Suddenly, in historical fashion, Grand Bahama’s Michael Mathieu has emerged as the appropriate leadership model for the nation’s men quarter milers.
Although, I know of no official statement by Chris Brown that he is retired or retiring soon, there is a general understanding that the end is near for the greatest 400 meters sprinter (longevity-wise) in world history.
It makes sense for a new leader of the country’s male one-lap specialists to surface. By his commanding anchor leg and the poise demonstrated on the night of history for The Bahamas, Sunday, in the final event of the 2017 International Association off Athletic Federations (IAAF) Third World Relays at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Mathieu is the clear choice.
Mathieu, while owning the national mark for the 200 meters at 21.06, has never gone under 45 seconds for the longer sprint. His personal best is 45.06.
The young, sensational Steven Gardiner is the national record holder for the event at 44.26 and also the world’s leader thus far this season; Brown, Latoy Williams, Ramon Miller and Demetrius Pinder have all gone under 45 seconds.
However, Williams, Miller and Pinder have had careers of highs and lows.
Mathieu, on the other hand, has been extraordinarily reliable, capable of producing a 44 seconds split as he did during The Bahamas’ epic gold medal run in the 1600 meters relay at the London Olympics in 2012. Other than Brown, Mathieu has been the most consistent Bahamian 400 meters elite since 2007.
That year, he was a part of the Bahamian IAAF World Championships 1600 meters relay silver medal team. The next year, Mathieu was a silver medalist at the Beijing Olympics and of course there was the ultimate performance in 2012, followed by a relay bronze medal effort last year at the Rio Olympics.
As an individual competitor, Mathieu was the 2011 Central American and Caribbean Games Championships 200 meters gold medalist. Unassumingly and very quietly, he sits presently as the finest 200 meters sprinter in Bahamian history. His ability over the half-lap sprint has gone virtually unnoticed, however.
In fact, much of what he has meant to the Bahamian track and field landscape has been upstaged.
Indeed, despite his brilliant résumé, on Sunday past, for the first time in seven years of valiant performances in national, regional and international events, Mathieu moved out of the shadows of Brown and the others who have showed flashes of brilliance over 400 meters.
He was modest, but profound in speaking of his incredible anchor run on Sunday.
“The goal was just for us to keep it close so that I could have a chance on the final leg,” said Mathieu. That’s the kind of workman-like attitude he has. He just did what he had to do to get the job done. This time, though the spotlight was the brightest it has ever been for him.
He was loose during the post-race press conference and even joked about going after the female runner for the United States, Claudia Francis, and taking her down, because it was the task at hand.
The mixed relay is quite innovative and from the great reception it got on Sunday, could shape up as one of the popular events on the IAAF entire schedule. The event enabled The Bahamas to conclude the third edition of the World Relays on an extremely high note.
All of our mixed relay participants, Steven Gardiner, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Anthonique Strachan and Mathieu were fantastic. Strachan was up against Philip Dedewo. The United States’ lineup was structured in hopes that Dedewo would quickly overtake Strachan and then give Francis a lead that Mathieu could not overcome.
Strachan spoiled the party by holding off Dedewo longer than they expected and then after he passed her, she doggedly held on and got the baton to Mathieu easily in sufficient time for him to engage in a comfortable pace to catch, pass and emphatically close out the gold medal run for his country.
Gardiner was true to form on his opening leg and Miller-Uibo electrified the stadium as her strides simply ate up ground and left opponents in her wake. It was Mathieu though who punctuated the moment in time for the host nation.
He is no longer just another of the Bahamian men’s 1600 meters runners. The world now knows him in a much more prominent way.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com).