By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
FROM the track to the front office to the field and to some discussions and decisions behind the scene, the Bahamas had another eventful year.
Here's a recap of how the top stories unfolded over the past 12 months.
Quarter-milers Reign Supreme
The International Amateur Athletic Federation's World Championships in London, England, turned out to be the highlight of the year and there was no lack of surprises for Team Bahamas as quarter-milers Steven Gardiner and Shaunae Miller-Uibo led the way.
While the focus of attention at the ten-day competition in August was on Miller-Uibo's attempt at a rare 200/400 metre double by any female athlete worldwide, Gardiner stole the show as he finally merged on the podium with one of the greatest individual performances.
With a change in coaching and location, the expectations were for him to at least advance to the final of the one-lap race. The Abaco native, however, had other plans as he took it right to the line with world record holder Wayde van Niekerk as the South African went on to defend his title.
When it was all said and done, the 25-year-old South African surged to the front in a winning title of 43.98 seconds, leaving the 22-year-old Gardiner with the silver in 44.41, ahead of Abdalelah Haroun in 44.48 as he set the tone for Qatar as they prepare to host the next championships in 2019.
For the 6-feet, 5-inches Gardiner, he became just the second Bahamian male competitor to medal at the biannual championships joining Avard Moncur, the world champion in 2001 in Edmonton, Canada.
Gardiner, however, inked his name further into Bahamian history when he surged across the finish line in the semifinal two days earlier as the first to dip under the 44-second barrier with his winning time of 43.89.
"I felt pretty good about my performance," said Gardiner, who had to skip his victory lap to receive medical attention. "I came into the final with some dead legs from the semifinal, but overall, I held it together, brought it home and got second, a silver medal.
"I thank God for finishing healthy and strong."
In between his feat, history was on the side of Miller-Uibo as she was on the merge of becoming the second Bahamian female to win the one-lap race, following in the footsteps of Tonique Williams, the back-to-back 2004 Athens Olympic and 2005 Helsinki IAAF World Championships champion.
Miller-Uibo, the six-feet, one-inch leading lady, on her way to duplicating Williams' double feat, was about 50 metres from the finish line when the unexpected occurred and her dreams were dashed.
Unlike the 2016 Olympics in Rio where she dove across the finish line to upset American Allyson Felix, Miller-Uibo did not crumple to the track, but instead her right foot gave way in the wet conditions on the track.
She could only watch as her enormous lead dwindled and she slipped from first to fourth in 50.49. American Phyllis Francis stunned the field in surged to the front in 49.92 for the victory. Salwa Eid Naser, the 19-year-old Bahraini, snatched the silver medal in 50.06 for another national record and Felix avenged her defeat to Miller-Uibo by taking the bronze in 50.08.
After all the dramatics, Miller-Uibo shook it off and regained her composure to ensure that she left London with some hardware as she picked up the bronze in 22.15 behind flying Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers, who defended her title in 22.05 and Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou with the silver in 22.08.
"I'm thankful for my performance. The ladies brought their A game and it was really competitive. That's what I love to do: compete against the best. It was an amazing feeling, I had some fun and now I'm going home with a bronze medal too, so I'm really happy," Miller-Uibo stated.
"It's been a great experience for me, with my first attempt at the double. It was different but I liked it. I'm definitely going to try it again in 2019. The crowd was amazing, I loved competing here. They just roar from the get go and really get your spirit going."
It's been a celebratory year for Miller-Uibo, who started it off by marrying her college sweetheart Maicel Uibo on February 4 at a lavish ceremony at Atlantis, Paradise Island and closing it out by earning $100.000 for her double victory in the 200/400m double over two weekends at the IAAF Diamond League Final in Europe at the end of August.
Knowles New BOC Boss
In the highly contested elections for the Bahamas Olympic Committee, incumbent secretary general Romel 'Fish' Knowles moved up to replace Wellington Miller as the new president.
