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Can home cooking work for The Bahamas?

Inaugural world relays to serve as major qualifier for 2015 world championships
  • From left, The Bahamas’ Golden Knights Ramon Miller, Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder and Michael Mathieu parade around the track at the Olympic Stadium after their gold medal winning run in the men’s 4x400 meters at last year’s Olympic Games in London, England. The BAAA is hoping to field six competitive relay teams for next year’s inaugural world relay championships, being held here in The Bahamas. AP

SHELDON LONGLEY
Guardian Sports Editor
slongley@nasguard.com

Published: Aug 27, 2013

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The site has been inspected, the logo has been approved, and sometime next month, official notification will be sent out.

The world is coming to The Bahamas, and it won’t just be a leisure trip, as eight world championships spots in each relay, in each gender, will be up for grabs. Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAA) President Mike Sands confirmed, on Sunday, that the top eight finishers in the men and women’s 4x100 meters (m) and 4x400m relays at next year’s inaugural world relays will qualify for the 2015 IAAF World Championships, in Beijing, China. The 2014 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relay Championships are set for May 24-25, next year, at the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, which was contingent for the event to be held here in The Bahamas in 2015 as well.

With this inaugural event serving as a major qualifier for the world championships, and with it being held here in The Bahamas, the BAAA president said that it is imperative that they have all hands on deck. The BAAA has yet to determine a selection process for the respective teams, but Sands said that they must have all of their top athletes available.

Athletes will compete in the 4x100m, 4x400m, 4x800m and 4x1,500m relay events, in both genders, over two days of competition.

“We are going to have to look at how we can get our athletes together, and work on synergy because that is what a camp is really for – to develop synergy,” said Sands. “People think you come to a training camp to get in shape, but that is not the case. You are already suppose to be in shape. You come to develop synergy, and we need to do that.

“Also, the coaches are doing an admirable job but I think that we have to dig a little deeper. We are strong in the sprints, but we definitely have to improve in the distance events. The coaches are going to have an awesome task in convincing some of these athletes that there is an option open in the distance events where they could hopefully find success. We have to re-visit our overall strategy, and look at other areas.

“Let’s not fool ourselves.

I do not believe that we will be competitive in any relay event beyond the 4x400 meters. We have to have at least four 1:45 half-milers to field a competitive 4x800m relay team, and our national record in the 800 meters is around 1:49. Even though the country will be allowed an entry in every event as the host country, we have to be realistic and ask ourselves, will we be competitive in the 4x800 and 4x1,500m events?”

Sands said that he believes that Bahamians could be successful in distance events, if they put in the time, the training and the hard work.

“The most I could do at this juncture is to make a plea to the athletes and the coaches to look at other areas,” said Sands. “We are in dire need of distance runners. The sprints are stacked, so to get where you might want to get, some athletes might need to consider the 800 meters. It’s a lot of work, but we in the BAAA will make every effort to find the means necessary to allow those athletes to train in order to qualify for major meets. Rather than sitting out there complaining about a lot of the little things that is not getting us any progress, let’s get together and try to find ways to make it work better. The BAAA will meet you half-way and try to find the funding to make it work. Let’s bring a solution to the table so we could move forward,” he added.

According to Sands, the IAAF could release entry standards for the 4x100m and 4x400m relay events for the world relays, when it sends out an official invitation to the 200-plus members some time in September. A team of IAAF officials are scheduled to be here in The Bahamas, at the end of September, on a fact-finding trip, and for continuous meetings.

“We have already had numerous meetings with the IAAF, both here and in Moscow. The Government of The Bahamas is committed to this event so failure is not an option,” said Sands. “The ministry of sports, through the government, is very closely involved with the planning and staging of this event. The LOC (local organizing committee) has pretty much been formed. A lot of work is going on. A logo has been approved, and we were able to convince the IAAF to use the word ‘Bahamas’ instead of ‘Nassau’ with the logo. When the IAAF approve logos for their events, it is always a city, whether it’s Moscow or Los Angeles, or Atlanta or wherever. It’s never a country, but in our case, because we want to showcase The Bahamas and because we are a tourist destination, they granted us that concession. It’s ‘Bahamas 2014’, as opposed to ‘Nassau 2014’. The word ‘Bahamas’ is more recognizable to persons throughout the world, and the world is coming here to experience The Bahamas.

“There were Bahamians in Moscow on a fact-finding mission for the world relays, to see what happens behind the scenes. They were in awe to see how the IAAF conducts things right down to the smallest detail. I think that it is going to be a great experience for us and The Bahamas. I hope that we would see that track and field is beyond borders, and we would find a way to bring everything together to showcase ourselves to the world.”

Sands said that even though they had some challenges in terms of finances and fundraising this year, they don’t foresee that being a hindrance for the world relays and the remainder of their regional and international events next year.

“Well, the bottom line is that we have to find ways to raise funds, and not rely totally on the government or the private sector. We have to re-visit our strategic plan, with finances and fundraising as the number one priority,” said Sands.

With a number of top athletes doubling up in the sprints, and with the meet being held over just two days next year, Sands said that it will be a challenge to field six competitive teams in the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400m relay events, but added that it is their intention to do so, and coaches and the athletes themselves would have to re-focus their energies and their efforts as to how they will make a good representation of themselves and The Bahamas at large.

“Athletes such as Michael Mathieu could do all of the sprints, and do them very well, but it’s only a two-day event, so we need to go deep,” said Sands. “It’s not like the athletes will have a few days to recover, so we have to be very careful in how we use our athletes, and whether or not they can double up in certain events. We want to be competitive across the board.

“When you look at the women’s 4x400m relay team, they qualified for the world championships and they competed. Were they as competitive as we would have liked - not necessarily, but they now know what they need to do. Our goal is to field competitive 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400m relay teams in both the men and women. We don’t know how the schedule will flow as yet, and what are the schedules of regional and collegiate conference events, but we are hoping to get all of our best athletes home, and even some of those who are semi-retired. We want all of our top athletes to come forth and try to make these teams. Our athletes have to make themselves available, and be in the best conditions.”

According to Sands, only two relay athletes who competed in Moscow, Russia, at the 14th IAAF World Championships, are up in the air as far as their availability is concerned, for the world relays. Sprinter Shavez Hart might have school commitments, and even though she is a professional athlete now, Shaunae Miller is still taking classes at the University of Georgia. That might interfere with their availability for the inaugural world relays.

The 2014 IAAF World Relay Championships will be just the second summer global athletics event to be held in the Caribbean, following the 9th IAAF World Junior Championships which were held in Jamaica, in 2002.

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