2013 BAAA nationals in honor of original ‘Golden Girl’ Clarke
Published: May 22, 2013
The Bahamas Association of Athletics Associations’ (BAAA) 2013 National Championships are slated for the Grand Bahama Sporting Complex, June 21-22. It should really be a thrilling experience with anticipated head-to-head competitions in female sprinting to be featured. However, I think it is significant that the person in whose honor this year’s version of the track and field extravaganza is being staged, is being saluted.
Eldece Clarke is one of the icons of national sports in this country. A lengthy career of representing her country began in the early 1980s and did not end until the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Along the way, she was a quality ambassador at the CARIFTA Games, the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Youth Junior Championships and of course the Olympic Games, over and over again. One of the fastest Bahamian females who ever lived, Clarke has a personal best time of 10.96 seconds in the 100 meters (m). That’s the sprinting territory only national record holder Chandra Sturrup (10.84), Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie (10.91), Savetheda Fynes (10.91), and Pauline Davis-Thompson (10.97) have traveled.
The sprint relay gold medal with the rest of the original Golden Girls aforementioned is Clarke’s crowning achievement. There was much more to her though. A while back we sat down and talked about the embryo of the original Golden Girls. Many have claimed credit for the development of the original Golden Girls to the point whereby they were the best relay squad in the world and one of the finest in history.
Little is known and even less is attributed to Clarke and Davis-Thompson for crafting the well-oiled Bahamian sprint machinery. I will always remember listening to Clarke
recount the many financial sacrifices and otherwise, the ladies made to attend training sessions in the United States and the mother-type leadership given the younger member of the cast, Sturrup, Fynes and Ferguson.
The initiative broke new ground and actually never has been duplicated. It was unheard of for a group of athletes to undertake the tremendous challenges of using their very own funds to purchase plane tickets, cover housing, food and in-land transportation in order to become an ultra elite force. There were many frustrating conversations between the five. There was confusion at times. There was anger. There were doubts. There were tears. There were financial shortfalls. They had to all stall their social lives and transfer that dedication to track.
It was a time when the silver medal from the 1996 Olympic Games, although appreciated, caused them all to think seriously about Olympic gold. Indeed, it was when the disappointment of the 1997 International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) World Championships cut deeply to the core of the ladies. There was total dedication to the cause of being No. 1 in the world unequivocally. The younger ladies had the talent and Clarke and Davis-Thompson brought about a culture of maturity that encompassed the lot and led to glorious accomplishments of World and Olympic titles in 1999 and 2000 when the original Golden Girls were untouchable.
I remember that part of the legacy as much as I like to reflect on their accomplishments on the track. I don’t think that Clarke and the others ever got the proper recognition for what they did. It is therefore in order that with the 2013 nationals carrying her name, Eldece Clarke will be remembered for a bit more than just what her legs did on the track. Now with the story having been told again, there will be more appreciation for all that she contributed to the national sports power image.
The gesture by the BAAA is appropriate. Clarke well deserves the honor. Often, it’s as if she is the forgotten member of the original Golden Girls. There have been too many instances when a picture of just four, Sturrup, Davis-Thompson, Fynes and Ferguson-McKenzie, has been used when referring to the original Golden Girls. The 2013 BAAA nationals being named in Clarke’s honor does a bit to give balance to history.
Best regards Eldece!
•To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com
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