By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
MICHAEL ‘Mike’ Sands is now the new North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) president and International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) area representative.
The former national 400 metre record holder, who went on to become the public relations officer and president of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) and former vice president of the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC), was elected as the first Bahamian to serve as the area president of NACAC yesterday at the Congress in Queretaro, Mexico.
In the last of the two voting procedures, Sands clinched a 14-12 decision over Alain Jeran Pierre of Haiti. As the new NACAC president, he replaces Victor Lopez, who declined re-election.
"I'm very humbled by the expression of confidence in the area by the member federations of 31 countries that they displayed in me being the new president for 2019-2023," Sands told The Tribune.
"I am humbled by that expression of support from the members."
Under a heavy financial campaign by himself and friends, Sands won the initial voting procedure over four other candidates. While Sands got 10 of the 31 votes cast, Pierre got eight and Claudia Perez of Mexico secured seven.
Trinidad & Tobago's Ephraim Serette got only four votes, while Dr Warren Blake of Jamaica got just two. What made the results so gratifying for Sands was the fact that he won over Alain, who was bilingual, speaking five languages, including Spanish.
"These things are unpredictable," said Sands about the voting procedure.
"Everybody goes in it to win it. In the first round, if you got the 17 votes, you won the majority. We didn't get the majority, but the encouraging sign was I was leading in the first round.
"And so with that, once the two lower candidates dropped out in the second round, it left those other six or eight votes up for grabs. So a lot of scrambling went on to see who could secure those other votes out there."
Thanks to the support from Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations' president Drumeco Archer, who attended the Congress along with BAAA administrator May Miller, Sands said they were able to confide in their partners from the region for the second round.
As the newly elected president, Sands will also serve as the area representative on the board of the IAAF, which means that councilwoman Pauline Davis-Thompson won't be eligible for that position when the IAAF holds its elections in September prior to the start of the World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
"It's a challenging post, but it's something that I signed up for," Sands stated. "I look forward to serving not just at the regional level, but the world. I am very humbled by the confidence displayed in me.
"The constitution is very clear in that no two members from any one member association can serve on the IAAF board at the same time. I was a victim of that four years ago when I won the vice presidency, but because she was on the board, I could not serve. So I became victim to that. But I am the area representative so that negates her becoming an IAAF council member again. At the end of the day, the BAAA, in a democratic process, nominated me as the candidate for NACAC and subsequently as the area representative, if I won the president's post."
In accepting the dual positions, Sands dedicated to his deceased mentor, the late Dr Bernard Nottage, who served as a former president of the BAAA and the Central American and Caribbean Athletic Confederation (CACAC).
"He has always been one of the wings beneath my wings with respect to track and field," said Sands, whom many feel he resembles Nottage. "I was one of the most suspended athletes during his tenure, but he stuck with me and he encouraged me to do certain things with respect to the sport."
During the Congress, Nottage was recognised for his accomplishment in the sport.
Archer, in his congratulatory remarks, said the Latin expression 'Veni Vidi Vinci' is translated into English as 'I came, I saw, I conquered.'
"This expression best describes the hotly contested NACAC presidential seat among five decorated candidates," Archer said. "In the end, it was Mike Sands, the first Bahamian to ascend to the presidential office of the North America, Central America, and the Caribbean region.
"These epic events give cause for a heartfelt congratulations on behalf of the federation and the people of the Bahamas. May he continue to do the work of the country and, more importantly, the work of the entire region. We wish him well today and in the years to come."
Elected to serve with Sands is Catherine Jordan, president of the Barbados Amateur Athletic Association; the treasurer is Stephanie Hightower, a former president of the United States Track and Field Association and the four council members include Cydonie Mothersill from the Cayman Islands, Evelyn Farrell from Aruba and Howard Cornelius.
As this is a transitional period, Sands and his officers won't take office until after the World Championships. By then, Sands said he would have done an assessment of the organisation, understanding the inner workings of the body.
The NACAC office is currently located in Puerto Rico. The government of Puerto Rico has provided free office space to the NACAC, similar to what the IAAF did in relocating its office from London to Monaco.
Sands, who serves as a consultant in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, said he will have to look at the feasibility of whether or not the Bahamas Government will provide the same gesture to having the NACAC office relocated to the Bahamas.
NACAC was founded on December 10, 1988, in San Juan, Puerto Rico with Amadeo Francis serving as the initial president. He was re-elected in 1999 and occupied the chair until 2007.
That year, Neville 'Teddy' McCook of Jamaica was elected as the new president. McCook was re-elected and served up to the time of his death on February 11, 2013.
In the interim, Pierre, who served as treasurer at the time and president of the CACAC, filled in. Then on August 7, 2013, Lopez was elected as the new president, serving until 2015. Lopez also served as president of the Association of Panamerican Athletics (APA).