By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WITH the United States of America already indicating that they will be bringing their A team to the third edition of the IAAF World Relays next month, the clarion call is going out to ensure that the Bahamas has its best team assembled.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr Daniel Johnson made it emphatically clear that all efforts will be made to get all of the Bahamian athletes here for a relay camp two weeks prior to the World Relays, scheduled for April 22-23 at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium.
“If you have some athletes second guessing and wondering if they need to come, then don’t come,” said Johnson during a press conference on Friday.
“Just give me back my uniform. Everyone must show up to play because we don’t have time for anything else. If you don’t want to represent the Bahamas, just give the uniform back.”
Johnson said he’s made a commitment to the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations to do whatever is necessary to get the athletes here for the training camp, even of they have to come and go during the sessions.
But he said if the athletes are not willing to be a part of it, then they should publicly say so.
Johnson was answering a question on what steps will be made to ensure that the Bahamas fields the best team possible for the World Relays, considering that the top eight teams in both the men and women 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 metres will automatically qualify for the IAAF World Championships in London, England in August.
The question was poised based on what happened at the second edition of the World Relays in 2015 where some of the top athletes opted to run in both relays for the 4 x 200m. The Bahamas failed to make the final and had to wait for the last minute to get into the Olympic Games last year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Unfortunately, only the women’s 4 x 400m team was able to secure a spot after the Russian Athletic Federation was banned from competing because of wild spread doping allegations.
The women’s 4 x 400m team of Lanece Clarke, Anthonique Strachan, Carmiesha Cox and Christine Amertil ran a national record of 3:26.26 to place sixth in their heat for 11th overall.
They joined the men’s 4 x 400m team that qualified after their second place finish to the United States at the World Relays. At the Olympics, the men’s team of Michael Mathieu, Alono Russell, Chris Brown and Steven Gardiner had to settle for the bronze behind the USA and Jamaica.
Johnson said he has also instructed the BAAA to bring in the best coaching staff available to conduct the relay training camp whenever it is finalized.
“I’m asking them to go out and hire the best coach that we can and we expect to see them as soon as next week to finalize the deal,” Johnson stressed.
“I don’t want to let too much out of the bag s yet, but we are putting a call out as of Monday (yesterday) that whoever needs to come to the camp, we will back them.”
As the only country to host the World Relays, which got started in 2014, Johnson said they want to secure the best trainer or therapist to be a part of the team and the ministry will pay for them to be here.
“We want the best team we have on the track,” he insisted.
IAAF Councilwoman Pauline Davis said it’s important for the Bahamas to assemble its best team because the rest of the world will be here with their best.
“We have Elaine Thompson (Jamaica’s Olympic double sprint champion), who has been speaking to the media about how excited she is to get here, we have Andre de Grasse (Canada’s Olympic 200m silver medalist and 100m bronze medalist) coming here and we have the newest world record holder in the men’s 400m, Wayde Van Niekerk (from South Africa),” she pointed out.
“Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake (both Olympic 4 x 100m relay medalists from Jamaica) will be here. We were also told that the Big Man would be here. Everyone knows who the big man in track and field is.”
The “big man” is referred to Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, the reigning World and Olympic 100 and 200 as well as 4 x 100m relay champion. But while the world is left in suspense over his future, Bolt announced over the weekend that a return trip to Nassau for the World Relays may not be in the plans.
“My coach hasn’t said anything about it (World Relays), so I doubt that I will be competing there this year. I am just trying to stay injury free,” said Bolt, who is looking forward to his final race on Jamaican soil, the Racers Track Club Grand Prix set for June 10.
“It’s just going to be exciting and emotional, I think it might be a little bit emotional, but I am looking forward to it, it’s my coach’s meet, so I am excited to be a part of it.”
Whether or not he compete, Davis said a host of American stars are already committed to come here to compete, so she’s urging the Bahamian athletes to come home and represent the 242 in both the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400m relays in the lead up to the road to the London World Championships in August.
Tickets for the World Relays are now available at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium
from Monday to Friday from 11 am to 7 pm and on Saturdays from 11 am to 4 pm. Persons can also go online at www.NSA-Bahamas.com.
The tickets went on sale as of February 1 and are priced at $70 for gold seating, $50 for silver, $40 for bronze and $15 for general admission.
“The tickets are moving so we want the persons to know that if you’re interested in the gold, silver and bronze sessions, they are going very quickly,” said Tonique Williams, BAAA’s first vice president and Senior Director of Event Media Services for the World Relays.
“We want to urge you to get to the national stadium as quickly as you can. We are also looking at moving t the JFK Plaza by the movies on Saturdays. So if you’re in the area, you an stop in and secure your tickets.”