By RENALDO DORSETT
THE 2017 CARIFTA season is set to be a busy one for Team Bahamas as the country prepares for competition both at home and abroad in several sporting disciplines.
The “Team Bahamas” CARIFTA movement gathered at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium for the official launch to its season and to begin galvanising support from the general public.
National federations representing judo, swimming, water polo and athletics will all field participating teams in April.
The Bahamas was selected by the Caribbean Judo Confederation to host the inaugural edition of judo at CARIFTA April 5-9 at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
Athletes ranging from age 13-20 will compete over the course of the event, expected to include approximately 120 participants.
The Bahamas has a strong reputation in the region with many Bahamian junior judo athletes winning gold medals at regional tournaments like the Barbados International Open. Judo is currently practiced on several islands in the Bahamas including the capital, Abaco, Bimini and Grand Bahama.
“We’re very blessed to have such a good working government environment to be able to host CARIFTA Judo,” Bahamas Judo Federation executive D’Arcy Rahming Jr said. “The main competition is going to be on the seventh, so keep that date open. Eight teams are coming in, possibly nine. The athletes, we are getting the organisation done right now. The athletes are lifting weights everyday and training everyday after school.”
The CARIFTA Water Polo Championships will run concurrently with judo April 7-9 at the Betty Kelly Kenning-Aquatic Centre.
Chris Illing, head coach of Bahamas Water Polo, said the sport has seen tremendous growth within the last decade and hosting this event is evidence of that growth.
“Back in 2004 we had one team, now we have three teams in three age categories. There will be over 20 teams coming from seven participating countries so we will have a lot of matches,” he said. “We definitely need everybody’s support. We need the eighth man which will be our audience hopefully, so we need everyone to come out and support us,” he said. “Last year we had a triple silver finish in Trinidad & Tobago so it’s time for us to bring home the gold. We are very excited to host these countries. We are looking forward to welcoming everybody so please support us, the kids will really appreciate it.”
The Bahamas fielded a 30-member team at the 2016 event in Trinidad and Tobago in the U-14, U-16 and U-19 categories.
The CARIFTA Swimming Championships will also be held at the Betty Kelly-Kenning Aquatic Center.
Two-time winners of the event in its past three editions, the Bahamas looks to reclaim the title at home. The Bahamas Swimming Federation will host the event April 15-19, with the final day of competition shifting to an open water swim on Junkanoo Beach.
“Our kids are working really hard right now. We only have hopefuls for the CARIFTA team, which will be named March 13. This is the youth we want to capture and we really want to promote them,” BSF representative Rochelle Bastian said. “Our team has won CARIFTA twice and last year we had a very tight second place finish in Martinique, this year we are taking the crown back. We need our home crowd to be present everyday. We know it’s Easter weekend and we know people will be out to support us, bring your cowbells, bring that positive energy, let’s beat some drums, lets have some fun and cheer the kids on.”
CARIFTA Track and Field will be the only discipline to travel in 2017 as they head to their marquee event April 15-17 in Curacao.
Mildred Adderley, BAAAs treasurer, said this year’s team has several goals they wish to achieve.
“We have to thank Dr Daniel Johnson and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture for the continued support in ensuring that our junior athletes are able to participate in the CARIFTA Games each year. Two weeks prior we will have our trials, March 31 to April 1 after competition we will have our team selection and ratification. Then the ball will really be rolling for Curacao,” she said. “There are two main goals for this team, firstly to win CARIFTA and secondly to be ambassadors for our country as we show the region what the Bahamas has to offer as we prepare to host the games next year in 2018.”