Hope for our relay teams in London
Published: Apr 23, 2012
The Bahamas has won one gold medal, two silver medals, and one bronze medal in the relays at the Olympic Games.
Bahamians all over the world can remember that morning in 2000 when the Golden Girls captured the gold in the 4x100m at the Sydney Olympics, defeating the great USA with Marion Jones in the process. This was the end of a long march to success.
The start of our women
In 1962 at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Kingston, some 50 years ago, the first women’s team represented The Bahamas in track an field. The team consisted of Elaine Thompson, Christine Jones, Gail North, and Althea Rolle. The team finished in fifth place and ran 48.7 seconds.
It took 22 years for The Bahamas to compete in the relay in the Olympics when Eldece Clarke, Debbie Greene, Oralee Fowler, and Pauline Davis finished in sixth place at the Los Angeles Games, running 44.18 seconds. No women’s relay team ran in the Olympics again until 12 years later, 1996 in Atlanta, where they won the silver medal in 43.14 seconds.
Pauline Davis-Thompson and Eldece Clarke-Lewis both retired after the 2000 Games.
The new women
The Bahamas placed fourth in Athens in 2004 with Timicka Clarke, Chandra Sturrup, Shandria Brown, and Debbie Ferguson in 42.69 seconds. Sturrup, Clarke, and Brown are all descended from Exuma.
The Bahamas has never captured a medal in the men’s 4x100m relay. Way back in Mexico City in 1968 The Bahamas seemed to be the team to beat in the men’s 4x100m relay.
In the quarter-final the team of Norris Stubbs, Tommy Robinson on the second leg, Bernard Nottage on the third leg, and Kevin Johnson on the final ran a Bahamian record of 39.45 seconds, which would last for 25 years. Robinson pulled up in the semi-final and the hopes and dreams of The Bahamas were dashed.
It took another 28 years for a men’s 4x100m relay team to make it to the Games. In Atlanta, a team of Iram Lewis, Rendward Wells, Andrew Tynes, and Joseph Styles made it the semi-finals. Dwight Ferguson ran the second leg in the semi-final and the team was disqualified. Ferguson took off too fast for Rendward Wells, and even though he was not out of the zone he stopped running.
Prior to Sydney, The Bahamas had a camp in Montabaun, France, where the team of Rendward Wells, Sylvannues Hepburn, Iram Lewis, and Dominic Demeritte ran 38.98 seconds for a new Bahamian national record. At the Games in Sydney, Wellington Saunders replaced Iram Lewis and the team placed fourth in the heats in 39.57 seconds. The Bahamas has not fielded a men’s 4x100m relay team in the Olympics since.
The Silver Knights
The Bahamas first competed in the men’s 4x400m relay in Atlanta where they the team of Carl Oliver, Troy Mcintosh, Dennis Darling, and Timothy Munnings finished seventh in 3:02.71. They had made the final due to the disqualification of Nigeria’s team.
In Sydney the team of Avard Moncur, Troy McIntosh, Carl Oliver, and Chris Brown
finished in fourth place in 3:59.23. The USA team was disqualified because of doping infractions and The Bahamas moved up to third place. For whatever reason they have not been presented with their medals yet, although Pauline Davis-Thompson has been presented with her gold medal after Marion Jones was disqualified due to a doping infraction.
In Athens, the team of Nathaniel Mckinney, Aaron Cleare, Andrae Williams, and Chris Brown finished in sixth place in 3:01.88. Dennis Darling was requested to run the starting leg but refused. He was sacked and Cleare brought in. The men got their act together in Beijing when they finished in second place in 2:58.03. On the team were Andrae Williams, Micheal Mathieu, Andretti Bain and Chris Brown. Avard Moncur and Ramon Miller were reserves.
With their gold medal in Edmonton, and silver medals in Helsinki and at the Osaka World Championships, the men got the name the Silver Knights.
Much has happened since Beijing. The Bahamas women’s 4x100m relay team of Sheniqua Ferguson, Chandra Sturrup, Christine Amertil and Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie won the silver medal in the Berlin World Championships in 42.29 seconds. In Berlin, The Bahamas made history when they entered a women’s 4x400m relay team. That team of Sasha Rolle, Shakethia Henfield, Rashan Brown and Katrina Seymour was disqualified.
The men’s 4x400m relay was disqualified in Berlin for stepping out of the zone at the beginning of the leg. Last year the team of Avard Moncur, Ramon Miller, Andrae Williams and LaToy Williams missed the final in Daegu. They ran 3:01.54. Neither Chris Brown nor Demetrius Pinder ran in the preliminary round.
The women’s team had a misfortune when Nivea Smith ran up on Anthonique Strachan and the baton dropped. Strachan was able to retrieve the baton but the tam was unable to make it to the final.
