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The Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) has covered six decades and is moving steadily through another. The organization was born as the Bahamas Amateur Athletic Association in 1952. From a humble beginning with the first medals, regional ones, coming not until the 1957 West Indies Federation Games, the BAAA grew to world prominence.
Gold medals have been won at all levels of regional and international events, in abundance. With the BAAA scheduling a 60th anniversary affair at the Thomas Augustus Robinson National Stadium for Sunday, May 27, winning medals against the best the world has to offer has become a certainty.
It is a powerful statement The Bahamas, through the BAAA, has made to the world. While great nations such as India, Chile, Ecuador, South Africa, Venezuela, Egypt, Israel, Colombia, Chinese Taipei and many others much larger than The Bahamas, struggle mightily to get into the medal mix, we consistently put athletes on podiums no matter how grand the stage.
Without a doubt, the BAAA has been and remains one of the great sports pillars in the country. Sailing blazed the trail with Sir Durward Knowles winning the 1947 Star Class World Championship (with Sloane Farrington as crew); the first Bahamian Olympic medal (a bronze in 1956, again with Farrington as crew), and the first Olympic gold medal (1964 with Cecil Cooke as crew).
Bobby Symonette bested the world in the 5.5 Metre Series and Ocean Racing; and Pierre Siegenthaler and Donnie Martinborough have been superb in winning World Sunfish Sailing titles. Others such as Winifred Sands, Kenneth Albury, the Kelly brothers (Godfrey, Basil and David), Foster Clarke and Roy Ramsay have been outstanding in regional competition.
Yes, much to be proud of was produced by our sailing ambassadors. The BAAA has been constant. From 1992 to the present, athletes from the BAAA have collected Olympic medals for The Bahamas. It's really an incredible record of consistency the BAAA has had. We expect so much, because of having been blessed so abundantly in sports. When you compare The Bahamas to the nations aforementioned however, we might be considered a country that continues to over-achieve.
Much is owed to the BAAA. Robinson was on that national team at the 1957 West Indies Federation Games. He won a bronze medal in the 100 while teaming up with Oscar Francis, Enoch Backford and Tom Grant to win the sprint relay bronze. That was the start for the BAAA. Robinson became a regional legend in track and field and was the first Bahamian from the sport to reach a final at the Olympics (1964 in Tokyo, Japan).
Frank Rutherford was the pioneer Olympic medal winner in track and field due to his triple jump bronze medal in 1992 at the Barcelona Games. The original Golden Girls (Pauline Davis, Chandra Sturrup, Eldece Clarke, Savatheda Fynes and Debbie Ferguson) won a silver medal in the sprint relay at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and the gold four years later in Sydney, Australia. Davis won the 200 meters gold in Sydney.
In Athens, Greece, in 2004, Tonique Williams-Darling was the 400 meters gold medal winner and Ferguson won a 200 meters bronze. In 2008, in Beijing, the 1,600 men's relay team won a silver medal and Leevan Sands duplicated Rutherford's feat with a triple jump bronze. Troy Kemp, the original Golden Girls, Ferguson, quarter-miler Avard Moncur, Williams-Darling, and high jumper Donald Thomas won world championships. The BAAA has paraded out scores of junior regional and world champions.
Quite frankly, today around the world when The Bahamas is mentioned, most would say they know that "the country is very good in track and field". Without a doubt, the BAAA and the sport it governs are more synonymous with our country than anything else. That's the true measure of the organization.
Robinson these days just smiles at the knowledge "of us coming so very far".
"To me the years seem to have flown by. I have to pinch myself sometimes. Fifty-five years have gone by since we got the medals in Jamaica at the West Indies Federation Games. When you really think of all that we've accomplish and you put us next to a good number of the largest countries in the world, you know, we've done well," said Robinson.
Indeed, and, it was 54 years ago that he sent that big message to the world that The Bahamas produced top track and field talent. He won the 220-yards dash and finished second in the 100 yards at the Commonwealth Games that year in Cardiff, Wales. The BAAA has grown in leaps and bounds over 60 years. President Mike Sands and his colleagues are to be congratulated on behalf of what they have done to craft the legacy. I salute also the administrations before his.
It's been a great run for the BAAA family! Celebrate the milestone with them on May 27!
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com)
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