September 14, 2011
The upcoming Pan American Games will be a standard of measurement for Bahamian athletics like never before in our history. This will be a great opportunity for Bahamians to evaluate some of our athletes in particular and our elite sports programs in general.
Guadalajara, Mexico will be the host city for the 16th Pan Am Games and there are big question marks for the most successful program, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations.
Trevor Barry saved the day for this country's image with his high jump bronze medal at the recent International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. We needed to be consistent in winning at least one medal at the IAAF World Championships (Indoor and Outdoor).
He enabled us to maintain an important level of achievement.
The BAAA must now however do some soul searching about the disaster decision that led to this country not advancing in an event, it is widely considered to be second best in the world, the men's 1,600 meters relay. No amount of excuses for the decision will change the big picture.
On one of the greatest track and field stages, veteran BAAA coaches participated in a decision process that allowed three of the slowest (this season thus far) quarter-mile runners to carry the Bahamian baton in the first round. It was a ridiculous choice and one that saw this nation pay dearly.
It's now about the elite track and field athletes regaining confidence in their coaches again. It was clear, given the comments of some of the athletes, that they were not comfortable with the decision. Will this lack of confidence carry over into Guadalajara?
This is the great challenge for the BAAA. This nation needs a big rebound in track and field at the Guadalajara Pan Am Games to set the stage for the London 2012 Olympics. The Bahamas has qualified for the Pan American Games also in boxing, swimming and tennis.
In boxing, Valentino Knowles qualified in the light welterweight (64 kg.) division; Marvin Rolle has drawn a wildcard in tennis; and the swimming team will be led by freestyle sprint specialist Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace.
We hope for the best in tennis. There should be no overwhelming expectations. There should be satisfaction just in being able to qualify. At this stage, that's good for Bahamian tennis. The Bahamas Swimming Federation (BSF), once it sends a team, will perform true to form.
Like track and field though, boxing will be under the microscope in Guadalajara. Knowles, a brilliant boxer, has been right on the bubble for most of his career. From he was a mere 13-years-old, Knowles was demonstrating excellent natural skills. He is at a point now whereby he can handle himself in the ring against the best of the best.
He has won a match at a World Championships (the only Bahamian to do so); he has won a Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games gold medal; he has captured Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Boxing Championships medals and he is ranked within the top 25 in the Americas.
It is my view though that Knowles is an underachiever. I believe he needs to be motivated. The obligation to do so, belongs to his team. The IAAF World Championships in Daegu showed the nation how important it is for quality coaching to be in the mix in order for the best achievements to result.
National Coach Andre Seymour has to pay a lot of attention to getting Knowles mentally charged for every bout. Knowles has the ability to medal in Guadalajara and accordingly qualify for London 2012. Can the coach get the best out of him?
That's the question and one of the reasons, the upcoming Pan American Games will be such a gauge for elite sports in The Bahamas.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com)
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