Preparation for London and Beyond
After the Daegu relay debacle, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) decided to appoint a relay coordination team for the London Olympics. They were leaving nothing to chance. Appointed as coordinator was Henry Rolle, an assistant coach at Auburn University. His local assistants are Tyrone Burrows, David Charlton and Dianne Woodside. Rolle has appointed Bahamian George Cleare, an assistant coach at the University of Georgia, as his U.S. assistant.
Rolle has reached out to all Bahamian athletes, in The Bahamas and abroad for their involvement in the “relay pool”. Teams will have the opportunity to participate in meets prior to the Scotiabank Olympic Trials and after the Trials, prior to the Games. There will be a training camp near to London prior to the Games.
The BAAA will approve all participants of teams prior to the Trials and after the Trials. Rolle and Cleare will have no responsibility for the team once the Games begin. Rolle has several athletes from various countries that he trains. The Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) will provide funding for teams to travel to the competition where they are unable to obtain funding from the meet director.
The final relay pools will be selected by the BAAA after the Scotiabank Olympic Trials. Individuals who never participated on teams prior to the Trials are eligible to be named to the pool for the Games. In every instance, athletes must show fitness. In order for any relay team to make the London Games they need to have a time which is in the top 16 in the world. There is no specific qualifying time needed.
At the moment, based upon top times from 2011, The Bahamas has the 12th top time in the men’s 4x400m relay of 3:01.33. The national record is 2:57.32 done by Nathaniel Mckinney, Avard Moncur, Andrae Williams, and Chris Brown in Helsinki. The women’s 4x100m has the 14th best time in the world of 43.62 seconds done in Freeport at the BTC Jr. & Sr. National Track and Field Championships last June. The team consisted of V’Alonee Robinson, Nivea Smith, Sheniqua Ferguson and Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie. The national record is 41.92 seconds done in Seville in 1999.
The men’s 4x100m sit in 27th place with a time of 39.29 seconds done in Puerto Rico last July. On that team were Adrian Griffith, Rodney Greene, Demetrius Pinder and Michael Mathieu. The women’s senior 4x400m relay team did not participate last year. The national record in that event is 3:29.53 done by Christine Amertil, Sasha Rolle, Shakethia Henfield and Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie at the Penn Relays in 2009.
The first outing for our teams will be this weekend at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia. The squads confirmed and approved by the BAAA for Philadelphia are: Women’s 4x100m - Chandra Sturrup, Anthonique Strachan, Sheniqua Ferguson, Nivea Smith, Tynia Gaither and V’Alonee Robinson; men’s 4x100m - Derrick Atkins, Jamial Rolle, Warren Fraser, Jonathan Farquharson, Michael Mathieu and Demetrius Pinder; men’s 4x400m - Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu, Ramon Miller and Avard Moncur. Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie was not available for this meet.
There are several athletes who will be included in the pool once their college duties are completed. The Penn Relays features the USA vs. the World in these relays. The Bahamas’ 4x400m relay teams have done well in their outings over the years. Several other meets are already scheduled. The men’s 4x100m relay will participate in Ponce, Puerto Rico on May 12. The men’s 4x400m is scheduled to participate in the Golden Gala in Rome on May 31.
Possible Scheduling Conflicts
As both the Daegu World Championships and Istanbul World Indoor Championships had challenges with availability of athletes we have looked at the schedule for the Olympic Games and note that there should be only one conflict with the team. If Michael Mathieu decides to participate in the 200m, which he did in Daegu, the semi-final of the 4x400m relay will be held the morning of the final of the 200m.
For those men participating in the individual 400m, and Brown, Pinder, and Miller have already qualified, the heats will be held on August 4, semi-finals on August 5, and final on August 6, a full three days before the semi-finals of the 4x400m. For our women participating in the 4x100m relay, the heats of the 100m will be contested on August 3, and the semi-finals and final on August 4.
The heats of the 200m are scheduled for August 6, the semi-final for August 7, and the final on August 8. The semi-final of the 4x100m relay is scheduled for August 9. There should therefore be no conflicts other than Michael Mathieu in the 200m and 4x400m relay.
Just how the women’s 4x400m will fit in will be seen. The plans for the preparation of The Bahamas’ relay teams for the London Olympics are solid. It provides numerous athletes the opportunity to compete as a member of a team before the Scotiabank Olympic Trials on June 22 and 23. Selection to the team will be made after the Trials.
At that point the names are recommended to the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) which makes the final decision. Bahamians can look forward to solid relay teams in London this summer. There is definitely hope for The Bahamas relays in London. As Scotiabank says, Let’s ‘Discover What’s Possible.’