Two decades ago, Australia made a genuine offer to a Bahamian elite athlete. Mostly, because of a patriotic spirit, the athlete in question declined the offer, even though the prospect of being set financially for life, was tempting.
Bahamian athletes have been able to do so much better with financial rewards from other countries, compared to what our government affords them. The simple reason, is that successive governments have failed to place sports high on the national budget allocation agenda.
I recall, the late Danny Smith, a world class hurdler, world record holder and international medal winner for The Bahamas, could not continue his training after completing college, because the Ministry of Tourism did not retain his service. Pauline Davis-Thompson had troubling employment issues with the Ministry of Tourism.
The truth be told, our top athletes who have proven over and over to be awesome ambassadors for the country, have not been treated in comparable fashion. This has been the case for decades and is indeed so, today.
As a result, here we are at this place in time with Bahamian athletes as conversation pieces throughout the world, because of stellar performances, and as a nation, nothing is being done to raise the financial quota for sports development and to compensate the stars who are responsible for the brightness of the Bahamian image, worldwide.
When Jonquel Jones dominated basketball competition in South Korea, China and became at the same time, a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) solidified star, The Bahamas got mileage because of her achievements.
Noted Bahamian heavyweight boxing champion Sherman Tank Williams is a big hit in sparring gyms in Europe, particularly, Denmark. He is known for dressing up his training venues with signage of The Bahamas. In Europe boxing circles, Williams is synonymous with The Bahamas.
Indeed, The Bahamas has benefited handsomely.
Such was the case over the weekend, when Donald Thomas and Shaunae Miller-Uibo, won International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) Continental Cup gold medals in the high jump and 200 meters respectively.
When announced and on other occasions when announcers referred to them during the two-day international climax of the IAAF season, it was the following:
“High jumper Donald Thomas of The Bahamas.”
“Sensational Shaunae Miller-Uibo of The Bahamas.”
The world observed.
Accordingly, I have been told that Bosnia, a Balkan country in southeastern Europe has come calling on the 6-6 standout center/forward Jones. She would get offers because of being so exceptionally gifted. Europe is keen about the western market of athletes. Some of our very own, are prime elements of the west sports market.
It figures then, that the Government of The Bahamas should come to grips with this reality and begin paying the due attention to our athletes. If not, we will begin losing them to Europe.
•To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org or on WhatsApp at 727-6363).