The Bahamas’ athletics tradition: Small country, great athletes

by: Alpheus Finlayson

Even though The Bahamas did not become a member of the IAAF until 1952 and did not participate in international competition until the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver in 1954 one Bahamian loomed large in our beloved sport in the late twenties.

Born in Nassau on April 17, 1904 Charley Major went to New York City to join his father at the age of 13 and in 1927, while a student at St. Bonaventure University, won the Millrose Games High Jump at the Madison Square Gardens. 

His leap of 6'5-5/8'' was just 5/8'' lower than the Millrose record. For this performance he was voted the third most outstanding performer of the 1927 Millrose Games.

In 1929 Major cleared a lofty 6'7-1/2'' at an outdoor meet in New York.

This Bahamian record would stand some 40 years!

For his achievements a track was named after Major at his alma mater St. Bonaventure University.

The Bahamas’ 

Athletics Tradition

The Bahamas was fortunate to participate in an exhibition organized by German sports historian Michael Preisinger in Stuttgart during the 1993 World Championships. It was held at City Hall.

Under The Bahamas’ exhibition were the words, The Bahamas, Small Country, Great Athletes. The Bahamas definitely had great athletes then. In 1958 20-year-old Thomas Robinson, a one man band at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, shocked the Athletics world by winning the 220 yards and finishing second in the 100 yds.

Robinson captured the 100m at the 1962 Central American and Caribbean Games in Kingston, defeating world 100yd record holder Dennis Johnson, and Arquimedes Herrera and Rafael Romero from Venezuela both of whom had tied the world record in the 100m prior to the Games.

At those Games Perry Gladstone Christie, the now Prime Minister of The Bahamas, won the country’s first medal in a field event, a Bronze in the Triple Jump.

In 1964, when Sir Durward Knowles along with Cecil Cook won the Gold medal in Star Class Sailing at the Tokyo Olympics, Robinson made Bahamian Athletics history, becoming the first Bahamian to make an Olympic final. Robinson had a great start but pulled up and finished in eighth place in the 100m.

In 1966 at the Central American and Caribbean Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Timothy Barrett, still attending High School, won the Gold medal in the Triple Jump. This was Barrett’s first competition out of the country.

Nearly seven years later at the Toronto Star, Maple Leaf Games in Toronto, hurdler Danny Smith upset 1972 Olympic champion Rod Milburn, 1968 Olympic Champion Willie Davenport, and who was to be the 1976 Olympic Champion Guy Drut in tying the World Indoor 50yd hurdles record of 5.8sec.

At the 1982 Commonwealth Games “Down Under” in Adelaide, Australia, Long Jumper Shonel Ferguson won with a new Games record. So did Discus thrower Bradley Cooper.

Seven athletes represented the country in Adelaide and six of them returned home with medals. They were nicknamed “The Magnificent Seven”!

At the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984 a talented young Joey Wells finished sixth in the Long Jump and Shonel Ferguson placed eighth in the women’s event.

The women’s 4x100m team of Eldece Clarke, Debbie Greene, Pauline Davis and Oralee Fowler finished sixth.

In 1987 Frank Rutherford won a Bronze medal in the Triple Jump at the Inaugural World Indoor Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The next year Eugene Greene won a Bronze medal in the Triple Jump at the 1988 World Junior Championships in Sudbury, Canada.

Olympic Medal at Last

The Bahamas had been participating at the Olympic Games since 1956 and at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona Frank Rutherford, who had won a Bronze medal at the Inaugural World Indoor Championships in Indianapolis, captured the nation’s first Olympic medal in Athletics, another Bronze in the Triple Jump.

Since then the numbers have sky rocketed.

Bahamian Olympic and World Championships, World Indoor, World Junior, and World Youth Gold Medalists

1995 - World Championships Gothenburg- Troy Kemp, High Jump

1999 - World Championships Women’s 4x100m relay

2000- Sydney Olympics- Women’s 4x100m relay

Pauline Davis-Thompson- 200m

2001 - World Indoor, Lisbon, Portugal- Chandra Sturrup, 60m

World Championships Edmonton - Avard Moncur, 400m

Debbie Ferguson-Mckenzie, 200m

Men’s 4x400m relay

2004 - Athens Olympics- Tonique Williams-Darling, 400m

2005 - World Championships Helsinki- Tonique Williams-Darling, 400m

2007 - World Championships Osaka- Donald Thomas, High Jump

2008 - World Junior Championships Bydgozcz, - Sheniqua Ferguson, 200m

2010 - World Indoor Doha, Qatar- Chris Brown, 400m

2010 - World Junior Championships Moncton, Canada - Shaunae Miller, 400m

2011 - World Youth Championships Lille, France- Shaunae Miller, 400m

Stephen Newbold, 200m Lathario Collie-Minns, Triple Jump

2012 - London Olympics- Men’s 4x400m relay

This article does not focus on the other denominationS of medals won by Bahamian athletes in IAAF competitions.

Hosting Competitions

Since the first Carifta Games in 1976 numerous competitions have been held in The Bahamas.

The country hosted seven Carifta Games, 1978.1981, 1984, 1992, 2002, and 2013.

They hosted the Central American and Caribbean Age Group Championships 1987, 2001, and 2009.

The Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships were hosted in 1980 and 1988.

The country hosted the Pan American Junior Track and Field Championships in 1984 and the Central American and Caribbean Senior Championships in 1985 and 2005.

Twenty years ago The Bahamas hosted the Central American and Caribbean Cross Country Championships.

There has been a number of invitational meets held, including the Walter Wisdom and Pioneers Track Classic in the eighties, Bahamas’96 just prior to the Atlanta Olympics, the Nassau Invitational in 1999 and 2000, the Partner’s Track Classic early in the New millennium and recently the Chris Brown Bahamas Invitational as well as Marathon Bahamas.

This small country of some 350,000 residents is looking forward to hosting and being competitive in the upcoming Inaugural IAAF World Relays scheduled for May 24 and 25 this year.

For Athletics fans around the world we advise you to save the date and travel to The Bahamas this May for a glimpse of some of the greatest runners the world has to offer chasing supremacy as well as world record bonuses in this little part of paradise.

Published Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Current Issue
Current Issue

Click here to see, download more print issues

Event Calendar
1 2 3 4
26 27 28 29 30 31

Click here to submit an event.

Most Popular