By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
As they reach the six-month point in office, Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations president Drumeco Archer took the opportunity to deal with a wide range of topics from their financial disposition to the participation of elite athletes competing on the international scene.
Archer was addressing the media during a press conference held yesterday in the BAAA office at the original Thomas A Robinson Track and Field Stadium.
According to Archer, the BAAA is trying to secure more than $850,000 to finance its programme for 2019, including the travel of its national teams to various international meets this year, paramount on the list being the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
IAAF World Relays
Archer said at the World Relays last month in Yokohama, Japan, there was no sign of Steven Gardiner being injured when they hosted a team meeting on Friday. But on Saturday before the team was set to be contested, he complained of his Achilles tendon. “From the administrator point of view, we took the decision to monitor Steven’s condition and make a game-time decision (on whether he will compete or not), Archer said.
What transpired on the field of play, Archer said he was advised by relay coordinator Rupert Gardiner that Steven Gardiner was not able to compete after 6pm.
He said the logical question to ask is was Mr Gardiner approached or did Steven Gardiner have the opportunity to advise the relay coordinator in time for the cut off period and if Mr Gardiner was aware of the cut off time.
Gardiner, however, said he was not at liberty to go into full details as a report by team manager Dianne Woodside-Johnson was leaked to the media and he was not prepared to present his report until it was sent to the BAAA executive board.
When pressed by Archer to go ahead, Gardiner indicated that a meeting was held with the athletes on Friday and everything seemed to be okay with all of the athletes.
But he revealed that it wasn’t until Saturday when they were preparing the team to compete that it was discovered that Steven Gardiner had a recurring injury to his Achilles tendon.
At that point, Gardiner said they attempted to get Stephen Newbold to replace him after it was also discovered that Teray Smith got injured in practice. But because Newbold had a full workout earlier in the day in preparation for the 4 x 200m relay the following day, he was not fully prepared to run in the 4 x 400m.
As a result, Gardiner said the team had to be withdrawn.
Gardiner declined to go into any further details until his report was submitted.
He could not say whether or not he would refute any claims mentioned in the report by the team manager.
According to Archer, irrespective of their results, the BAAA spent more than $70,000 on the trip to Japan for the World Relays, which simply depleted their funds.
While the 4 x 400 relay team didn’t make it to the starting line, the 4 x 200m team advanced to the final but was eventually disqualified.
In their move to share the National Championships with Grand Bahama during the off years, the BAAA will stage this year’s event at the Grand Bahama Sports Complex in July.
Archer said, as he is aware, all of the top athletes have consented to compete in the two-day meet that will serve as the trials for the team that will be named to the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, September 28 to October 6.
Immediately following the trials, Archer said the BAAA will stage a one-day relay meet for relay teams wishing to qualify for Qatar.
So far, Archer said Botswana has consented to send all four teams to contest the men and women 4 x 100 and 4 x 400m relays. Archer said the BAAA anticipates that all of the athletes, including Gardiner, will be available to compete for the Bahamas.
“It’s mandatory for the athletes to come. We know that is the case, but there’s very little that we give in return,” Archer said. “At the end of the day, there is a very little compelling reason why an athlete finds himself with great obligations to the Bahamas with the exception of having a sense of national obligation.”
As professional athletes, Archer said he’s not aware of their shoe contracts, but the value is so significantly higher than the subvention that they enjoy that the penalty of not participating at regular meets far understates the value of competing elsewhere.
Using double 200/400 metre national record holders Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Steven Gardiner as examples, Archer said they will have to eventually revisit the policy of having elite athletes compete at home as opposed to participating in their events overseas.
“The highest level of subvention is $3,500 (per month) and the appearance fee for anyone of those athletes easily could be $50,000,” Archer said. “So it’s very difficult for me to impose myself on an athlete when in fact there is no compensation or no exchange that I can give.
“I believe that when you look at every case in that way, every athlete is really bound to their shoe companies and not necessarily bound to the mandates of the country. It would be rather ungrateful of me to say because you’re not doing this for the country, I’m going to take away your subvention because I believe their contribution to this country could not be measured by the money that we give them.”
He said what the athletes do for the country, the country can’t pay for it.
Certification for Coaches
Claiming to produce the best athletes on the planet, Archer said the focus must not just be on the athletes because they are only as good as their coaches.
“One of the things that the federation has been focusing on, perhaps it might not be apparent to anyone of you, but we have looked at our programme and we have looked at the level of certification of our coaches,” he said. “Our new mandate is for coaches to become certified. So there is going to be a benchmark as to how one qualifies him or herself to even get a berth on national teams.”
The BAAA intends to introduce the USA Track and Field Certified Level II Course that would be available to all physical education teachers throughout the length and breadth of the country.
“It would be the first time that this USATF Course will be delivered in Nassau, Bahamas thereby making the delivery of the course much more affordable to the coaches.”
That would ensure that the BAAA helps to deliver the best athletes possible.
Six months in review
The new year started off for the BAAA with the Odd Distance meet and through their marketing programme, headed by Kermit Taylor, Archer said they were able to change the way they present track and field to the audience.
“That began with the battle of the DJs where the fans felt a different vibe in the (original Thomas A Robinson Track and Field) Stadium and we hope we can build on that moving forward,” Archer said.
From there, Archer said they began rebranding the association so that they can better appeal to their corporate sponsors and they have launched a “Be My Running Partner” initiative to extend the BAAA to a wide range of exchange programmes.
“It’s an ongoing relationship. It is something that we will continue to talk about and later on this year, we will be unveiling what we call the BAAA’s Foundation.”
Archer said they were pleased with the results they got from the strict standards that were set for the CARIFTA Games that was held over the Easter holiday weekend in Bridgetown, Barbados.
“So we are happy to say that at the CARIFTA level, the Caribbean, not just the Bahamas, would have indicated that the Bahamas has simply shown up greater than they have done in a very long time,” he said.
BAAA Mascarade Race Weekend
In its maiden voyage, Archer said they have a Kids Athletics Programme on Saturday, November 9, as well as a 10-kilometre race and a half marathon relay on Sunday, November 10.
The two events will culminate with a major concert that will create an environment that brings the fans closer to the sport and bring those who are not closer, closer to the sport.