By BRENT STUBBS
SO just like that, before we realised it, Christmas has come and gone.
That’s just how the year 2016 passed us by with all of its thrills and spills, successes and failures, triumphs and defeats and victories and defeats.
So as we wind down the past 12 months and we stare 2017 into the face, there are so many memories that we can glean from and look ahead with great anticipation.
As I sit at my desk and reflect on some of the highlights, those that come directly to mind are the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where we saw the thrilling dive by Shaunae Miller for the gold over American Allyson Felix in the epic women’s 400 metres.
The performance was one of two medal feats for the Bahamas as Miller sparked the men’s 4 x 400m team of Alonzo Russell, Michael Mathieu, Steven Gardiner and Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown, who didn’t want to get left off the podium as they settled for the bronze as they trailed the United States of America and Jamaica in another classic regional showdown.
It was the second major international medal for the team and the lone one at the meet for the country as the combo of Mathieu, Russell, Shavez Hart and Brown surged to a national record in picking up the silver behind the USA at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon in March.
As I glance back through the headlines from this past one, one of the most inspiring performances to me came from high hurdler Pedrya Seymour, who in my opinion should be named the Rising Star of the Year.
After making her break through at the World Indoors in Portland, and enduring a nasty spill in the final of the NCAA Championships, Seymour went all the way to the final of the women’s 100m hurdles in Rio.
Had she not stumbled coming out of the blocks, who knows, Seymour could have made it three appearances for the Bahamian flag hoisted during a medal presentation, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
The sport of athletics certainly had their glaring moments in 2016, too many to mention, considering the fact that there are some other sports that should not be left out of the spotlight.
All year long, Grand Bahama was under the microscope, thanks to collegians Chavanno ‘Buddy’ Hield and Jonquel Jones in their senior campaigns with the Oklahoma Sooners and the George Washington Colonials respectively.
Who would have thought that two players from the Bahamas, Grand Bahama and Eight Mile Rock specifically, would have turned heads as they marched all the way to the NBA and the WNBA with the sixth picks in both first rounds of the drafts?
Hield, now 23 after celebrating his birthday on December 17, was picked up by the New Orleans Pelicans where he’s struggling to find his groove, following in the footsteps of four other Bahamians who graced the league from Mychal ‘Sweet Bells’ Thompson to Rick Fox to Ian ‘Foots’ Lockhart to Dexter Cambridge.
Meanwhile Jones, 22, made her mark as the second Bahamian to grace the women’s league behind Waltiea Rolle with the Connecticut Suns as they missed out on a trip to the playoffs. Rolle’s experience, however, enabled her to go on to shine in the Korean League at the conclusion of the WNBA and the prognostication for a brighter future.
There could be another Bahamian rising to those lofty heights of the NBA in the next few years if Lourawls Nairn doesn’t beat him out of that status when he completes his tenure with the Michigan State Spartans.
His name is De’Andre Anton, the current top ranked player in high school in the US. He has also inked his name on the dotted line to play for the University of Arizona Wildcats, one of the eight teams scheduled to participate in the annual Battle for Atlantis men’s basketball tournament in November.
It’s interesting to note that Hield and the Sooners were on display in the Atlantis tournament in 2014 and Nairn and the Spartans were here this year. In between those two years, another Bahamian, Androsian Shaquille Cleare suited up for the Maryland Terrapins when they participated in 2015.
Before we close the chapter on basketball, we have to acknowledge the accomplishments of the junior boys national team coached by Quentin ‘Three Ounce’ Hall and led by most valuable player Domnick Bridgewater in winning the Caribbean Basketball Confederation Under-16 Championships in Georgetown, Guyana in June and a week later, the junior girls team, coached by Varel Davis with MVP Tanea Bowleg as they followed in their version of the tournament at the same venue.
Over to volleyball, the men’s national team, coached by Cavance Mortimer, captured the FIVB World Qualifying Round in Martinique in October as Princtanique Wilson won the MVP, best receiver and best scorer awards, Byron Ferguson was the best blocker, Jamaal Ferguson was the best spiker and Renaldo Knowles was the best digger.
Not to be left out, the women’s team, coached by Jason Saunders, went to the Cayman Islands a month later where they finished second as Kelsie Johnson was named the co best middle blocker with Sandra Ramier from Guadeloupe and Melinda Bastian and Brittany Bonamy were named the best outside spikers.
In the process, both teams advanced to the second round of the second round of the AZOVA qualifying series for the 2018 FIVB World Volleyball Championships with men booking their ticket to Trinidad & Tobago and the women heading to Jamaica.
And in yet another astonishing performance, the Bahamas had not two but 10 players, including seven starters, play for Great Britain at the World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Brooklyn, New York in September.
The list comprised of the cadre of Bahamian pro players, including Antoan Richardson (Southern Maryland, Atlantic League), Albert Cartwright (Ottawa, Can-Am League), Ali Knowles (Garden City, Pescos League), Chavez Young (Toronto Blue Jays, MLB), Jasrado Chisholm (Arizona Diamondbacks, MLB), Kyle Simmons (Pittsburgh Pirates, MLB), Todd Isaacs (Cleveland Indians, MLB), Reshard Munroe (Cincinnati Reds, MLB), Byron Murray (San Francisco Giants, MLB) and Champ Stuart (New York Mets, MLB).
It would certainly be good to hear the players all being called up to play on the Bahamas team one day.
