By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
The Bahamas Olympic Committee honoured the athletes and staff of Team Bahamas for their recent performance at the XVIII Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
For the first time, the BOC doled out monetary gifts for medallists and finalists while coaches and support staff were recognised with plaques during last night’s awards ceremony at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium.
Tynia Gaither delivered the standout performance for Team Bahamas with a bronze medal in the women’s 200m. She was awarded $1,500 for her feat.
Gaither ran 22.76 seconds and finished behind Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce - the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion - in a new meet record of 22.45 and Victoria Rosa of Brazil, the silver medallist in 22.62.
Team Bahamas included a team of 33 athletes across four disciplines. Each finalist also received monetary incentives for their performances. Each finalist received $500 for an individual event and $250 as a member of a relay team.
“The BOC is taking a quantum leap. I guess some in some quarters might suggest answering a call to action,” said Romell Knowles, president of the BOC. “For the very first time in our history, we are incentivising, monetarily, athletes for their stellar performances under the auspices of multi-sport games under the care of the BOC. I am delighted that we will be making cheque presentations for their deserving performances. The incentivisation will differ from games to games because of the competition level. But for your great performances I am pleased to announce that we will make a hefty, hefty incentive for you at the Olympic Games in 2020. Our athletes are our brand ambassadors. It is an opportunity to reward and recognise our athletes who give it their all in representing this country. On behalf of the BOC, I congratulate all the recipients for their performances and look forward to seeing them at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”
With Tokyo 2020 a topic of conversation, Knowles also announced that BOC vice president Cora Hepburn would become the country’s first woman chef de mission at the Olympic level.
Jeffery Gibson, who finished fourth in the 400m hurdles, delivered the athletes’ response on behalf of the group.
“On behalf of the athletes that participated, we would like to thank the BOC for the recognition. We thank them for the opportunity to compete and put our talents on display, our athleticism,” he said.
“In the upcoming Olympic year, may we encourage each other and strive for Olympic glory and push ourselves to go faster, higher and stronger.”
Several government officials were on hand at the awards ceremony to lend their support for the athletes. Leader of the Opposition Philip Brave Davis said: “We thank the BOC for all of their long hours of thankless coordination and admin that make all of these local sporting events and international participation a success. To the athletes, I say on behalf of a grateful nation, we say thank you. My presence signals my personal commitment to the success of all of our endeavours”
Rhoda Jackson, acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, added: “We can truly say that athletics has taken us to the world stage. I want to applaud these athletes and say that we support and congratulate the athletes for the hard work you put in to keep us on the map.”
Approximately 7,000 athletes representing over 40 countries - all members of the Pan American Sports Organisation - competed in 39 sports and 62 disciplines at the event.
Lima was awarded the Games in 2013, marking Peru’s first time as host.
Mexico and Canada have hosted the games three times each.
Argentina, the US and Brazil have each done so twice.
Colombia, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba and the Dominican Republic have all hosted once.
At the 2015 Pan Am Games hosted in Toronto, Canada, the Bahamas fielded 38 athletes in five disciplines. The island nation won a total of six medals - two gold, two silver and two bronze.
Gibson took gold in the 400m hurdles while Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace also swam to a gold medal in the 50m free.
Leevan Sands (triple jump), Bianca Stuart (long jump), and Vanderpool-Wallace (100m Free) also won bronze and Donald Thomas won bronze in the high jump.