By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
Bahamian athletes, both at home and abroad, have struggled with maintaining their training and physical activity under strict government-mandated lockdowns and curfews.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has halted the world of sport and for professional and amatuer athletes, it poses several challenges for their career paths and immediate futures.
Pro basketball player Willis Mackey Jr is currently in Spain, one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak. Up to press time last night, Spain has recorded over 135,000 confirmed cases and over 13,000 deaths.
Mackey is based in Salamanca, Spain, and plays for Aquisima Carbajosa of the Liga Española de Baloncesto Aficionado, commonly known as Liga EBA. The country announced that it would extend its lockdown to April 25 in an attempt to flatten the curve.
“I haven’t been outside many times since the lockdown started, just a couple of times to go to the store, get some snacks and stuff. The club has been providing us with meals so we don’t have too many reasons to go outside. Things are obviously not the same,” Mackey said.
“It’s clearly a serious situation with over 110,000 cases out here in Spain right now. There’s police in the streets, people questioning you on ‘where you are going’ if you leave. I’m doing fine, just staying inside listening to what everyone has to say. My advice is to stay inside, take what the officials are saying seriously and just keep your family safe.”
In his first year of professional basketball, Mackey led the club with 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
• High jumper Jamal Wilson was Tokyo bound for the 2020 Olympic Games and had a career-best season sidetracked.
Back home in Nassau, Wilson said athletes have to find a way to stay in shape amid the 24-hour lockdown and be prepared for life to resume to a state of normalcy at any moment.
“As a professional athlete in the Bahamas, for training, it is difficult during the 24-hour lockdown, with limited resources you just have to do what you can do to stay in shape. They give us 90 minutes to be outside and we just have to use it wisely. We just have to tweak our training so we don’t peak too early, we just have to work our way into tip-top shape when it matters the most. So we have to push our training a few months back for the meets that were postponed.
“Just like everyone else we have to cope with it, no reason to complain just take it as it comes, wake up every day ready to apply and still get better,” he said.
“Most athletes just want everything to get back to normal and to participate in their sport. The NCAA shut down sports for the rest of the year which was a devastating blow for a lot of young athletes, especially those that have been preparing for such a long time for those opportunities. Whenever anything opens up, it can be a high school, college meet, I’m just excited to get back out and start competing again because I have been competing well this year.”
Wilson qualified for the Tokyo Games in February at a meet in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia. Wilson soared to a second-place finish with his lifetime achievement of 2.33 metres or 7-feet, 7 3/4-inches, which also matched the qualifying standard.
This season he surpassed his previous indoor best of 2.31m (7-7) and outdoors of 2.30m (7-6 1/2).
Bahamas Aquatics has updated the status of its athletes through social media, as athletes from the youth and collegiate levels have expressed similar struggles with training.
The top performer at the 2019 CARIFTA Swimming Championships, Marvin Johnson, discussed the cancellation of the 2020 event. “It’s really affected me knowing that so much hard work and dedication has gone down the drain. I was really looking forward to representing the Bahamas to the best of my abilities. The pool closure has impacted me and not being able to swim daily has been a tough transition.
“Swimming has been a part of my life since the age of three and I really do miss it,” he said. “It’s stopped all possibility of training. We can’t utilise beaches or running facilities and it has made it very difficult to train. My coach has sent me various links on YouTube to create some form of training but it is very challenging.”
At the 34th CARIFTA Aquatics Championships in Wildey, Barbados, Johnson led the way for Team Bahamas’ third consecutive CARIFTA title with 14 gold medals, 10 individual and four as a member of relay teams overall en route to the High Point trophy in the 11-12 boys’ category with 90 points.
At the collegiate level, both Albury and Lilly Higgs were able to complete their conference championships but had their seasons cut short when the NCAA cancelled all sporting events ahead just prior to the Division I championships.
Albury is a senior for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
“I think that the decision to postpone [The Olympics] was a necessary one so that athletes can prioritise their safety with everything that’s happening. We’re at home quarantine. There are no gyms or pools open around us so for me I have just been doing training at home, dry land workouts, what we can do and manage from home. When things get better and we get a hold on the coronavirus, I think once things start going back to normal we can resume our normal schedule,” Albury said.
“With the Olympics being in 2021, it is another year for athletes to get better and just keeping an optimistic mindset and using this year to get better myself.
Lilly, a sophomore for the North Carolina Tar Heels, said: “ Taking some time away from the pool just to refocus and get our mindset right so when we come back in the water we really can focus on training. Other than that, I’ve just been doing my online classes which have been an adjustment but it’s a really good thing to have a schedule.”
At the SEC Championships, Albury finished fifth overall in 100 breaststroke, seventh in the 200 breaststrokes, and 19th overall in the 200 Individual Medley. She was also a member of two record-setting relay times that set new Gamecocks records.
At the ACC Championships, Lilly recorded a pair of top 10 finishes in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke. In the 100, she finished eighth overall and in the 200, she finished 10th overall.