The athletics world is still buzzing from some fantastic individual performances in the face of the new coronavirus pandemic.
Here in The Bahamas, it was a trio of athletes who led the way this past weekend.
Everyone already knew the prowess of Shaunae Miller-Uibo in the women’s 200 and 400 meters (m), but she showed her range this past weekend, stepping down to the 100m and turning heads on her way to victory in Clermont, Florida. The Bahamian superstar ran faster than she has ever ran before, clocking 11.03 seconds in the heats and 10.98 seconds in the final. She came back the following day and ran 21.98 seconds in the 200m.
Miller-Uibo became just the fourth woman in history to run sub-11 in the 100m, sub-22 in the 200m and sub-49 in the 400m, joining German world record holder in the 400m Marita Koch, American Valerie Brisco-Hooks and one of her idols Marie-José Pérec, of France. Additionally, she became just the sixth Bahamian woman to run under 11 seconds in the 100m, joining all five of The Bahamas’ “Golden Girls”.
The 26-year-old phenom appears to be on the top of her game, drawing comparisons to the great Usain Bolt from the men’s side of athletics. For the first time in her career, she is the world leader in all three sprints on the women’s side – the 100, 200 and 400m. Additionally, she is the world record holder in the 300m.
“Shaunae Miller-Uibo continues to spoil her fans all around the world by continuing to blaze new trails each time she sets foot on the track, not only setting world-leading times in the 100 and 200 in 10.98 seconds and 21.98 seconds respectively, but now we are left to wonder whether the quest remains to double at the Tokyo Olympics…but now in the 100 and 200 instead of the 400m. Who knows… God has a wonderful sense of humor…maybe the elusive double gold is still within her grasp,” said Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) President Drumeco Archer.
The local athletics chief was referring to World Athletics’ decision to not alter the original schedule for next year’s Olympic Games so that it would be feasible for an athlete to run both the women’s 200 and 400m. With the games being postponed to next year, the revised schedule is yet to be released, but World Athletics has already stated that its decision is final. The heats of the women’s 400m and the final of the women’s 200m are set for the same day – about 12 hours apart.
Miller-Uibo is the leader in this Olympic cycle in the 200m (21.74), and is or has been the world leader in the 400m in four of the past five years.
As for Steven Gardiner, he was impressive this past weekend as well, finishing second overall in the men’s 200m in 19.96 seconds. The world champion over that distance, American Noah Lyles, was the overall winner in 19.94 seconds. They were in separate heats. Those are the only sub-20 times in the world for 2020.
“Steven Gardiner runs as if floating across the track… Who knows what he may have run in head-to-head competition, in the faster heat with Lyles. What is evident, however, is his exceptional fitness level, in spite of the roller coaster season due to COVID-19,” said Archer.
A stunning performance over the weekend came from former junior sensation Anthonique Strachan in the women’s 200m. She proved that her fitness level is high by winning the women’s 200m and running a new meet record at the Velocity Fest 2020 in Kingston, Jamaica, on Saturday.
Strachan ran her fastest time in five years, 22.72 seconds. It has her listed at number five in the world in that event this year.
“I am particularly pleased to see Anthonique to new form to win her 200m heat over the weekend, which at the time of her race ranked her second in the world. She is overdue for a podium-worthy performance and I believe that next year is bound to be her year,” said Archer.
Strachan’s time would have qualified her for the Olympics, but World Athletics has suspended the qualifying window for that event due to it being pushed back to next year. The qualifying time for the women’s 200m is 22.80 seconds. The Olympics is now set for July 23 to August 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan, and the qualifying period will resume on December 1, 2020.
To date, just six Bahamians have qualified for the Olympics – Miller-Uibo in both the women’s 200 and 400m, Gardiner in the men’s 400m, Tynia Gaither in the women’s 100 and 200m, Samson Colebrooke in the men’s 100m, Pedrya Seymour in the women’s 100m hurdles and Jamal Wilson in the men’s high jump.
Archer remains confident that Bahamian athletes will continue to excel and post qualifying times and distances despite the disruption of training schedules and the uncertainty of sporting events due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
“In spite of the menacing presence of COVID-19, God continues to bless our wonderful nation with world-class talent and world-class performances,” he said. “This past weekend was a spectator’s delight to watch three of our Bahamian athletes break the finish line tape ahead of their opponents, as they set their eyes on next year’s Olympic Games. This bodes well for our national program, showing promise for an exciting and productive season next year for our entire program. The BAAA congratulates all of its athletes who have braved the COVID-19 storm, still yielding stellar performances worldwide. We salute you. We pray that you continue to keep safe during your time of training and competition, and we ask that you follow and respect all safety protocols until our country and the world can arrest this vexing problem.”
The pandemic continues to rear its ugly head as a number of countries, including The Bahamas, are experiencing spikes in total and active cases. As mentioned, the Olympic qualifying period for athletics has been pushed back to December 1, so no matter what Bahamian athletes run, throw or jump in the next four months, it wouldn’t be recognized as automatic qualifying marks for the Olympics.
Be that as it may, Archer said that from all indication, Bahamian athletes remain committed to fine-tuning their performances and staying in peak condition for next year’s games. He said he is optimistic that eventually, more Bahamians will qualify in athletics.