Just last week in a national address, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that under the latest Emergency Powers COVID-19 Orders, Bahamian professional athletes would be allowed to train at national sporting facilities as long as social distancing guidelines are strictly enforced. It’s a move that stirred mixed emotions in the sporting community of The Bahamas as a number of questions have been raised.
Who exactly are these professional athletes as the majority of Bahamian professional athletes don’t live in The Bahamas? Why just professional athletes when there are collegiate student-athletes, and other elite and semi-elite athletes, here at home? How many of these athletes will be allowed to train at one time? Will athletes with regional and international qualifying meets on the agenda be given priority?
These are just some of the questions that the sports fraternity are asking.
Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) President Romell Knowles said clarity certainly needs to be provided.
“The thing is we’re not quite sure what that means and who these professional athletes are. A number of our professional athletes are off the island and out of the country. However, there are college athletes here, who over the next few months will be looking to compete in a number of regional, world and Olympic qualifying events, as well as they have their respective school commitments,” said Knowles. “We are asking the prime minister to bring clarity to what he means by professional athletes. We believe that he means elite athletes but who does those elite athletes include? Secondly, we want those athletes who are home from college and other athletes who are looking to compete over the next 12 months in regional, world and Olympic qualifying events, to be included.”
As far as the 2021 Tokyo Olympics is concerned, up to the suspension of the qualifying period until December 1, 2020, just six Bahamians have qualified – all in athletics. Olympic Champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo has qualified in both the women’s 200 and 400 meters (m), Tynia Gaither in the women’s 100m and 200m, Pedrya Seymour in the women’s 100m hurdles, Samson Colebrooke in the men’s 100m, World Champion Steven Gardiner in the men’s 400m and Jamal Wilson in the men’s high jump.
The year 2021 is already set to be a big one, athletically, with the
Olympics scheduled in Tokyo, Japan, the World Athletics (WA) World Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, and a number of regional and international qualifying meets are scheduled. The Diamond League has not yet been officially canceled for the remainder of 2020, but the likelihood of scheduled events actually occurring looks more grim as the days go by. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to lurk in a number of countries around the world and sports continues to suffer.
Knowles said that if The Bahamas is to make its mark as a viable threat in a number of sporting disciplines, and if Bahamian athletes are to continue to excel on the world stage, they must be given the freedom to work on their craft and expand their talents.
“Obviously, we would have to adhere to the respective social distancing guidelines, so, for now, we are thinking individually in terms of training,” said Knowles. “There can be different times for different athletes, and it could be balanced out where a number of athletes could train on the same day, schedule permitting, and still adhere to social distancing.
“Right now, it’s just a matter of making the facilities available. It has to be managed properly, so that we don’t have 30-40 athletes at a single facility training at the same time. This is something that will require us sitting down with the NSA (National Sports Authority) and the respective federations. I don’t think we’re in a position to recommend practice sessions for clubs as yet. That will be opening it up to too much exposure. This is strictly for high-performing individuals who are competing to make various teams.”
Knowles said they are looking for athletes who have specific regional, world, and Olympic qualifying events, as well as collegiate events, over the next year and a half, to be given consideration when it comes to training at national facilities here in The Bahamas. During this time, they are asking for the various sporting federations and sporting bodies to continue to practice social distancing protocols for their athletes as advised by health officials from the Ministry of Health.
Knowles said they will monitor updates in conjunction with all of their partners globally and will advise their membership, as information becomes available.