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Williams mulling retirement

Bahamian distance runner says he will consider stepping down if marathon run falters

After a severe Achilles injury and financial restraints prevented him from taking part in the 19th running of the Brescia Art Marathon, O’Neil Williams, still training in Kenya, will use one final measuring stick to find out where he is at, condition-wise, and determine in what direction he will go for his career.

According to the Bahamian multinational record holder, retirement from the sport he loves is a very realistic possibility. Now 38, he knows the time is winding down on his athletics career.

Williams holds the national records in a number of distance events, and over the last five years, has really turned his attention to marathon running. His marathon national record of 2:29:28 was done at the TCS Amsterdam Marathon, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, two years ago. He initially broke Delroy Boothe’s long-standing national record of 2:34.47 at the 35th Ameris Bank Jacksonville Marathon in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2017, running 2:30.35, and was attempting to get below the Olympic qualifying time of 2:11.30, before an Achilles injury thwarted those plans.

“After I recovered from the Achilles injury, I increased my mileage to get back to the level where I was at. I was doing a pretty good job up until the injury. I was doing about three minutes per kilometer, which is about a 2:06 marathon – that’s the pace I was on,” said Williams. “Now, I’m contemplating my future. I’m doing some really good sessions in Iten. I’m going to gauge my performance going forward. I hope to continue in marathon running, but if it’s not there, I will drop back and retire. I’m just going to gauge it to determine if I should give it one final year and see where it goes.”

Williams still trains in the hilly terrain of Iten, Kenya – he has been there for the past 10 years.

He’s registered for the Zürich Malaga Marathon, set for this coming Sunday in Zürich, Switzerland. He will leave for Zürich this week.

“Right now, I’m getting everything in order and preparing to have my best performance of the season,” said Williams. “The body is in good shape. For the first time in a while, I feel healthy and ready to put down a fast time. I just want to go out there, perform and represent my country well,” he added.

Williams said he’s still supported by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and its ambassador program, and is grateful for those who have always been there for him such as Dionisio D’Aguilar, Dawn Knowles, Shavaughn Blades, coach Wilson Bain and Glen Bain, among others.

“A lot of them are still there,” said Williams. “They’ve helped me out in every aspect of this journey that I’ve been on. I’m grateful and haven’t forgotten them. I appreciate all of the support and, going forward, I’m going to do the best that I can and just try to run a good time. As a part of the RBC ambassador program, they’re taking care of the plane ticket and they are on board with me. I’m a full-time athlete representing RBC and the country as a whole. Right now, my future is up in the air, but I still have a lot of people supporting me, wanting me to give it one last try, so I’m in the process of determining what avenue would be best for me. I’m optimistic,” he added.

Williams was attempting to qualify for the men’s marathon for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, but those plans were derailed after he suffered an Achilles injury at the Marathon Izmir 2021 in Izmir, Turkey, in April. He was vying to become the first Bahamian in the history of athletics to qualify for a long distance event at the Olympics.

In addition to the Achilles injury, he also had financial challenges, citing that he was denied subvention by The Bahamas government.

For the past 10 years, Williams has been training in Iten, Kenya with some of the best distance runners in the world. 

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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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