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Remembering Rutherford’s pacesetting role in athletics

Sports Scope
  • Frank Garfield Rutherford Jr. File photo

FRED STURRUP
Guardian Columnist/Sales Executive

Published: Feb 01, 2012

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Frank Garfield Rutherford Jr. is an enigma to many. It has indeed been quite difficult to understand him at times. He rubs folks the wrong way because of the confidence he has always had in his “own” ability and the emphasis on his “own special” contribution to nation building through sports.

Whatever the case, he just happens to be one of the truly great Bahamians. Let there be no doubt about that. His general character is one thing. His drive for excellence in the name of The Bahamas is, however, another aspect of the man who many misread because they don’t know the whole story.

I often give Rutherford a pass, not because we’ve been friendly, but because he deserves to be judged on balance. The man has certainly paid his dues. Rutherford is known more now as a recruiter and mentor of raw Bahamian talented athletes. The successes of the Darling brothers (the deceased Devaughn and Devard of American football fame) and quarter-mile star Dennis, are linked to cousin Frank.

There is Jeremy Barr, the youngster he discovered in Andros and turned into a star basketball player in the United States high school/university system. The same goes for Ian Symonette, in football. The list of young Bahamians who have been given a much better life through Rutherford’s Houston-based program is really extensive and includes such athletes as Dwight Miller and Waltia Rolle.

In this role of development alone he would easily be regarded as an icon. The early Rutherford of athletics nevertheless, easily upstages all else. He has been a pacesetter of phenomenal significance. The truth be told, it was Rutherford who led the way for The Bahamas in track and field when the World Cup and World Championships evolved during the 1980s.

The Bahamas’ first International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships medal (a Triple Jump bronze at the 1987 Indianapolis Indoor Worlds) was won by Rutherford. He was the United States’ Indoor Triple Jump Champion in 1991, for the University of Houston.

In 1992, he won a World Cup medal (silver in Havana, Cuba). Rutherford was the first Bahamian to hit and break the 57-feet barrier in triple jumping. His 57’ 1 ½” (17.41 meters) stood as the national record until Leevan Sands came along and moved the Bahamian high mark to 57’ 8-1/2” (17.59 meters). Now comes the clincher to the all-time hero status of Rutherford.

More of an accomplishment than all of the aforementioned was what he did at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. He made history for The Bahamas once again, giving the country only its third Olympic medal. Durward Knowles/Sloane Farrington’s bronze for sailing in 1956 and Knowles/Cecil Cooke’s sailing gold in 1964 were the others.

It was the first for athletics as he led the way for the ‘Golden Girls’, individuals Pauline Davis, Tonique Williams–Darling, Debbie Ferguson and Leevan Sands in subsequent Olympic Games. His triple jump bronze in Barcelona was the milestone that cemented The Bahamas as a rising track and field nation.

The world now respectfully regards this country as an authentic threat in athletics every time out on the greatest of stages. Perhaps now, when some think to criticize Frank Rutherford, what they have read here would provide a bit of balance. Continued best wishes to Rutherford in his ongoing efforts to foster the Bahamian sports power image.

To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at fredericksturrup@gmail.com

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