions, I will be able to qualify for the Olympics and represent this country well.”
Williams said that while his training has been disrupted by a small degree because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is still in good shape and ready to record some impressive times. He is on a mission to become the first Bahamian to qualify for the Olympics in any distance event.
The qualifying period for the men’s marathon for the Olympics has been suspended, scheduled to restart December 1, 2020, and will run until May 31, 2021.