By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
AS he was reflecting on having the Frank Rutherford Close named in his honour, Bahamian icon Frank Rutherford said he owes a great debt of gratitude to his former coach Neville Wisdom for his achievement as the first Bahamian to win an Olympic medal in track and field.
During a conference call on Monday at Arawak Homes where it was revealed that the newest subdivision on Prince Charles Drive where 21 lots of single-family homes and multi-family duplexes will be constructed, Wisdom, a former Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, was ecstatic that Rutherford is finally getting his just due.
The 57-year-old Rutherford earned the Bahamas’ first Olympic track and field medal when he captured the bronze in the men’s triple jump in Barcelona, Spain in 1992.
An emotional Wisdom recalled how he was suspended along with Rutherford and quarter-miler Pauline Davis at the 1989 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Puerto Rico for leaving the Games Village and staying in a hotel.
As the first two professional athletes in track and field, Wisdom said they were embarrassed for trying to “do something good” for the country by isolating themselves to prepare to compete in their events at the games without all of the distractions.
Wisdom, who at the time was the coach of the two athletes from the Bain Town Flyers Track Club, noted that after their suspensions, Rutherford became the first Bahamian to win an Olympic medal in track and field in the men’s triple jump, Davis became the first Bahamian to win a gold medal in track and field and he (Wisdom) went on to become the Minister of Sports.
“God works in mysterious ways,” Wisdom acknowledged. “I want to congratulate you. You held your head up high during very difficult times.
“The challenges you went through as a result of politics and even the politics in sports, but at the end of the day you persevered and I am proud of you, my brother.
“As I told you when you started with Lyndon Sands, the road is difficult. You never made a junior (national) team, but you persevered.”
Before going on to win the first Olympic medal in Barcelona, Rutherford also earned a bronze - the Bahamas’ first World Indoor Championships in 1987 in Indianapolis, Indiana, the same year and venue that he got a bronze at the Pan American Games.
Wisdom saluted him for his athletic prowess and now for his national achievement by having a subdivision named in his honour.
The legendary American sprinter/long jumper, Carl Lewis, who inspired Rutherford to become the historic triple jumper that he became, said his friend, with whom he works with at their alma mater at the University of Houston, deserves the accolades being bestowed upon him.
“There’s an old saying that you can’t make the big shot unless you take it,” said Lewis, who did just that, winning nine Olympic gold medals, one Olympic silver medal and 10 World Championships medals, including eight gold during a career that spun from 1979 to 1996.
Lewis, 61, said he was so appreciative of Rutherford bringing him to the Bahamas to witness and enjoy the culture of the Bahamas, but now every Bahamian will get the opportunity to remember him because of the naming of the subdivision in his honour.
“I am proud of you Frank,” said Lewis, who is now working with Rutherford’s daughter Alexis Tilford-Rutherford, now in her freshman year at the University of Houston. “Your story will continue to be told because people will get a chance to recognise who you are because of your name being placed on the subdivision.”
Retired Hall of Fame National Basketball Association’s superstar Hakeem ‘the Dream’ Olajuwon, who played from 1984- 2002 with the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors, lauded his close friend Rutherford for the achievement.
“I think it’s well deserved,” said Olajuwon, who is listed as one of the 50 greatest players in the NBA, although the 59-year-old centre is a native of Lagos, Nigeria. “I think it’s a good motivation for the future generation.”
Also sharing in the announcement were Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ president Drumeco Archer and North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) president Mike Sands.
Archer, who considers Rutherford to be his big brother, recalled how they spent time training together. He also noted that Rutherford took him on his first international trip to compete when he was introduced to the University of Houston, but because of the cold weather, Archer opted not to go there.
Years later, as fate would have it, Archer said he got the opportunity to view the achievement of Rutherford, which led to the Bahamas winning a medal at every Olympiad since his accompaniment in 1992.
And Sands, credited with being one of the motivators for Rutherford, said he remembers serving as the manager for the Olympic team when Rutherford accomplished his feat.
He noted that they were late in heading to the stadium and had to force chef de mission - the late Arlington Butler’s driver - to take them to the stadium.
Following his accomplishment, Sands said he and Rutherford enjoyed what they thought would be a quiet dinner in Barcelona, but they were interrupted by so many persons who took the time out to congratulate Rutherford and the Bahamas on the achievement.
Also expressing his sentiments was Alexander Cartwright, the president of the University of Central Florida, who was a former school-mate of Rutherford at LW Young High School. They also attended school together with Davis and Lavern Eve.
Cartwright, who holds a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Iowa, said Rutherford’s accomplishment is one that should be lauded and there’s no better way than to do it with his name on the new subdivision.
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