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Citing an inability to meet reasonable requests, foreign coach, track analyst and sportscaster Ato Boldon pulled his prized possession, Briana Williams, out of the Neymour Athletics Christmas Odd Distance Track and Filed Classic in Freeport, Grand Bahama, this past weekend, dampening the overall mood of the local meet and causing it to lose some of its luster.
Boldon, of Trinidad & Tobago, a former World Champion sprinter and Olympic medalist, coaches Williams – the World Under-20 (U20) Double Sprint Champion from Jamaica and a regional star at CARIFTA the past two years. She is the darling of track and field on the junior side in the region, and was the headliner of the Neymour Athletics classic this past weekend. The duo, Boldon and Williams, arrived in Freeport on Wednesday and left on Sunday without the latter participating in the weekend event.
Bolden said on social media: “Unfortunately, the organizers of this meet failed to deliver on just about every reasonable expectation that there could be to host a decent track and field event and as a result, I’ve decided to withdraw Briana from participation in this meet.”
Meet organizer Jerell Forbes, the head coach and president of the Grand Bahamian-based Neymour Athletics Track and Field Club, said it’s unfortunate but added that the success of the meet did not rest on Williams’ participation.
“We just couldn’t please him, and we certainly tried,” said Forbes. “I received complaints from some of the foreign coaches on what was said and done, and at that point, I said to myself that I’m not going to let any one person decide how this meet is run. It really started with a Zoom session with a few of the international athletes, with them giving their take about being in The Bahamas but he didn’t want Briana to take part in that. Also, athletes tried to mix with Brianna but he always intervened. He just acted unprofessionally. Briana even asked to run the 150, asking me to ask Coach Ato to let her run the 150, and I was about to do that, until I saw the post on social media. It was egregious and uncalled for. Be that as it may, the event was a success. Everyone who came down here said they were grateful for the opportunity to compete and they enjoyed themselves. It’s just unfortunate that that one incident put a damper on the weekend. Otherwise, it was a great meet.”
Boldon, who was unavailable for comment, also said on social media that Freeport, Grand Bahama, holds a special place in their hearts, having flown there in 2019 to assist in the Hurricane Dorian relief efforts. Prior to her arrival, Williams said to 876 Stream – an online social media site in Jamaica – that she was super excited to be coming to The Bahamas and was looking forward to competing.
There’s no doubt that it has been a rough year for the Northern Bahamas, given the damage and loss of life from Dorian and the ensuing financial impact of COVID-19. Boldon said they wanted to do their part to assist and deemed it a great idea to compete. Forbes said he welcomed the initial interest and even made his father’s plane available for transport into the island for Boldon and Williams, but was caught off guard with what followed. Despite the fallout, the meet took place Saturday at the Grand Bahama Sports Complex in Freeport. Friday’s events were canceled due to a technical error.
Local and foreign athletes, nearly 200 in total, engaged in the 60 meters (m), 150m, 300m, 500m and the one-mile events, in all age groups, on Saturday.
“Saturday was a complete success,” said Forbes. “The kids were able to come out and compete and they really enjoyed themselves. The athletes, parents and coaches were excited. The Jamaican athletes and the other international athletes all enjoyed themselves, and that was good to see. This is our legacy and we have to keep it going. We want to take this to new heights. It’s just unfortunate what happed with Coach Ato but it didn’t dampen our spirits. He is impossible to please. With him being in the sport for so long, you would expect him to understand that everything doesn’t go perfect all the time, but he’s making decisions based on what he wants and not on what’s good for her. Be that as it may, we will go on. We will continue to promote this meet in the future and continue to uplift track and field.”
Forbes said they are now in the process of planning the 4th Annual Basil Neymour Construction Classic, which is set for February 12-13, 2021, at the Grand Bahama Sports Complex in Freeport. He said they are expecting a large contingent from Barbados, athletes from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and a team out of North Carolina in the United States, led by Olympian hurdler and former World Champion Bershawn “Bat Man” Jackson.
“This event was just a precursor for what’s to come,” said Forbes. “We’re looking forward to big things happening for Grand Bahama as far as track and field is concerned and we are not going to be deterred. Track and field must go on. We will continue to move forward.”
The Neymour Athletics Christmas Odd Distance Track and Filed Classic, the first international track and field meet in the country since the advent of COVID-19 in the region, was supported by The Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry for Grand Bahama, and was given approval by health officials in the country with the mandate that safety and social distancing measures be adhered to. It was also sanctioned by the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA), the governing body for athletics in the country.
Forbes said he has every intention of making the meet an annual event.