Pauline Davis, the Bahamian icon who once conquered the sprinting world, is about to get her own book with a major US publisher.
This country’s original “Golden Girl” signed a book deal with US publisher Rowman & Littlefield earlier this week, a move that will bring her remarkable story of resilience, determination and Olympic glory to the world.
Dramatic and unflinching, Davis’ upcoming memoir, titled, ‘The Girl Who Ran Sideways: The Story of an Olympic Champion’, will be co-written with noted Canadian author T.R. Todd, who recently penned the award-winning book ‘Pigs of Paradise: The True Story of the World Famous Swimming Pigs’.
Raised on Fleming Street, in Bain Town, Davis would defy the odds to not only become a double gold medalist, but the first woman from the Caribbean to take home the ultimate Olympic prize in athletics. It tells the story of a girl who was plucked from obscurity to become one of the most decorated female sprinters of her generation, and the first woman of color to join the World Athletics Council, the international governing body of track and field (formerly known at the International Association of Athletic Federations – IAAF).
“It is with absolute excitement that I can announce the upcoming publication of my book,” said Davis, who won her two gold medals at the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, in 2000 – and a silver medal in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996.
“At the end of the day, I am a product of Bain Town in Nassau. I was never meant to make it this far. From The Bahamas to the world, I hope my story inspires Bahamians and people from all walks of life to reach for their potential and never give up.”
With an expected release date in early 2022, The Girl Who Ran Sideways describes in raw detail Davis’ upbringing in Bain Town, without power or electricity. Every day, she carried the family’s buckets to the government tap to fetch fresh water. It was there she learned to run sideways, sprinting barefoot from bullies – it was the only way to get the buckets of water home, without spilling.
Neville Wisdom, a seasoned track coach with the Bain Town Flyers Track Club, couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw this poor little girl, barefoot, sprinting down the track sideways on a grainy video tape recording, but he also saw something else. He saw the heart of a champion.
“Pauline’s story is truly stranger than fiction,” Todd explains, Davis’ ghost writer and a former Business Editor of The Nassau Guardian.
“While we’ve known each other for years, it was only recently we finally came together and decided to write this book. Every aspect of her life is incredible and defies expectation. I hope this book is something the entire Bahamas can be proud of, but beyond that, it’s an opportunity for the whole world to know The Bahamas on a more intimate level, through the eyes of the original Golden Girl. In these challenging times, this is a story of perseverance that we all need,” said Todd.
Davis, who competed in five Olympic Games, first burst onto the international track and field scene in 1982 with her historic run at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Junior Track and Field Championships in Barbados, capturing four gold medals in the 100 meters (m), 200m, 400m and long jump. Later, in 1984, she forever endeared herself to the Bahamian public with her legendary performance at the 1984 CARIFTA Games in Nassau, Bahamas.
Despite a serious hamstring injury just months before, Davis won the 100 and 200m. Then, as the anchor of the 4x400m relay team, she flew around the track in dramatic fashion to secure the gold and defeat the Jamaicans in the CARIFTA Games, en route to winning the Austin Sealy Award for Most Outstanding Athlete at the meet.
It would only be the beginning of a decorated track and field career spanning 20 years, ending on September 30, 2000, when the “Golden Girls” – Eldece Clarke, Debbie Ferguson, Chandra Sturrup, Savatheda Fynes and Davis – defeated the world, including a Marion Jones-led US team, to win the women’s 4x100m relay, bringing home the country’s first gold medal in athletics at the Olympics.
“I could not have accomplished what I did without my Golden Girl sisters,” Davis said. “While we did not always agree, they pushed me and together we made history. So, I want to share this book with them. This story needs to be told.”
It was an historic year of firsts for The Bahamas. In that same Olympics, Davis would also win the silver in the 200m, which would later be upgraded to the gold after Jones was stripped of her medals for doping. Years later, she would make history again as the first woman of color to be elected to the World Athletics Council.
While inspiring and exhilarating, The Girl Who Ran Sideways is also a candid portrait of Davis’ personal struggles to become the best in the world.
Whether it was the separation of her parents, the racism she experienced at the University of Alabama, her two lifetime suspensions (both rescinded) from Bahamian athletics, or the classism and political victimization she endured along the way, Davis’ path to success was littered with hardship.
“In this book, I want to speak truth to power,” Davis said. “There were many things that happened to me in my life. I’ve experienced my fair share of tragedy and struggles. When people read this book, I hope what they take away from it is that success is not an accident. It takes work – hard work – and perseverance to reach your dreams.”
In these difficult times, The Girl Who Ran Sideways reminds us that it doesn’t matter how you start off in life – it’s how you finish.