This coming weekend was set to be a busy one for the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) as youth, junior and senior athletes were scheduled to be in action at their respective nationals. The events were set to get underway today at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
Instead, the nationals have been pushed back to the end of July, running over into August because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is provided that the government of The Bahamas approves sporting activities in its latest Emergency Powers orders.
BAAA President Drumeco Archer said it is expected to be a watered-down national championships due to the numerous challenges they face and the restrictions in place due to the pandemic.
“We are still hopeful that we can stage the event, even if it is a watered-down national championships, so that we could have some sort of culmination of our track and field program. It is hard to call it a national championships because I do not think we will have full representation. It is hard to call someone a national champion when you do not have everyone present,” said Archer.
The meet was set to be a qualifier for the 2020 Summer Olympics which has been postponed to the summer of 2021.
Under the current plan, juniors and seniors will be in action at the nationals starting on July 30. On Friday, August 1, the youth will hit the track. Archer said the competition level is still expected to be high.
“The success of any track and field competition is preparation and with a three-month furlough, it is difficult to see where we are in our program. There are many athletes who abbreviated their training. That applies to many of our junior and senior athletes. We are now trying to encourage them over the short weeks of the summer to sort of get in some level of fitness, but training happens in cycles. That is one of our challenges,” said Archer.
Archer said that the younger athletes will utilize the meet as more of a summer activity.
“Training has not only been a problem for the junior athletes but the senior and elite athletes who train locally as well. They have found a way to put in their training as best as they can at the senior level, but I cannot say the same for our junior program,” Archer said.
According to Archer, the meet is open to everyone as the borders will be opened for international travel on July 1 and athletes are welcomed to come home for the nationals.
“I speak to the coaches on a regular basis to find out what their athletes are doing and where they are,” said Archer. “There are many coaches who would have said that many of their athletes have shut down their seasons. On the other hand, there are a number of coaches who have maintained practice with the athletes who have been interested in getting meets in. All is not lost and we want to continue to encourage people to maintain fitness, but we are also mindful that within the summer period, there is a normal break period.”
It is a very tough time economically as corporate Bahamas, the government, and individuals practice austerity measures during these times of uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What I would like to see is individuals who are in a financial position to make a donation,” Archer said. “Our focus will now be turned to attracting individuals to provide smaller level of sponsorship to the federation. I think it is pretty remote to consider larger companies. There have been massive layoffs. There are companies who have not reopened for business as yet to presume that they are in a position to provide funding for an extra-curricular program.”
World Athletics, the governing body of track and field in the world, recommended a national championships window of August 6 to 8.
In her national budget communication last week, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Lanisha Rolle mentioned that her ministry has prepared a list of COVID-19 guidelines that were set to outline how sports activities are to be conducted whenever they are allowed to resume.