Donald Thomas soars for bronze in high jump

Bahamas's Donald Thomas poses with his bronze medal on the podium during a ceremony for the men's high jump category, at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Bahamas's Donald Thomas poses with his bronze medal on the podium during a ceremony for the men's high jump category, at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)


Bahamas' Donald Thomas clears the bar during the men's high jump final at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)


Senior Sports Reporter


EACH year, as long as he feels healthy, Donald Thomas said he will be out to make his presence felt on the international scene. Although he admitted that he was not at full strength, Thomas said he wanted to give it his best shot at this year’s Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

On Friday, the 39-year-old Thomas was beaten out for the silver by Luis Joel Castro of Puerto Rico on fewer knockdowns after they both posted a mark of 7-feet, 4 1/4-inches or 2.24 metres. Luis Enrique Zayas of Cuba took the gold with 7-5 ¼ (2.27m).

After winning a silver in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, gold in 2011 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and bronze in 2015 in Toronto, Canada, Thomas said he was disappointed as he sat on the sidelines and watched as a medal slipped away from him in 2019 in Lima, Peru.

The Grand Bahamian native vowed to return this year and avenge the feat. He dedicated his performance to the late Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama and Bimini Obediah Wilchcombe.

“It was a great competition. I was glad that I was able to go out there and compete,” said Thomas, who admitted that he wasn’t at full strength and was able to get a lot of assistance from Dr Rickey Davis, the Bahamas Olympic Committee team doctor and the local doctors at the polyclinic in the Games Village, to get him ready to compete. As he showed up and performed, Thomas said he remembered how a hamstring injury in 2019 in Peru snapped his streak of winning a medal.

But there was no greater feeling this time to get back on the podium. “I might not have been 100 percent, but I went out there and did it,” said Thomas, who too noted that his goal now is to get the elusive medal that has slipped from his grasp in his past four appearances at the Olympics.

While he appeared in Beijing, China in 2008, London, England in 2012 and Tokyo, Japan in 2020, his best performance came in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2018 where he made his only final appearance, placing seventh.

Looking back at his performances over the years, Thomas said he’s motivated every year to compete because of his results, and he’s eager to continue. He won his world title in 2007 in Osaka, Japan, the same year the first iPhone went on sale, and three years before Instagram was launched.

But as he approaches his 40th birthday on July 1, a few weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics, he admits that he still feels that there’s still a lot more left in the tank. “When you line up to compete and you get on that podium, you are jumping against competitors who are out to accomplish the same thing, winning a medal,” said Thomas, who has earned just about every international medal, except the Olympics.

“Age is just a number. The sky’s the limit. So I just keep going.”

At his age, Thomas said it’s a year-to-year commitment for him. “I don’t want to just show up to these games. I want to be able to compete,” he stated.

“I don’t just want to be one of the greatest. I want to take it one year at a time and see just how my body feels and I just go from there.

“But I know I can compete with the best and before I leave the game, I want to get that medal (at the Olympics). So, we will see how it goes. I’m going to put my all into that to see the outcome.”

In order to achieve that goal, Thomas said he just has to show up in great shape and show his support system in the stands.

“Usually, I get to compete at the games without my coaches,” he pointed out.

“I’ve never had a coach present at the Olympics. Hopefully, this coming Olympics, the BOC would grant me permission to have my coach at the games.”

Despite the rise of some young competitors like Shaun Miller Jr, Thomas said he’s confident that he will be one of the two of three competitors to represent the Bahamas in Paris next year. He’s not certain who will join him.

“This is what I prepare for,” said Thomas, who dominated the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ National Championships, winning seven titles and has produced a lifetime best of 7-9 ¼ (2.37m) in 2016, second only to Troy Kemp’s record of 7.9 ¾ (2.38) in 1995 in Nice, France, the same year he won his world title in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Growing up playing basketball while studying at Lindenwood University in Missouri, USA, Thomas was challenged by his teammates to give the high jump a go, given how easy slam dunks came to him.

He cleared 6-6 (1.98m) on his first attempt, 6-11 ¾ (2.13m) on his third, and, two days later, Thomas found himself competing for the track team, clearing 7-3 ½ (2.22m) in competition.

Two months later, he went on to finish fourth in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne before clearing 7-8 1.2 (2.35m) in 2007 to claim gold at the World Championships.

In the 16 years since, Thomas admits that there have been many ups and downs, but he credits a lot of his motivation to his son and daughter Dashawn and Kamilah, aged 17 and 10 respectively, who play basketball and do gymnastics.

“They are my world.” he stated. “That’s one of the reasons why I stay competing.

“I’m doing it for them and for my country. But they know my commitment to competing and getting on the podium every time I compete.”


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