At the 11th hour, Knowles announced his intention to run after Miller opted not to contest the position for his third four-year term in office, hoping to avoid a court battle as the newly revised constitution stated that an officer could not serve for more than that period.
During the elections held in the Paul Farquharson Auditorium of the Royal Bahamas Police Force Headquarters, Knowles won the top spot 15-8 over former Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations' president Mike Sands.
And Derron Donaldson, one of the six incumbent vice presidents, was elevated to the position of secretary general, winning 15-8 over Tracey Halkitis from the Bahamas Equestrian Association.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the fact that none of the persons who ran from the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations and the Bahamas Aquatic Federation got elected.
There were, however, three new members elected.
Oria Knowles from the Bahamas Baseball Association won 9-8 over Katherine Ramsey-Pierre from the Bahamas Equestrian Federation for assistant secretary, while Charlie 'Softly' Robins, the president of the Bahamas Basketball Federation, who got in unopposed as the assistant treasurer.
Robins will assist Darcy Rahming from the Bahamas Judo Federation, who went in unopposed prior to the election.
The other new executive was Dorian Roach from the Bahamas Triathlon Association, who joined returning vice presidents Cora Hepburn, Clarence Rolle, Joseph 'Joe Moe' Smith, Robert Butler and Roy Colebrooke.
FIFA Beach Soccer Best in the World
The Bahamas Football Association was entrusted with the staging of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and it ended up being awarded with the title of the Best Event Award at the Beach Soccer Stars gala in Dubai, Al Habtoor City.
Players, coaches, fans and stakeholders from across the world of beach soccer gathered for the star-studded event to honor those with the most impressive performances over the past 12 months.
Anton Sealey, president of the Bahamas Football Association (BFA), accepted the award on behalf of the federation, members of the Local Organizing Committee and the people of The Bahamas.
"Obviously it's a tremendous honor given the competition we were up against. I would like to say a special thank you to the team back in The Bahamas, the government and people of The Bahamas for their tremendous support, and to Beach Soccer Worldwide for assisting us in putting on such an amazing event," Sealey said to the crowded ballroom.
Beach soccer events were staged in over 22 countries over the past year, but only three were nominated. The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017 came out on top, beating out the Euro Winners Cup Nazare 2017 and BSWW Tour Visit Puerta Vallarta 2017.
The event, which was held in Nassau February 27 to May 7, welcomed just under 60,000 spectators and saw teams from The Bahamas, Switzerland, Ecuador, Senegal, Nigeria, Italy, Mexico, Paraguay, Portugal, Panama, Brazil, Tahiti, Poland, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Japan compete for the top spot.
"The LOC of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017 deserved the Best Event Award in this 2017 edition. The whole LOC team and volunteers led by Anton Sealey did an excellent job. All of them, together with the Bahamas government and the BFA, put together an amazing World Cup that beach soccer fans and athletes will never forget," said Joan Cusco,
"The event and its success planted a seed for beach soccer in the country, which resulted in a strong legacy for beach soccer, which will result in a strong legacy program in the long term. The permanent stadium has been home for the beach soccer discipline in the Commonwealth Youth Games already in 2017 and will host several more international beach soccer tournaments starting in 2018."
Johnson Lost World Title Bid
Tureano 'Reno' Johnson was on the verge of becoming the next Bahamian to fight for a world boxing title, but his hopes got dashed as he got stopped in the 12th and final round by unbeaten Sergiy Derevyanchenko of Ukraine.
The duo met in their IBF middleweight eliminator in October at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Oklahoma and although he put up a gritty performance, Johnson got broke down by Derevyanchenko, who dropped him in round twelve to end the fight that was carried live on Sports 1/Fox Deportes.
Had he won, Johnson would have gone on to face the winner of the match-up between Gennady Golovkin, the IBF, World Boxing Council and co-World Boxing Association champion and challenger Canelo Alvarez, which is set for September 16 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Instead, Johnson, 33, fell to 20-2 with 14 Kos against Dervyanchenko, who improved to 11-0 with nine knockouts to move on for the title shot.
