Gold medallist Steven Gardiner celebrates his victory at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
There is no doubt that quarter-miler Steven Gardiner’s sterling triumph in the men’s 400 metres at the International Amateur Athletic Federation’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar earned him The Tribune’s 2019 Male Athlete of the Year.
His glaring performance as he bounced back from what could have been a major setback, Gardiner triumphed over boxing champion Tureano ‘Reno’ Johnson and National Basketball Association’s twin bill Chavano ‘Buddy’ Hield and Deandre Ayton.
Winning his first global title in lowering his national record to 43.48 seconds, Gardiner followed in the footsteps of fellow gentle giant Avard Moncur, who broke the ceiling as the first Bahamian crowned the world champion at the 2001 championships in Edmonton, Canada.
Gardiner’s feat enabled him to emerge as the fastest Caribbean competitor and the sixth fastest of all time in that event in the world as he defied the field that included American favourites Michael Norman (lifetime best of 43.45) and Fred Kerley (43.64) and denied the successful return of former World and Olympic champion Kirani James.
Before he headed to Doha, Gardiner had to sit out and watch the men’s 4 x 400m relay team falter at the IAAF World Relays, which was switched to its new home in Tokyo, Japan because of tendinitis in his Achilles’ heel.
The Abaco native, who also doubles as the national 200m record holder, was selected as one of the 11 candidates for the IAAF Male Athlete of the Year.
However, he was denied the opportunity of a final three appearances at the live award presentation in Monaco, similar to his female counter-part Shaunae Miller-Uibo a year ago when she fell short of the crowning glory. Had it not been for Gardiner’s spectacular showing, Reno Johnson would have boxed his way to the top of the chart. Johnson had two pro fights, but he made the most of both of them at the Fantasy Spring Casino in Indio. After drawing with Fernando Castaneda on February 9, Johnson clinched the NABF middleweight title over Jason Quigley on July 18.
The 35-year-old Johnson pushed his win-loss-draw record to 24 (15 knockouts)-2 (2 KOs)-1 and has earned a world ranking of No.7 in the World Boxing Council (WBC), No.10 in the World Boxing Association (WBA) and No.15 in the International Boxing Federation (IBF).
Buddy Hield, enjoying the best of his four-year career as a pro with the Sacramento Kings, followed in order as the 27-year-old Grand Bahamian averaged 20.7 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He started this season with 20.3 points, five rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
And Ayton, 21, was shy of earning the Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Award.
The number one draft pick for the Phoenix Suns averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and produced a Suns’ rookie record of 39 double-doubles. Ayton, who made his pro debut with 18 points and 10 rebounds, was also voted to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
He, however, started his second season serving a 25-game suspension for testing positive for a diuretic and violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Programme.Right after he returned to the league, Ayton played one game and had to sit out the next five because of an ankle injury.
He ended 2019 in his comeback off the bench on Monday, scoring six points and 12 rebounds in 20 minutes in their 122-116 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.