By BRENT STUBBS
BEIJING, CHINA — It’s not how you start, nor how you get there. Most importantly, it’s how you finish.
• The Finish Line, a weekly column, seeks to comment on the state of affairs in the local sports scene, highlighting the highs and the lows, the thrills and the spills and the successes and failures.
AS I ended last week’s column, I indicated that this week the focus of attention will be on the International Amateur Athletic Federation’s 15th World Championships.
In transit to Beijing over the past two days, it was unfortunate that I missed a part of history made for the Bahamas at the IAAF Congress when two Bahamians took centre stage and got elected. Congratulations to Pauline Davis-Thompson for being re-elected as one of the six women on the individual membership. Obviously since her initial elevation to the highest body in the sport in the world four years ago, she has done enough to impress the delegations to give her another shot.
And although she’s not on the executive committee, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ successful hosting of the first two editions of the “Bahamazing” IAAF World Relays over the last two years may have had an impact on the voting delegates to give her another opportunity to continue to stay on board, even though there is a new president at the helm with my former idol Sebastian Coe, who I adorned watching and trying to emulate during my heyday as a “want-a-be” distance runner, taking over the helm from Lamine Diack, who didn’t seek another term in office.
Davis-Thompson, a distinguished and accomplished athlete in her own rights who has left her mark during a long and illustrious career in the 60, 100, 200 and 400 metres as well as the 4 x 100m where the Bahamas has gained its share of notoriety with the famed ‘Golden Girls’, didn’t need much help because she is not only well liked, but is someone who after you would have finished talking to her, made you like her.
I think she will continue to be a shining example for generations to come as she followed in the footsteps of another Bahamian legend, Alpheus ‘Hawk’ Finlayson, who broke ground as the first to be elected to the high office when he was elected as council member in 1999 under the presidency of Diack. It was during his tenure in office that the process actually began for the hosting of the World Relays when Finlayson first introduced Diack to the Bahamas and he was able to impress his collegiate from around the world to come back to give the Bahamas the rights for the first two editions.
And if that wasn’t enough for the Bahamas, we have another Bahamian in the IAAF as Dennis Marshall was voted in as a member of the women’s committee. Many of you may not be as familiar with his name as you are with Davis-Thompson because he didn’t go to any major international event and win any prestigious medals or accolades. But quietly behind the scene, Marshall and his brother Winston have been in the trenches mixing and mingling with the movers and shakers of the sport over the past couple decades.
There has never been a world championship that I have attended that I have not seen Dennis Marshall sitting in the VIP stands cheering on the Bahamian athletes in his gold, aquamarine and black colours. As a matter of fact, I even had the pleasure of travelling with him on at least one occasion. And Winston Marshall, who is renowned for his interpretation of the foreign languages in various destinations that the Bahamas has competed in, served as Davis-Thompson’s campaign manager.
So the Marshalls have paid their dues.
The congress was not complete before the Bahamas received some additional recognition when Frank ‘Pancho’ Rahming, who served as the head coach of many national teams when Davis-Thompson was competing in her prime, was awarded the veterans pin by the IAAF. It was another proud moment for a man who rightfully deserves the award. Some may disagree because there was a time when Davis-Thompson and Rahming were at odds when her personal coach Neville Wisdom intervened at an international meet. But that’s a topic of discussion for another time.
I’m sure the late Livingstone Bostwick may be smiling as he goes on to take his eternal rest because he and Rahming were like two peas in a pod when they were around the track. I’m sure as he reminisces on the life of his long-time friend, Rahming would probably say he will dedicate the award to Bostwick, who passed away a week ago at the Broward Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. Florida.
May his soul rest in peace.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Like the athletes and the officials, one of the things that you look forward to is the reunion of friends and acquaintances. For me, it’s my journalistic friends from throughout the Caribbean, whom we have recently binded together to form the Caribbean Alliance Sports Journalists Association.
While it’s a time for us to reflect on the past championships that we would have attended, we also get to put a perspective on the projections of our athletes in the region in the week that lays ahead.