"My preparation for this fight was a very good one, coaching and the way that it was all managed," he said. "But once you get into the ring, you have to change your game plan. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't able to adjust.
"But all in all, it was a great learning experience for me. My opponent did some things to me that haven't been done to me before in a fight, so this was definitely a good learning experience for me. But I will bounce back from this no doubt."
Sailors sailed to International Acclaim
While the nation was getting ready to celebrate the 100th birthday of legendary sailor Sir Durward 'Sea Wolf' Knowles in November, two other Bahamians were continuing the legacy of the sport overseas.
Gavin McKinney finally climbed the ladder from second and third in eight different tries to win the International 5.5 Metre Class Association's 2017 World Championships champion in Benodet, France in September.
In the nine-race series that allowed one race to be discarded, McKinney skippered the John B, crew members Mathias Dahlman and Lars Horn Johannessen to a six-point lead over the New Moon, skippered by fellow Bahamian Nassau Yacht Club rival Mark Holowesko and crew Christoph Burger and Bahamian Peter Vlasov. Third place went to the Netherlands' team skippered by Arend Jan Pasman with crew Ron Azier and Kim Chabani on board the Feng Shui.
Securing the title with 12.80 points, compared to Holowesko's 18.80, McKinney became just the fourth Bahamian to win a world title in the sport, following the footsteps of two-time (1980 and '86) 5.5 mere class champion the late Robert 'Bobby' Symonette, three-time (1983, '83 and '88) sunfish champion Donnie Martinborough, two-time (1973 and '77) sunfish champion Pierre Siegenthaler and legendary Sir Durward 'Sea Wolf' Knowles, the 1947 Star Class champion.
While Symonette also won a pair of silvers in 1962 and '73 as well as the bronze in 1981 in Nassau, all on the John B, he passed the boat on to McKinney, who won his first medal in 2000 with the bronze using Lars Petter Field and Bahamian Craig Symonette as crew.
The boat was renamed John B Once Again and McKinney and Symonette added two more bronze in '01 (with crew Joe Thompson) and '02 (with Johannessen as crew for the first time). After going back to the original name of John B, McKinney picked up back-to-back bronze in '07 with crew Peter Hauff and Field and in '08 in Nassau with crew Hauff and Johannessen.
A couple weeks later, Mark Holowesko clinched his major international title at the Régates Royales Cannes Trophée Panerai at the end of September in Cannes, France.
Holowesko, sailing on the New Moon with Christoph Burger and Peter Vlasov, excelled during the week of competition, dominating with five first place, a second and a third. In the process, they also walked away with the Five Nation's Cup title, another prestigious honour for the Bahamas.
The first race was sailed in 3-5 knots, which dropped for the second race from four down to 2 knots. Otto, SUI 209, (Bent C. Wilhemsen, Andreas Dyhr and Luka Strahovnik) was second with CinqueCinque, SUI 227 (Alain Marchand, Louis Rol, Fanny Brouchoud) in third.
"We managed to have two great starts and took the lead early in both races," Holowesko said. "Boat speed was a great help too, to maintain the lead in both races. Winds were out of the south and shifting by 10-20 degrees with pressure differences all over the course.
"We feel like we improved over the week to handle these light conditions and are very happy about our result. SUI 209 was sailing well and we had some great battles."
Men Softball Qualify for CAC
There was much cause for celebrations after the men's national softball team qualified for the 23rd Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, Colombia as the top team in the ECAST. The CAC Games is scheduled for July 19 to August 3 and softball is the only Bahamas' team sport to have qualified so far.
The team is in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where they won their final game in the Group B round robin play on Wednesday with a 2-1 decision over Panama to finish with a 3-4 win-loss record.