As they prepare to host the world in the 2017 FIFA World Cup Beach Soccer, the Bahamas men’s national team made history by defeating the United States for the first time in a nail-biting match in Spiez, Switzerland in August during their six-week training camp and a series of tournaments in Europe.
In July, the Bahamas won their American Zone III Davis Cup semi-finals in Bolivia and ended a seven-year drought as the Bahamas got promoted to Zone II in 2017.
The Newman brothers – Baker and Spencer – making their successful debut, will once again join Kevin Major Jr and player/captain Marvin Rolle to represent the Bahamas against Venezuela in February after earning their spots in the Giorgio Baldacci National Open Challenge last week at the National Tennis Centre.
It wasn’t the best of years for Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, even though she excelled to make her third appearance at the Olympic Games, qualifying in three individual events. The 26-year-old stellar performer left it all in the pool in Rio as she capped off what may be her final year of competitive swimming, falling short once again of getting on the podium when she competed in just the 50 and 100m free. She opted not to contest the 100m butterfly.
But as she prepares to make her exit whenever she does, there is another phenom following in her footsteps. Before making her freshman debut at the University of Texas, Evans made a splash in her first trip to the Olympics, placing 13th in the 400m freestyle (4:07.60), 23rd in the 800m freestyle and 37th in the 200m freestyle (2:01.27), lowering her national records in the process.
Also at the games, the Bahamas got introduced to another sport as Emily Morley made her breakthrough in rowing. The 22-year-old went all the way to the E final where she finished sixth in the Women’s Single Sculls. Morley made history as the first Bahamian to compete in rowing and the first to join her father, swimmer David Morley (1984 Olympics), in a different sport at the world’s biggest sporting stage.
Serena Brown, 17, had one of the most remarkable performances in her transition from the junior to the senior ranks. In fact, the St Augustine's College graduate prepared for her entry into Texas A&M by shattering a 16-year old national junior record held by Chafree Bain and a 26-year-old senior record held by Lavern Eve in her series of four throws in the final of the discus at the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland in July where she finished fourth.
Those were just some of the glaring performances that left the Bahamian sporting enthusiasts grasping for more in 2017.
However there were some disappointments that should not go unmentioned.
One of them came from the 36-member team that went to El Salvador and relinquished their Central American Caribbean Bodybuilding Championship title won a year ago here at home.
The Bahamas’ best performances at the championships came from Jimmy Norius – in the men’s bodybuilding welterweight; Bernard Davis, men’s bodybuilding super heavyweight and Theo Burrows, men’s fitness, all silver and Lorraine Fowler, women’s physique short class; Jamiel Hamilton, men’s bodybuilding heavyweight and Lakeisha Miller, women’s body fitness, bronze medals.
I don’t know if it was just me, but more was expected of the men’s national basketball team at the CentroBasket tournament in Panama City, Panama in July.
But the team, coached by Mario Bowleg, didn’t live up to its expectations with the calibre of players like De’Andre Ayton, Jaraun ‘Keno’ Burrows and Jean ‘Rony’ Cadot leading the attack. The team ended up in seventh place with just a 2-3 win-loss record.
Off the playing surface, the Bahamas lost one of its greatest stars as mixed martial artist Kevin ‘Kimbo Slice’ Ferguson, who parlayed his internet popularity into a mixed martial arts (MMA) career and worldwide fame, died in June at the age of 42.
Slice was taken to a hospital in Margate, Florida, near his home, Coral Springs Police Sgt. Carla Kmiotek said. The cause of death was unclear and there is no active police investigation as there was no foul play suspected.
And in April, the Bahamas lost one of its most versatile female athletes after Natasha Newbold died at the age of 52. Newbold excelled in just about every sport she competed in as a student of CC Sweeting, but she become one of the top bodybuilders and powerlifters as she flexed most of her muscles, held numerous national records and won a number of national titles as well as representing the Bahamas in both segments of the sport. She will be missed.
Although he survived a life-threatening injury, former Bahamas Olympic Committee vice president and Bahamas Basketball Federation president David ‘Stretch’ Morley displayed a lot of courage after losing his lower right leg.
Morley, who developed gangrene, said his goal is to pursue a spot on the executive board of the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association where he intends to inject some new ideas. It was so good to hear him speak in May that he wasn’t going to let his handicap hold him down.
And in what turned out to be another fallout from the Bahamas blowing the whistle on a Caribbean bribery in FIFA, one of the widest decisions was made by the Code of Ethics (FCE) in May to ban Lionel Haven from taking part in any football-related activity at national and international level (administrative, sports or any other) for a period of five years.
Haven was fined $3,000 within 30 days of notification of the ruling which stemmed from the investigation started in 2011 over the distribution of cash gifts handed over to delegates at a meeting on May 10, 2011 in Trinidad & Tobago.
Haven said he complied with the Investigatory Chambers about his involvement and admitted that even though he was at the meeting, he never entered the room on May 10, 2011 and therefore he was exonerated from the activities that were taking place.
Perhaps one of those stories that will be hard to fathom is the one about the cancellation of the Chris Brown Bahamas Invitational. After getting a grandiose support for the hosting of the second edition in April, the country’s most decorated male track athlete had to cancel the third edition in 2017.
Now he’s working with the Grenadian track association in putting on their first invitational on the island. It’s a pity we couldn’t provide all of the ingredients to keep the CBBI on the calendar here.
As I close the book on all that transpired in 2016, I can’t wait to see what unfolds in 2017.
If for some reason, any athlete or event was not included, it was not done intentionally. Those are just some that stood out the most.
Happy New Year.