Small Country Great Athletes - Sports and Nationhood
By Alpheus Finlayson, BAAA
Jul 13, 2011 - 12:32:40 PM

The Golden Girls

Ever since the Olympic Games in ancient Greece, Sports has been an important ingredient in nationhood. So significant it was that all wars ceased during the Games.

Since the rebirth of the Olympic Games in 1896 Sports has played a significant role in nationhood.

Nobody can forget the role of Adolf Hitler during the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Just take a look at the clashes between the Soviet Union and the United States, whether it was basketball, hockey, or Track and Field. Take a look at the sports machine of East Germany though fueled by steroids.

Take a look at Cuba to our south and their complete domination of the Central American and Caribbean region, and the support of their number one fan, Fidel Castro, who is usually seen now not in his green army fatigues but in his Adidas outfit.

In each case, the thought of nationhood was at the back and usually at the front of their minds.

In the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada the entire Caribbean and Central America region was proud after Hasley Carwford of Trinidad & Tobago won the 100m, Donald Quarrie of  Jamaica won the 200m, and Alberto Juantorena of Cuba won the 400m and 800m.

Santo Domingo, July 10th, 1981

The Central American and Caribbean Sr. Track and Field Championships was held in Santo Domingo during the period of the Bahamas’ eighth anniversary of Independence. On the evening of our Independence Shonel Ferguson won the Gold medal in the Long Jump.

The entire Bahamian group of fans was awaiting eagerly the Bahamian national anthem.

The medalists were lined up on the dias and over the loudspeakers came “ God Save Our Gracious Queen”.

This was our independence day and we thought the authorities knew that. After two more unsuccessful tries, Dr. Bernard Nottage took several official and fans on the field and sang “Lift Up Your Heads To The Rising Sun Bahamaland”.

Thirty years later to the date, July 10th 2011, Stephen Newbold won the 200m in the IAAF World Youth Championships in Lille, France. This was the third time our national anthem was played in France.

The unbelievable success of our athletes in France gave The Bahamas a wonderful 38th Independence gift. And what a gift it was!

The Bahamas finished with four medals, three gold and one bronze on their way to a fourth place finish based on medals.

The United States won with sixteen medals, Kenya finished second with fourteen, and Jamaica third with nine.

This was the first time that we are aware of twins winning medals in the same world event. Latario Colle-Minns won gold and bronze in the Triple Jump. They had been expected to win medals because or their dominance in the Triple Jump throughout the season.

Shaunae Miller was the talk of the town in Lille and was one of three athletes invited to the IAAF Opening Press Conference. As the reigning IAAF World Junior Champion of the 400m much was expected.

Miller did not disappoint as she added the World Youth gold to her collection of medals. Shaunae was also one of the few athletes invited to the IAAF post event Closing Press Conference.

The one surprise was Stephen Newbold, who had switched to the 200m after winning the bronze medal in this year’s Carifta Games 400m. His coach explained that they felt he had a better chance of winning a medal in the 200m. Coach David Charlton was right on as Newbold went on to not just medal, but win the event in a personal best time.

When we look back through recent Bahamian history we know the patriotic feelings we had when Sir Durward Knowles and Sloane Farrington won the Olympic bronze medal in sailing in 1956 and when he and Cecil Cooke won the gold medal in 1964 in Tokyo.

We can remember when Tommy Robinson won the 220 yards at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales.

We can remember when Elisha Obed won the World Championships in boxing in Paris in 1975.

We remember vividly when The Bahamas placed third in the Carifta Games in Nassau in 1976.

We remember when The Bahamas won the Carifta Games for the first time in Bermuda in 1980. We also remember repeating that victory in Nassau in 1981. We remember the unbelievable fifty-eight medals by The Bahamas in winning the 1984 Games.

We all remember that August Monday in 1992 when Frank Rutherford jumped into Bahamian history in winning the bronze medal in the Triple Jump in Barcelona, the first Bahamian Olympic medal in Track and Field.

Every Bahamian can remember what they were doing the morning of the women’s 400m relay in Sydney when The Bahamas Golden Girls won the gold. Many Bahamians still have goose bumps when the see film clips of the race.

The national pride that is brought out during and because of these events is unbelievable.

The Future

Much more is in store for sports in these beautiful islands. Everybody is awaiting the 2012 London Olympic Games, where The Bahamas is expected to win medals again, and win the Games on a per-capita basis.

London will be full of Bahamian flags next summer.

Just before London our junior Track and Field stars have another opportunity to shine on the world scene. Interesting enough, it will be back in Barcelona, the site of the Bahamas’ first Olympic Track and Field medal. All those athletes who participated over this independence in Lille, along with some athletes like Anthonique Strachan, Austin Sealy Award winner for 2011, and High Jumper supreme Ryan Ingraham, will be eligible for the 2012 Barcelona World Junior Championships.

Interestingly enough, several of them have already qualified for the London Olympics, and some others will have qualified by that time.

By next year the new Thomas Robinson National Stadium will be operational. This gives us the opportunity for Bahamians to see their best at home.

The future for nationhood through sports is very bright.

We know the nation is proud right now. Enjoy it and help the athletes continue to demonstrate the slogan by a German sports historian, “The Bahamas, Small Country, Great Athletes”!


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