The team, managed by Perry Seymour and assisted by coaches Richard 'the Lion'Heart' Johnson and Hazier McDonald from Abaco, comprised of Alcott Forbes, Angelo Dillett, Austin Hanna, Courtney Smith, Desmond Russell Jr from Grand Bahama, Garfield Bethel, Lamar Watkins, national championship MVP Lyle Sawyer from Abaco, Martin Burrows Jr, Micah Bethel from Eleuthera, Philip Johnson, Sherman Ferguson, Thomas Davis and Wayne Johnson.
Davis Cup Relegated
After climbing out of the American Zone III Davis Cup tie last year, the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association men's team could not stay in remain and were relegated after falling short in their two matches played on the road.
Without the services of Baker Newman and Kevin Major Jr, the number on and four seeded players, team player/captain Marvin Rolle had to joggle the line-up with Spencer Newman, Philip Major Jr and Justin Lunn when they traveled to the Doral Park Country Club in Miami, Florida and they suffered a 5-0 whitewashing in February.
Both Baker Newman and Major Jr were unavailable because of school commitments at Vanderbilt and Seminole State College in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
The loss put the pressure on the team as the quartet returned to Bolivia in April where they suffered a 4-1 loss and the Bahamas got relegated to zone III.
"The team tried to pull it off, but Bolivia just got the best of us in the doubles," said BLTA's pubic relations officer Perry Newton, who traveled with the team. "So we have to look forward to next year with the hopes of getting back into Zone II."
The BLTA will now prepare the team to travel to Costa Rica in May where they will play in a round robin tournament. The team will have to finish in the top two in order to be promoted again to zone II for 2019. The details have not yet been released.
Last year, the team of Baker and Spencer Newman, Kevin Major Jr and Marvin Rolle pulled the Bahamas out of zone III with their impressive performance in La Paz, Bolivia.
They are still working out all of the details, but after years of negotiating, the Bahamas Baseball Association finally welcomed members of the Junior Baseball League of Nassau, the Eleuthera Junior Baseball League, the Grand Bahama Little League and the Grand Bahama Senior Baseball.
It was a move in March that the parties involved say is for the betterment of the players who want to represent the Bahamas at the international level.
Although they are still missing some of the pieces in the puzzle, namely the Bahamas Baseball Federation and Freedom Farm, the amalgamation was called a "great day for the sport of baseball," which has seen a resurgence with players competing at the professional level, but virtually no national teams competing overseas in recent years.
Sam Rodgers, who has assumed the role of president of the BBA after the passing of former long-time president Jim Wood, said his mentor is proudly looking down and smiling at the progress that they made in the agreement that they have reached with the newest members of the team.
At a press conference at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium and surrounded by some of the newest members, Rodgers introduced Terran Rodgers as a vice president, Larry Forbes, vice president for the North Eastern Bahamas, Steven Adderley, vice president for the Northern Bahamas, Shane Albury as secretary and Andrew Saunders, Joseph Moss, Sandy Morley, Alonzo Pratt, Veancor Darville as directors, along with former Major Leaguer Ed Armbrister as their baseball ambassador and Martin 'Pork' Burrows as Umpire in Chief.
Baseball Pioneers Retired
It was a like domino effect as the country's top two professional baseball players announced their retirements but they paved the way for a number of others who followed, signing their contracts.
In a teary eyed public address, Antoan Richardson announced his retirement in March, completing one of the longest tenure of any Bahamian.
The 33-year-old outfielder-turned pitcher was the sixth Bahamian to play in the Major League, having enjoyed a sting with the Atlanta Braves in 2011, the New York Yankees in 2014 and again with the Texas Rangers in 2015.
He followed in the footsteps of the late Andre Rodgers, who played for the New York Giants, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1957-67; late Wentie Ford with the Braves in 1973; late Tony Curry with the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians from 1960-66; late Wilfred Culmer with the Indians in 1983 and Ed Armbrister, who played in two championship games with the Cincinnati Reds from 1973-77.
"My time is done and it's about the next generation and supporting those guys. It's about supporting the ones coming up to get to their dreams," said Richardson, who had only informed his agent a month ago that he was finished and will only be back on the field as a fan enjoying the success of everybody else behind him.
