By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
EVEN with the economy starting to get back to normalcy in the wake of COVID-19, Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ President Drumeco Archer is still not sure whether or not their National Track and Field Championships will take place.
The BAAA nationals are scheduled for the weekend of July 31 to August 1 at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium, but Archer said they are still in limbo because of the uncertainty of how many athletes will be prepared to compete once the Bahamas government allows large gatherings at sporting activities.
“We know we have a large number of athletes who are training and we have a large number of athletes who are not training,” Archer said.
“But we also know that many of the athletes have not had access to training facilities since the country was locked down.”
At their next executive meeting, Archer said they will have a practical decision on the feasibility of putting on the nationals, which would include the junior and senior athletes, or they decide on putting on an All-Comers Meet where athletes can come out and compete in a less marketed meet.
“We may not get the desired effect that we would get from a highly publicised nationals, but at least we can still provide an avenue for the athletes to come out and participate in a less pressured meet,” Archer pointed out.
Apart from the World Athletics’ limited Diamond meets designed for the elite athletes around the world to compete in later this year, there are plans for the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) to host a regional meet here in the Bahamas, but no date has been confirmed.
“Our nationals were set to accommodate our athletes before they return to school and we wanted to give them an opportunity to compete if it is possible for them,” Archer said.
“All of these assumptions have us in limbo because of the uncertainty of the coronavirus that we still can’t get a handle of. So we’re still not sure what will happen until the economy is fully opened and things are back to some sense of normalcy in what will be a new norm with the social distancing and wearing of masks in large gatherings.”
While there are a number of Bahamian athletes, who either attend high school, college and university or are training there in some of the professional clubs, Archer said the social unrest with the protests that are currently underway, may as well as it may not have any effect on the movement of Bahamian athletes to and from the United States.
“I look at it as two separate incidents. The US has its share of protests going on with its racial challenges, but we had a number of athletes who were performing well before the closure of our borders,” Archer said.
“The problem is when you try to market them into the schools, you can’t tell that they were running 10.1 and now because of what we have been experiencing with the curfews and shutdowns that they are now running 10.7.
“So I think that has limited the marketing ability of our athletes, more than the social unrest because in my view, the schools’ structure is designed so that they can accommodate the student athletes based on crises such as this,” Archer added.
The other issue, which could hinder their progress, is the US Immigration policy where the athletes could be denied student visas if the US is concerned about limiting the amount of persons they would allow into the country as a result of the spread of the coronavirus.
“If you say COVID-19 is having an impact on the students’ resources because of financial displacements, then it’s totally different from the social unrest,” Archer pointed out. “So I think there are some more pointed issues over the social unrest that we are now consumed about.”
In the meantime, Archer said the BAAA will be willing to assist in any way that they can to help facilitate the process of getting more student-athletes into schools in the United States to further their education and at the same time develop their athletic prowess, which in turn will be more beneficial to the growth and development of the Bahamas’ national track and field programme.