IT took her fifth and final Olympic Games in 2000 in Sydney, Australia for Pauline Davis-Thompson to ascend the podium to finally secure her elusive individual track and field medal on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
Today, 20 years later - September 28 to be exact - Thompson strolls down memory lane as she remembers how, at 34-years-old, she trailed American Marion Jones in the Olympic Stadium for the silver and ahead of Susanthika Jayasinghe from Sri Lanka.
However, 10 years later after Jones was stripped of her prized possession, Davis-Thompson also reviewed how she was elevated to the gold, receiving her new hardware from Alberto Juantorena, the Cuban double 400/800 champion and IAAF executive, in a ceremony held at Government House by the Bahamas Olympic Committee on December 9, 2009.
While Davis-Thompson was presented with the gold, Jayasinghe got the silver and Jamaican Beverly McDonald earned the bronze.
Two days later at those games, Davis-Thompson had another memorable experience when she ran the third leg as the team of Savatheda Fynes, Chandra Sturrup and Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie with Eldece Clarke as the alternate powered across the line with the gold in the women’s 4 x 100m relay.
As she reflects on her historic gold medal anniversary today, Davis-Thompson said she’s still flabbergasted by the achievement.
“When I won the medal, I was also ecstatic, I was so excited. I always knew that I would be an Olympic medallist,” she said. “I knew that I was the Olympic champion because we had a suspicion that Marion was not as clean as she appeared.
“I remember after the race, we were in doping control and I asked if we were going to have any blood tests done that night and they told us no and my heart stopped. I saw the nasty look from her coach (Trevor Graham) and I gave it right back at him.”
After falling short of getting on the podium in her specialty in the 400m with a fourth place four years earlier at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, Davis-Thompson felt her turn to succeed was coming in Sydney. She just didn’t know what colour the medal would be.
“I worked so long and so hard to get on that podium,” Davis-Thompson stressed. “I did it honesty, I did it fairly. I fell down a couple of times, but I got back up and I kept pushing myself.
“So when I did it, I was so disappointed that I didn’t get to hear the national anthem at the games. I wanted that experience so bad. I wanted to prove that the small countries could do it just like the big ones did.”
Although it followed the epic Olympic moment produced by Frank Rutherford as he earned the Bahamas’ first track and field medal in the triple jump at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, Davis-Thompson said it was just as special being the first to achieve the feat on the track.
“I wanted the Americans to stand up to our flag and lift up their heads to it,” Davis stressed. “I wanted them to stand at attention as our national anthem was played. That was really supposed to be paramount to me.”
Before she left the land known as ‘Down Under,’ Davis-Thompson got that opportunity in the 4 x 100m relay as the “Golden Girls” struck gold again, one year after the same five athletes established themselves as queens with their victory at the IAAF World Championships in Seville, Spain.
As a young girl out of Fleming Street, Davis-Thompson’s rise to the top of the highest sporting spectacular in the world came after she first made her debut at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, California where as a teenage student-athlete at Government High School, she was the flag bearer during the opening ceremonies.
Although she was eliminated in the semifinal of the 100m and 200m, in the latter race she broke the 23-second barrier with a time of 22.97. She also went on to run on the women’s 4 x 100 relay team with Clarke, Debbie and Oralee Fowler where they placed sixth in 44.18.
Over the next eight years, Davis returned to the Olympics in Seoul in 1988 and again in Barcelona in 1992 where she advanced to the semifinals in both the 100 and 200m.
Fast forward to 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia, Davis-Thompson anchored the team of Fynes, Sturrup, Clarke and Ferguson-McKenzie as the alternate to the country’s first relay medal with the silver in the 4 x 100m behind the US team that featured Chryste Gaines, Gail Devers, Inger Miller and Gwen Torrence.
Davis-Thompson’s emergence onto the senior circuit came after she earned the Austin Sealy award as the most outstanding athlete at the top junior regional CARIFTA Games here in 1984 before she went on to compete for the Crimson Tide at the University of Alabama where she became the national 200m champion.
“The road was a lot harder. The road was rougher for me,” said Davis-Thompson, comparing then to now. “The girls now are talented, but I don’t know if they were as patriotic as we were.
“I had some mishaps along the way, but it took me a long time to get on the podium with my first Olympic medal. I just say that’s the way God had it planned because I believe I had to wait for the other girls to come along.”
Davis-Thompson, now 54, was referring to Fynes, Sturrup and Ferguson-McKenzie, who helped her and Clarke to also gain the prominence that they did for the Bahamas in the sprints.
After all of her success over a 28-year span, Davis-Thompson retired in 2000.
Along the way, she was employed by the Ministry of Tourism and she coached at the University of Tennessee from 2007-2008, winning the NCAA Coach of the Year.
Following her departure, she traversed between Atlanta and New Providence where she coached a number of international and local athletes from 15 different countries, including Christine Amertil, Avard Moncur, Jamial Rolle and Addis Huyler.
In 2007, Davis-Thompson also made history in the administration of the sport when she was elected to serve on the women’s committee for four years. She then became the second Bahamian to become a member of the IAAF Council for the next 12 years.
Davis-Thompson, who followed in the footsteps of Alpheus ‘Hawk’ Finlayson, was named an Honorary Life Person Member of the IAAF at last year’s World Championships and will receive a plaque of merit and veteran pin awards.
In 2011, Davis-Thompson began her employment as a consultant at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, a position she still holds today. She also formed her Bahamas High Performance Athletic Academy here at home.
“I’m going to be wrapping up the coaching in the club in a year’s time and then I will move to the second phase of the club where I will be tutoring the athletes, who I find in the ghetto and try to put them into track clubs where coaches can help them,” she stated.
“I want to make sure they learn more about grooming, finance and patriotism. When I move away from the coaching aspect, I want to do the tutoring side of it to help them, especially those who want to go off to college.”
When she’s not working or coaching, Davis-Thompson could be found at the Farmer’s Market on Gladstone Road on Saturdays between 10am and 4pm where she sells her delicious Golden Delights smoothies.
She was motivated to start the business three years ago by a gentleman named Mr Douglas, who instilled an AC ductless unit in her home. She shared the brewed green smoothie with him and he encouraged her to take it to the world as an entrepreneur, having already established her name as an elite runner.
It wasn’t until after he called her on her WhatsApp twice when she was in France and Italy, trying to ascertain if she had heeded his advice. On her return home, she visited the Farmer’s Market and a lady named Sarah encouraged her to share a booth with her to sell her smoothies.
Today, she has her own booth and her smoothies are on the shelves of eight Super Values in Cable Beach, Market Street, Winton, Robinson Road, Golden Gates and East Street South.
She thanked Rupert Roberts, his granddaughter and Mr Fernander at Super Value headquarters for giving her the opportunity to showcase her smoothies to a wider range of the Bahamian populace.
“I have my regular customers who come out to the Farmers Market every Saturday for their green smoothies,” Davis-Thompson said. “Religiously they come out there for it.
“People have even stopped me on the street, saying ‘We heard about your smoothies. We have to come to the Farmers Market to try it.’ They have been coming ever since.”
On a personal note, Davis-Thompson got married to Jamaican Olympic 400m hurdler Mark Thompson on October 24, 1998, a union that saw her endure the miscarriage of a son at four months in 2003 and a daughter at birth in 2005, which almost took her life.
Today, as she celebrates, Davis-Thompson said she’s just elated to be able to enjoy life in the aftermath of a glamorous track career that saw her win a medal at every major international junior and senior meet she competed in, including the Olympic 200m gold.