One month later, Albert Cartwright took a more conservative approach as he walked away from the professional ranks of baseball after a 10-year career in the minor league.
Cartwright, drafted by the New York Mets in the 43rd round of the 2006 MLB June Amateur Draft from American Heritage High School in Delray Beach, Florida, announced his retirement quietly on social media this week after he conferred with his family.
"My drive for playing baseball has shifted from me as a little boy to every day going out there hitting the ball now," said Cartwright in an exclusive interview with The Tribune, rather than go through the emotions that he saw Richardson endure when he made his announcement in March.
"I would stop swinging to give the young boys some swings, or I would be hitting the ground balls and I would feel like my drive to play just switched. So instead of me going at it halfway, I decided to hang it up and focus on my passion right now, which is just giving back to the boys and coaching at Max-D and putting my all into that."
During his tenure in the sport, the second and third baseman, as well as outfielder, found himself playing for six different teams from his rookie year in 2007 to the Independent League in Ottawa, Canada, over the past two seasons in 2015-16.
While they packed their bags and returned home there were many more who took their journey to the pro ranks, thanks to Max-D and now International Elite Sports Academy, operated by directors Geron Sands and Cartwright.
The two latest this month were 16-year-olds Keithron Moss and D'Vaughn Knowles, who signed respective deals of $800,000 and $500,000 with the Texas Rangers organization to enter their minor league system.
They join a list of about 17 players that are currently in the minor league pipeline, including Knowles' twin brother, D'Shawn Knowles, who signed with the LA Angels of Anaheim in July.
Most of these players will be on display in the inaugural "Don't Blink - Home Run Derby In Paradise," scheduled for Saturday, January 6 from 12pm-5pm at the Montagu Foreshore.
The project is the brainchild of Todd Isaacs Jr and Lucius Fox Jr, now members of the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays organizations respectively.
Point of Note: Unfortunately, the biggest story emanating from baseball is the fact that the new national stadium that is under construction is still where it was where the Progressive Liberal Party left it - at a standstill - as the Free National Movement has announced that they have not figured out what to do what the multi-million facility at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Center.
Evans Fired in NCAA Scandal
Eleuthera native Lamont Evans was caught up in an FBI investigation into bribery and corruption surrounding college basketball that eventually led to him being fired as an associate head coach by Oklahoma State University.
Evans was one of 10 people - including four NCAA assistant coaches - named by federal prosecutors in the scandal that has rocked college basketball.
He was accused of accepting over $20,000 to "exert his influence over certain student athletes" at Oklahoma State and dating back to his previous coaching stop at South Carolina.
After his arrested, he was eventually released on a $50,000 bond and will also appear in a New York court on October 10 for his next hearing.
OSU initially suspended Evans once his name was released among the persons suspected of committing the infractions.
"We are cooperating with federal officials. We have been in contact with the NCAA and will provide additional information as it becomes available. OSU takes seriously the high standards of conduct expected in our athletic department and does not tolerate any deviation from those standards," the athletic department said in an official statement.
Evans was set to enter his second season on the staff of head coach Brad Underwood.
He joined the Cowboys following previous stints with the South Carolina Gamecocks and Kansas State Wildcats.
Underwood was hired after the Cowboys fired Travis Ford from the top spot. Evans was his first hire as an assistant following the pair's history of working together at South Carolina and Kansas State.
Evans spent four seasons with the Gamecocks, where he served as an assistant to Frank Martin and led the team to one of their best seasons.
After leaving Eleuthera, Evans became a standout point guard at Hallandale High School in Hallandale, Florida. He played his first two years of college basketball at Seminole Junior College in Sanford, Florida and St Catharine College in St Catharine, Kentucky before enrolling at Drake in 1999.
Evans played two seasons at Drake and eventually played internationally in Slovenia, Germany, Finland, Belgium and Venezuela.