By BRENT STUBBS
WE’VE come a long way from the days when the late great Tommy Robinson pioneered the Bahamas’ international participation as the sole representative at the Pan Am Games in Mexico City in 1958, serving as the manager, coach and athlete, competing in the 100 and 200 metres.
Nowadays, we carry almost as many team officials as we do athletes to these global competitions. With the way sports has evolved, there may be some justification for the ratio that seemingly is about 1-2 official-athlete. I’m sure each official has a specific role to play on the team.
But, in most cases, because of the inclusion of personal agents, managers and coaches, there’s really no separation from the day-to-day operation of the national team once the athlete has been named to the team or is travelling with the Bahamian delegation to compete.
I understand precisely that these are professional athletes and they should be treated as such. They have to be in the right frame of mind with the right people surrounding them to bring out the maximum in them.
But the athletes and their handlers have to realise that the country is holding the management and coaching staff of our teams accountable for the team.
At the national team level, these athletes travel at the expense of the country, who provides the grants and sponsorship of the team to compete. I just think that at some point, some stipulation must be put in place for the athletes to adhere to the instructions handed by those in authority of the team.
We’re in an era where our athletes are now excelling in abundance on the international scene in just about every sport. So yes, a lot of it is being achieved by the assistance of those who are in their corners, ensuring that they do what is necessary to be as competitive as they can.
But there’s nothing like representing your country on a national team. You stand out as the best among the country has to offer with so many emulating what you have achieved. They are looking up to these athletes, whom they aspire to become one day.
For too long, we’ve not put the necessary measures in place before our national teams take off. If they are, why are they not adhered to? Maybe, if they are, they should be revisited with the view of ensuring that all athletes, whether they are at the top of the totem pole or at the bottom, they are all on even par as national team members.
Yes, some will achieve more success than others. But when they travel, it’s not just their names called, but it’s everybody, hence they’re called the national team. Those who excel more than others are then singled out for their accomplishments.
Like I said, we’ve surpassed that day when Robinson was a one-man show. He gained the respect of the rest of the year as he carried the Bahamian flag with dignity and pride. Those days are long gone.
Since our national teams have increased, there’s rarely a time that you don’t hear about conflicts within the camp. These days, they are highlighted a little more because of the presence of the press or more so because of the introduction of social media.
There isn’t any turmoil, conflict or misunderstanding that is not brought to the public domain. Somehow or the other, the press or social media will diverge what has transpired. That’s the reality of the world that we live in.
While we love and cherish our athletes, they have to realise that whenever they put the word Bahamas on their chest as national team members, there must be some sort of decorum that they have to abide by.
At the same token, I think there should be a meeting of the minds where the decisions are thoroughly discussed with these elite athletes to ensure that everybody is on the same page when they travel to represent the country, regardless of who is in charge.
We look at other countries and are quick to point out that their top athletes are representing their countries. But do we know what measures are taken to ensure that they do or that they willingly do without any coercing.
We’ve gotten so accustomed to relays because of the successes of the ‘Golden Girls’ and the ‘Golden Knights’ over the years. But they didn’t just go out there and achieve their goals. It took a lot of maturity on the part of everyone behind the scene to get it done.
I remember going to one particular global event and a certain athlete was brought to tears when they were told they won’t be allowed to compete on the relay team. That athlete vowed that as long as they are competing, every national team that travelled, they will be a part of it.
Not only did the individual live up to their expectation, but that particular athlete ended up being one of the greatest relay runners the country has ever produced. Their national pride, persistence and commitment to the country stood out more than any individual glory.
I want to congratulate our two stellar athletes - national record holders Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Steven Gardiner - in winning the country’s only two medals in the women’s 200m with a bronze and silver in the men’s 400m respectively at the 16th IAAF World Championships in London last week.
But the entire travesty surrounding the performances of our relay teams in London was not called for. There was too much ‘you say, I say,’ ‘he say, she say’ that took place rather than the issue dealt with.
It has put a damper on the achievement of Miller-Uibo and Gardiner, who should be highlighted for having the Bahamas flag flying during another championship.
Gardiner was lambasted for not showing up for the heats of the men’s 4 x400m relay. There were those who argued that he had sufficient time off from the final of the 400m to get ready to run the relay.
This is the same individual who, going into the championships, had a red flag flying over his head about his ability to run the rounds. His history in completing one race after the other was not a secret.
The only question is what happened to the other five guys named to the relay pool? Did they all go to London prepared to run if they were called upon or were they looking for Gardiner to bail the team out?
Based on the performances from Alonzo Russell, Michael Mathieu, Ojay Ferguson and Ramon Miller, one can only wonder what difference Gardiner would have made in getting into the final.
And the argument would have been would he have been ready to go back-to-back in the final? If he wasn’t, would the team have been able to make a better showing?
This should have been a golden opportunity for the rest of the team, having all fresh legs since none of them competed in an individual event, to shine without the service of Gardiner and they didn’t pass the test.
More than ever, I think they could have relied on the veteran experience of Chris ‘the Fireman’ Brown, but too bad, he wasn’t in London.