Officially launched last year at the inaugural World Relays where we honoured veteran local journalists Godfrey ‘Goofy’ Brown and Kirk ‘Stomper’ Smith, CASJA seeks to provide an avenue for the journalists in the region to come together to build a better working relationship among our nations in the Caribbean.
And with the Caribbean having such a strong presence with not just our athletes, but now our administrators being elected to various boards, including BAAA president Mike Sands as first vice president of NACAC, we get to cheer each other on during the competition.
So over the next eight days of the biggest track and field event on the planet, there will be a lot more interest in the progress and the accomplishments of our athletes than just from the local representatives of the various media houses present.
The competition starts on Saturday when Jeffrey Gibson will begin his assault on another medal, following his highly acclaimed bronze medal in the men’s 400 metre hurdles at the Commonwealth Games last year in Glasgow, Scotland. From all indications, Gibson is definitely a contender for a lane in the final.
All eyes, however, will be on both the men’s and women’s 400m.
Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown has been added to the three-man pool of new national record holder Steven Gardiner and Michael Mathieu. There’s a lot of questions surrounding this event as many are asking about whether or not the 19-year-old Gardiner is prepared to go through the rounds, if Brown can redeem himself as the elder statesman of the event at age 36 and can Mathieu finally make his major breakthrough at the international level.
I predict that based on the times that they’ve ran so far this year that we will have at least two contenders in the final.
On the women’s side, Shaunae Miller is not only a contender for a medal, but there are many who already have her pegged to medal, even possibly as high as the gold. She will be coming off a slight injury, but with her parents here as members of the management team, she will have enough more incentive to live up to the expectations.
For me, the story of the championships will be to see Leevan ‘Superman’ Sands back in the pit when he contests the men’s triple jump with national champion Latario Collie-Minns. Whether he gets in the final or not, it will be a pleasure just to see Sands on the runway again. I remember so vividly how he told me when he suffered his knee injury at the London Olympics in 2012 that he will be back.
He has certainly defied the odds and is back, having qualified at the last possible chance when he medalled at both the Pan American Games and the NACAC Championship, coming off his defeat to Collie-Minns at the nationals.
Also on the field, national record holder Troy Kemp must be smiling from ear to ear to see that his trend of winning the Bahamas’ first World Championship medal in the high jump continues through former world champion Donald Thomas, national champion Ryan Ingraham and the return of Trevor Barry.
The trio will most certainly have their hands full and will have to aim high in order to get on the podium. What a fantastic championships if all three could be in the final.
And even though very little has been said about her, Bianca ‘BB’ Stuart has finally come into her own. Those many trips of just falling short of getting in and saying confidently that “I will get there next time,” is paying off.
She is a legitimate threat to being a finalist and an outside medal contender.
The Bahamas will have three teams registered for the relays, two in the men’s 4 x 100 and the 4 x 400m, along with the women’s 4 x 400m. The women’s 4 x 100 team did not qualify.
The latter, as expected, will be the cream of the crop when the curtains come down on the championships on Sunday, August 30. It all depends on the make-up and the positions that the coaching staff assembles them to determine what colour of medal they will achieve.
I’m not counting out any of the other athletes or events that they will be competing in, but this is the worlds where the best of the best come out to put on a show. Either you have it or you don’t. There’s a lot at stake, not just in terms of medals and national pride, but some big bucks will be made through the performances of the athletes.
I predict that the Bahamas will have representation in no less than seven individual events and at least two relays. That will eventually produce an average of three medals.
Enough to keep me busy as I enjoy the return on this two-day journey to the beautiful Bird’s Nest where we had some memorable experiences at the 2008 Olympic Games from Sands and the men’s 4 x 400m relay teams in particular.
Who will win them and what colour? I wish to reserve my predictions to what I’ve written down on my sheet of paper. But after getting off to a good start at the congress with two elected members, the Bahamas will continue to be in the spotlight over the coming week.