Gibson: ‘As an executive of the board of the BAAA, I know that I am going to be reduced’

TRACK and field athletes’ representative Jeffery Gibson said he’s quite aware that there is expected to be at least a 20 per cent cut in the subvention to the Bahamian athletes in the Bahamas Government’s new budget that will be debated in Parliament this month.

The Bahamas men’s 400 metre hurdles national record holder said while it may come as a surprise, it’s a reality that they will have to deal with.

“Everyone is being affected by the budget cut as a result of COVID-19,” he said. “The whole Bahamas is affected. We know that cutting back, we will have to take a loss because of the pandemic and the lock down that the country is going through.

“I know they said they were going to make a 20 per cent cut across the board with all athletes in all sports. It’s unfortunate, but with the subvention, it’s a year-to-year basis where there are some years when you get cut because of your performance, but these are some uncertain circumstances that we are faced with, so the cuts are inevitable.”

As the elite athletes on subvention continue to prepare for the 2020 Olympic Games that have been postponed in Tokyo, Japan, until July 2021, Gibson said all of the athletes will now have to look at what adjustments they can make moving forward.

“It sucks, truth be told,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult, but it’s something that I expected, so I’m not surprised that they are cutting the subventions.”

Gibson, now in Durham, Raleigh, North Carolina where he’s training at St Augustine’s College with coaches Bershawn Jackson, a former world champion and his long-time mentor George Williams, said there needs to be a better way of communicating its plans to the athletes, whether it’s directly from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture or through the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations. “I don’t know if the athletes were made aware by the ministry as yet. I wasn’t advised of that,” he said. “You would expect the ministry to reach out to the athletes, but I’m not sure if they reached out to the athletes advising them who are under review and who will be reduced.”

While the ministry’s budget is expected to be reduced from $18,938,187, about $5,143,194 less than what was expended in last year’s budget of $24,081,380, the subventions to elite athletes this year is projected to be dropped from $1,346,150 to $1,076,920, a decrease of just under $300,000.

Gibson, a Grand Bahamian native and graduate of Bishop Michael High School, said he’s advised of what’s taking place as an executive of the BAAA as the Athletes Representative, but he said the decision will be have an adverse effect on a lot of the athletes because they were only made aware of what will happen because of the cut in the budget for sports.

“I know that the ministry has not reached out to me as an athlete, but as an executive of the board of the BAAA, I know that I am going to be reduced,” Gibson said. “I know the executive board of the BAAA makes a recommendation to the Ministry on whether or not athletes should be added, decreased, increased or removed off the list.

“Based on the athletes’ performances the previous year, their willingness to support national teams, their sponsorship and their growth and development through their national and international rankings, the BAAA would make recommendations. A lot of times the ministry would take the recommendations as they are, or they make their final decisions.”

Currently in North Carolina, Gibson said working part-time with Target after he completes his training sessions each morning. He’s in the city of Durham where he’s under a curfew, but because he’s been abiding by the social distancing rule, he tries not to get into all of the latest developments surrounding the death of George Floyd.

“When they started having peaceful rallies, we’ve been closing our stores here at 7 pm rather than 9 pm like they did during the height of the coronavirus,” Gibson said. “So while there have been some protests here just about every day, I have thought about what is going on.

“Living here by myself, I thought about what was going on, especially when I went out jogging because it could have been me, as a Bahamian. In a way, I’m glad that they are dealing with this issue of racism. I think it’s about time. It’s long overdue. But I’m keeping my distance because I am a Bahamian first in a foreign land.”

While it’s a recurring thought that nobody has ever experienced anything like this before, Gibson said he remembered the changes that were made after 9-11 when a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 changed the way we traveled, Gibson said he’s not sure what will take place in the aftermath of Covid-19.

“These changes will certainly affect us forever as we moved forward,” he proclaimed. “I don’t know if that means whenever we have an event, we will have to continue to wear our masts or we have to compete in front of very small crowds, we just have to use commonsense.

“I don’t know what to expect for next year, but I am still talking with my coaches and planning on what we need to do to get prepared. I want to be ready for the Olympic Games. That was one of the reasons why I decided to come back here to train.”

Gibson, 29, didn’t make the qualifying standard for his second appearance at the Olympics before sports was interrupted in March, putting a halt to the outdoor season. The Oral Roberts University graduate initially moved to North Carolina to train for his professional career.

After winning his second medal - a silver - at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia in the 400m hurdles in 49.10 in 2018, Gibson ended up with a fourth place finish at last year’s Pan American Games in Lima, Peru in the 400m hurdles in a time of 49.53 seconds and as a member of the men’s 4 x 400m relay team that included Ojay Ferguson, Alonzo Russell and Andre Colebrooke that placed seventh in 3:09.98.

Gibson enjoyed a breakout season at the NACAC Under-23 Championships in Irapuato, Mexico in 2012 with three medals, clinching the gold in the 400m hurdles in 50.27; a bronze in the 400m in 46.30 and a silver on the men’s 4 x 400m relay team of Alfred Higgs, Denzell Forston and Alonzo Russell that ran 3:04.33.

In 2013 at the Central American and Caribbean Championships in Morelia, Mexico, Gibson ascended the podium in the same position twice with a silver in the 400m hurdles in 49.94 and on the men’s 4 x 400m relay team of Latoy Williams, Ojay Ferguson and Wesley Neymour and that clocked 3:02.66. However, he failed to advance out of the semifinals of the 400m hurdles at his debut at the World Championships in Moscow, Russia to close out the year.

A year later at his initial appearance at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, United Kingdom in 2014, Gibson stormed back with a renewed vigor and claimed a bronze medal in a national record breaking time of 48.78 and he secured the gold later that year at the Pan American Sports Festival Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico in 48.91.

In his return to the World Championships in Beijing, China in 2015, Gibson avenged his previous outing by lowering his national record in the 400m hurdles to 49.17 for the bronze medal. He suffered a torn labrum in the lead up to his Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016.

Last year, Gibson was voted as the new Athletes Representative, replacing Leevan ‘Superman’ Sands. He has vowed to make a difference in his role, while at the same time ensuring that he’s right there with his peers representing the Bahamas on the international scene.


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