By BRENT STUBBS
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.
The Week That Was
Every year around this same time, we take an retrospect of the performances of the Carifta teams representing the country.
And every year, we’ve been bombarded with the same old question: Why does track and field get more of the spotlight than swimming? Although the latter normally performs better than the former.
It should be noted that the two disciplines are entirely different and, as such, there’s no preferential treatment given to one over the other. There is no favouritism of track and field over swimming.
The two teams represent the country and as such deserve the same type of recognition as the other. And this year, chess also competed in the Carifta Games, albeit in St Croix, US Virgin Islands where Nathan Smith turned in a spectacular performance, winning the gold medal in the boys’ under-12 division.
He was the lone representative for the Bahamas.
While swimming carried a 36-member team to Martinique where they finished second after their two-year winning streak was snapped, track and field had a 60-member team that returned home with a third place finish, dropping down a notch from last year in the gold medal rush.
Although there are some who will argue who had the best performance and who should get more media coverage than the other, we should all know that the two performances should be celebrated for what they’re worth. They are all Bahamians and they represented the Bahamas.
Having travelled to Grenada, known as the isle of spice, I can clearly speak for what I have seen transpire.
First of all, I have to commend the BAAA and the newly elected executive board, headed by Rosamunde Carey, for sticking with the precedent set a year ago by the former administration led by Mike Sands to only carry those athletes who attained the qualifying standard.
There were others, however, who went along for relay duties and they were responsible for helping the team to secure seven silver medals in the eight events they competed in. All of the teams, boys and girls 4 x 100 and 4 x 400m, came in second behind Jamaica. The only team that didn’t medal was the boys’ under-18 4 x 4.
Last year, the Bahamas picked up four gold and finished with 31 medals for second place. That was the target to at least surpass in Grenada.
The team collected five and ended up with six on the final tally by the organisers. In checking out the results, they had listed the high jump won by Jyles Etienne twice. I say that they should have given us the sixth gold for the performance of the members of the junkanoo group. They rocked the Grenada National Athletics Stadium day in and out.
Charisma Taylor came so close to winning a gold medal, but just as she attempted to cross the bar on the ninth of the 10 hurdles, her feet clipped the top of it and her bid to pick up her first gold in the girls’ under-20 100m hurdles was thwarted.
Taylor, however, bounced right back and took her frustration out in the triple jump where she soared to the podium to join Etienne, Kendrick Thompson, Denvaughn Whymns and Benjamin Najman.
Najman’s gold didn’t come without any drama either. After he had completed the gruelling 12 1/2 lap race, he was advised by the officials that he still had another one to go.
But as he insisted and some of the Bahamian officials rushed onto the track and voiced their displeasure as well, Najman got his just reward as the boys’ under-20 5,000m champion.
Another medal slipped out of the grasp of the boys’ under-20 110m hurdler Tavonte Mott, who also slipped as he cleared the high bars in the final stage of the race and he ended up slipping into second for the silver as his team-mate Shakeem Smith settled for the bronze.
And as he competed at the end of the morning session on Monday, it appeared as if hardly anybody expected Whymns to pull through with the gold. Only about six of the Bahamian roaring crowd stayed behind and cheered him on from the opposite side of the track and he propelled to the top of the 21-man field that was divided into two flights.
Whymns had to battle it out in the second flight, but prevailed with what turned out to be the longest wait for a medal.
After two days of competition, Thompson and Ken Munnings made their presence felt in the eight disciplines they participated in during the octathlon competition. When it was completed, Thompson stuck tall with the gold and his name in the record books.
Munnings, who made sure that he wasn’t left behind, came through with the bronze.
There was also a 1-3 feat in the boys’ under-18 high jump where Etienne had to go to a jump of with Jamaican Kobe-Jordan Rhooms. And in the battle for the bronze, Benjamin Clarke was tied with Jaden Bernabela of Curacao. The silver and bronze medal feat by Douvankiylin Rolle and Ramel Poitier in the boys under-20 pole vault should also be highlighted.
Mention should also be made of throwers Tiffany Hanna, Malik Stuart and Serena Brown, sprinters Devine Parker, Jenae Ambrose and Keanu Pennerman, quarter-milers Britni Fountain, Shaquania Dorsett and Kinard Rolle, hurdlers Sasha Wells and Bronson Rolle and Quanisha Martin, the lone female middle distance runner, who all gave it their best.
There were some athletes who came extremely close to winning an individual medal like Brianne Bethel, Kaze Poitier and Brashae Wood.
But for those who didn’t make the trip to Grenada, it should be noted that the level of competition far exceeded what many anticipated. While Jamaica was in a class of their own, the Bahamas had to face some stiff competition from athletes from all of the other countries as everybody stepped it up on the big stage.
With two years to go before the games return to our home shores for the seventh time in 2018, there is a lot of work to be done but the BAAA, the management team, the coaching staff, the government officials, the parents, family members, friends and of course the junkanoeers should be commended for a job well done in St George’s.
The people from Grenada and the rest of the Caribbean felt the presence of the Bahamas.
The Week Ahead
This weekend at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, the Bahamian focus will be on Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2016 NCAA men’s division one basketball championship.
Already in the Final Four for the second straight year, Hield is hoping Saturday night to get to the big dance on Monday night when he puts the final stamp on his impressive collegiate career.
Hield, however, was beaten out yesterday for the Associated Press Player of the Year honours by three votes.
Michigan State guard Denzel Washington earned the honour with 34 out of 65 votes from the national media. The two players were the lone unanimous selections to the AP All-American team.
Left to be decided is the prestigious Naismith Trophy, the Oscar Robertson/USBWA Trophy and the Wooden Award and Hield is one of the top candidates as well.
Hield, the Big 12 Conference men’s basketball Player of the Year for the past two consecutive years, is looking to move to the next level when the National Basketball Association’s Draft is held in June.
No doubt his performance in the Final Four this weekend will increase his stock as he looks to join the list of Bahamian players that include Mychal ‘Sweet Bells’ Thompson, Rick Fox, Dexter Cambridge and Ian Lockhart, who all left their mark on the NBA.